Cyclone Yasi - 5 years on

On February 3 2011, Cyclone Yasi made landfall in northern Queensland. The category 5 cyclone crossed the coastline between Innisfail and Cardwell at 11:54 pm with winds of 215km per hour. The wind gusts in Mission Beach were estimated to have reached 290 km per hour, causing most of the beach to lose its sand - an alarming concept to contemplate. The eye of the storm crossed Mission Beach just before midnight, and passed over Tully soon afterwards.

It caused an estimated $3.6 billion in damage, making it the costliest tropical cyclone to hit Australia on record. Amazingly only one cyclone related death was recorded. The region most affected is home to a few small towns and it is these battered towns that FRRR sought to support in their disaster recovery efforts.

These communities showed amazing spirit in banding together to clean up and restore their lives after the storm, and the Repair-Restore-Renew Natural Disaster Recovery program enabled funding for important projects long after the news headlines had subsided. Here are just a few of the fantastic projects that were funded via FRRR to help communities move forwards from Cyclone Yasi:

Quadriders to the rescue

After Cyclone Yasi, local members of FNQuadriders Inc volunteered their time, quad bikes and chainsaws, helping to remove fallen trees and debris along the Cassowary Coast, in particular the worst hit area of Tully. The compact nature of the quad bikes meant they were able to get into places that standard vehicles could not, then chain-sawing fallen trees and dragging them to a safe place by attaching chains and working in tandem. The group has even assisted with the recovery of overturned 4WD’s.

This group was funded with a RRR grant of $10,600 for their project ‘Quad riders to the rescue’ in order to fund Certificate 1 and 2 training for 10 keen quad bike riders who are willing to assist in future disaster events.

We wrote about this legendary group of tree-clearing volunteers, who had clear support from the community for extra funding. Read the story here. For their own account, head to their website, where in March of 2014, the FNQuadriders posted a great blog about the Yasi Clean Up. From a meetup at the big gumboot to some strangers buttering 600 buns – it’s a colourful and heartwarming tale.

CORES Suicide Prevention Program

Cyclones like Yasi have severe impacts on the community, not just economically, but also socially and emotionally. CORES (Community Response to Eliminating Suicide) program is a suicide prevention and intervention program operating in a number of centres nationally. Following devastation from two of Australia’s worst cyclones on record – Larry in 2006 and Yasi in 2011, Innisfail, Queensland was deemed an appropriate and worthwhile place to kick off a new centre.

FRRR awarded $16,800 to the project, in order to enable Innisfail volunteers to be trained as CORES Team Leaders, who would over the following 12 months train and support local volunteers themselves. The training’s aim is to raise awareness of what is happening to people around them so that they are able to help and support their needs. The CORES Australia Innisfail project held its official launch in March 2013. One hundred people were to be trained in Innisfail to recognise the warning signs of suicide.

Innisfail Mayor Bill Shannon said it is a very important initiative, which will save lives. "Someone once told me that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and it's so true," Cr Shannon said. Today the group is very active and regular training sessions are on offer around Queensland. Keep up with their great work via their Facebook page.

Mission Arts Come Together Program

 In the devastated Mission Beach community, art has always been an important outlet for social connection and creativity. The Mission Beach Community Arts Centre received $20,000 towards their healthy art program following Cyclone Yasi. The program's aim was to build healthy connections between community members and enhance resilience and wellbeing as part of the Cyclone Yasi recovery efforts. The major grant they received from FRRR, together with funding from Queensland Alliance for Mental Health, enabled the extension of these community sessions, which are facilitated by skilled community members of Mission Beach, Queensland.

In late 2012 we reported that the Mission Arts Come Together Program was to run for a further nine months following positive outcomes from the 15 week pilot program. Around 600 participants used the opportunity to connect, and share their stories through various creative art workshops designed to enhance community strength, well-being and resilience. Funds from FRRR supported the continuation of the program with a focus on developing the volunteer facilitators to provide sustainability when funding ceases.

At the time, project coordinator Sarah Johnston said that without the major grant from FRRR and the Visy Employees' Community Foundation, the program could not have continued. Phase 2 of the program was to include youth art classes, realist drawing, and Tai Chi, allowing more social interaction for all ages and cultural activities that meet a broad range of local interests and needs.

There’s always lots going on in the arts scene at Mission Beach Community Arts Centre, and we are proud to have helped this important community recovery outlet continue to operate. See what’s on via their Facebook page.

Food Security with Ravenshoe’s Community Garden

After Cyclone Yasi the local community was isolated for 14 days without power or telecommunications, and had diminished access to fresh food. Local residents wanted to establish an edible community garden that can be harvested during cyclone season. The project focused on building volunteers skills, through participation and a series of workshops with an emphasis on permaculture, composting, soil preparation and garden maintenance.

In June 2013, FRRR awarded $13,303 from the Repair-Restore-Renew program, and the ‘guerrilla gardening’ project got rolling. We wrote about its progress in November 2013 – read ‘Community garden shoots from disused basketball court’, and head to their Facebook group page to take a look at the lush garden now!

Museum rescue

The Cardwell Museum was severely damaged by Cyclone Yasi and the ensuing rain. As one of the oldest towns in North Queensland, Cardwell was to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2014, and the Historical Society was keen to finalise the restoration of the exhibits, and to train local volunteers in disaster management, collection management and conservation techniques to be better prepared for future extreme weather events. Cardwell and District Historical Society Incorporated recieved $17,332.00 in October 2013 to enable two Museum Development Officers who have been working with the Cardwell group to provide the training and expertise to complete the necessary tasks.

The museum is a valuable attraction in the town and recently held an exhibition featuring wedding dresses and accoutrements from 1892 onwards, some of which needed careful salvaging after the cyclone hit, as you’ll see from the photos in this article.

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