Of droughts and flooding rains

CHRISTMAS was a tad wet here… in case you live under a rock (or overseas, in which case you probably legitimately haven’t heard) we’ve had a tiny bit of flooding here in Queensland, Australia.

It rained for 40 days and nights. Not really, but in the end a lot of people in my hometown of Bundaberg were using boats to get around and other towns inland were entirely evacuated. We were pretty safe – there was some water over the road during our travels but only once did I worry about drifting away and once I saw the sedan in front of us crawl through it, I knew we were safe.

On Boxing Day, we were like schoolkids – visiting flooded roads to see for ourselves – but as the days passed and the floodwaters only rose, it became very sobering. The news was filled with people told to leave their homes, leave their belongings, just leave… the tide, you could say, had turned. In various places, supplies ran low, power was cut and drinking water was compromised with flooded sewage treatment plants. I can only imagine how I would have coped panicked, with two small children, in that sort of situation, having to be choppered out of town…

I don’t work in the newsroom anymore, but I imagine the mood there changed from adrenalin-charged story chasing, to quiet concern and sombre diligence in their words.

The flooding has taken a significant toll on plenty of people, as I’ve had to read over and over again in the papers I sub. Most of all, my heart aches for the farmer’s here who never seem to catch a break. On the verge of recovering from our drought, they stood to finally make a profit this year… but not now that it’s all underwater. One man I read had refinanced and took on an additional $300,000 debt confident that he would stand to make at least $1m. He lost everything.

The receding floodwaters are taking their time and farmers must wait it out or leave. Their dwindling finances may not survive the time it takes to rebuild their livelihoods. Of course, this in turn means the cost of primary produce is bound to rise, but if I hear urbanites complain about the price of a potato… so help me!

Sitting at my computer, my life is rarely impacted by the fickleness of nature, so I commend those men and women on the land who can, after droughts and flooding rains, return to the land and continue their toil unabated.

In a couple of weeks, the mopping up will be all but finished, the Burnett River lapping politely where it should and we’ll be buying flags to fly for Australia Day. I think this year, being Australian should be about our relationship with the land, whether we farm or work in an office, it affects us all.

But like it says in Dorothy Mackellar’s poem – For flood and fire and famine, she pays us back threefold – we are expected to continue to receive higher than average rainfalls for the next three months over our already-sodden soil. Oh, and did I mention the six other cyclones we are expected to get this season?

While all this rain takes me back to my own childhood as “Orphan Annie” running around in rain and skipping through puddles, a part of me pines for the 40-degree days on heavy water restrictions, when I experienced my first duststorm and saw the sky turn red.

“Her beauty and her terror, the wide brown land for me”…

PS If you want to give to those affected by flooding in Queensland, click here for all the banks taking donations and the Premier’s Flood Appeal. Otherwise Woolworths is taking donations at every checkout as you buy your groceries.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karl
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 05:53:17

    Hi Peta, longtime reader first time poster. What does sub mean?


    • petajo
      Jan 03, 2011 @ 03:46:45

      So glad you asked, first time poser – oh, I mean poster!

      In newspaper land, a subeditor has three basic tasks: designing a paper, copy-subediting the paper’s contents and proofreading the paper. Designing, subbing or proofing. Subbing involves adding headlines, captions, ensuring proper grammar is used, taking out inaccuracies and spelling mistakes.

      Hope this answers your question, First Time Poster (aka my Husband – worried people would think I was talking about submarines). I’m just glad he’s reading my blog’s unprompted… unlike a certain novel he’s yet to finish… 😉


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