Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Brisbane flood: connecting & contributing

Well 2011 has kicked off somewhat dramatically with the worst floods this city has seen since 1974. However, it’s far too early to get negative, and I’m determined to view the fact that everyone in my family escaped inundation as a good omen. In fact, I haven’t heard of any friends who’ve been badly affected. Just good luck, I guess, given the severity of the situation.



Out of respect for those who haven’t been so lucky, I haven’t been out of my local area since this all started. “Rubber-necking” has been firmly discouraged by the authorities, and quite rightly so. It didn’t feel right to take photos, even locally, but a very high resolution aerial photo, taken on Thursday Jan 13th after the peak is online here.

I’ve posted a tiny section showing where I live and the closest flooding to our home. It seems quite far away, but when the worst was feared the prediction was for flooding to come as close as the footy field just across from us.

Below is a close-up of the area in the red square.

Flood close-up

I find it quite heartbreaking peeking into those backyards. If you click on the photo you’ll see more detail, like the clothes lines and pools. Remember that’s after the peak. Nevertheless, our suburb is so much better off than many others.

It’s been incredible to see the way the city has rallied around those people who have lost so much. The money, the clothes and toys, but most impressive of all is the willingness to offer ones own time to do what is at best uncomfortable work. It’s been hot, humid and smelly and yet they came in their thousands.

Brisbane in the 21st century had become a bit of a strange, soulless place, in my opinion. Back before good old Expo ‘88 we used to be described by Southerners as “just a big country town”. It was meant derisively but it was pretty true, right down to the sense that you knew everybody (and their business) and that we looked out for one another, for their kids and so on.

By the new millennium, we may have acquired outdoor cafes and shops that stay open on Sundays, but we had lost a sense of community in all but a few small enclaves.

I can’t help hoping that the floods just might teach us the value of community, about reaching out and contributing time and effort for something beyond our own personal benefit. It might remind us of the joy to be had from connecting with neighbours and from the collective sense of belonging to a place.  And most certainly it should remind us, as we seem to need to be reminded at regular intervals, that Nature is the boss and we disregard this fact at our own peril.

This might all seem pretty off-topic for me and this blog, but the strange thing is, it is exactly what I wanted to express in my first post of the year. After all the reviewing and thinking and planning I did in December, I tried to come up with one word to set the “tone” or theme for the sort of 2011 I hope to create. And I couldn’t do it of course, but I did come up with three: Connect/Community/Contribute.

These are the things that I most enjoyed about 2010 but that I felt I wanted in greater quantities. I realized that the easiest way (and therefore most likely to be successful) was to do this online. Being ill has left me feeling terribly isolated at times, but since hooking up online with both other PWCFS and with my book arts buddies, this has been much better. Still, I do want more, and I genuinely want to give back. I used to work in “a helping profession” so I always felt that I was giving and contributing, and never had to seek out more ways to do so. I don’t see it as realistic to consider that type of work any more, but I still have a lot to contribute, and I want to contribute.

I also want to share my work with more people. And when I say share, I do mean share. It isn’t about making money from it, I just want people to see it and derive pleasure from it. You might remember that for my 200th post last year, I had a give-away, and I was surprised by the pleasure and satisfaction I felt as I sent my prints off to their new homes.

At the moment, I am setting up a website that will have a shop facility, and I have decided that all proceeds from sales made before June 30 this year will be donated to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal. Hopefully the website will be online in the next few weeks. If you would like to be notified when it comes online, please leave a comment on this post with your email address. In the meantime, if you feel you would like to, you can of course donate directly on the Qld government site.


  1. Amanda, I'm so pleased to see you missed the innundation. I did look up your address in the flood maps and could see that you were likely to be okay but then again, lots of places should have been okay. I think it is a wonderfully generous thing to be giving your sale proceeds to the flood fund and I'll be checking you new site for something to buy. Like all Australians, and people all over the world, I've been saddened and in tears day after day. We live in a beautiful country but she takes no prisoners.

  2. Hi Carol, Thank-you so much for your concern. I have to say I felt wonderfully cared for by so many people and through Facebook and email was able to keep in touch. It was so different in 1974 when the power was out and we didn't know what was happening except in our own little area.
    You are right - Australia is beautiful, but unforgiving.

  3. oh amanda - I'm also pleased that you are amongst 'the lucky ones'.... I hadn't wanted to burden any friends I knew might be in the vicinity of flooding - I just waited until they felt up to posting something (I was lucky to follow another friends river vigil via fb.... gosh it must have been tense...to say the least!)

    we have had mild weather here - yet to our far north - flooding, to our west - flooding, and to the south - flooding... poor things.... and I can't help thinking of folk to our south right now - facing unprecedented flood levels tonight.... I hope they pull together as you queenslanders have! the pictures and messages that came through of strangers helping strangers and everyone pitching in to lend a hand made me proud to call myself 'australian'

    and I also love the theme of your year connect/community/contribute

    keep well xxxx

  4. We have watched these dramatic images from our living room in France and really been amazed and horrified! We know some other people in Brisbane as well and they too escaped. One thing I did note when they did interviews is that the people there are cheery despite it all. I do think disaster brings communities together and the spirit to contribute is profound...I think you're on the right track!

  5. Great post Amanda and I'm amazed you have found time and energy given all that you (all) have been through.

    I so understand your sabout community and the way the internet has helped to give you back a sense of belonging. I feel the same. It was strange that even though I know you Ozzies only by the WWW I still felt that I knew you as 'real people' and during those dreadful days last week the concern was very really and FB was a real boon for being able to ask you and others directly and immediately how you all were. Indeed the world is a very small place now: you may even have noticed that the local newspaper in Ipswich in UK (I live about 15 miles away) set up a donation page for its sister town in Oz...put it on my FB wall. Having also worked in the helping porfessions I can also relate to that need to still help and feel concern and yet be unable to go back to work...the frustration and feeling of being unable to go back to something you loved and were good at and the feeling that you could contribute/help.

    As far as your work goes, it would be lovely to see more and I look forward to the shopping site. As you know I'm always very appreciative of your reviews and images of shows...especially since I can rarely get to shows any more and certainly not to cities like London where the really interesting stuff is. Only the other day I saw that there will be a retrospective of Nam June Paik in Liverpool and wished I could get up there.

    So glad you are OK (and hopefully m-in-law too) and hearts and donations go to those who aren't


  6. Hi Amanda, thank you for the comment on my blog post on tea and for the correction-- so Mel Robinson is a female potter :-)
    and I see we have the name Watson in common. I will have to come back later with more time to check out your blog.

  7. I'm so relieved you, your family and friends have come through more or less unscathed. It's almost beyond words to think of what so many are going through now.

    I marvel all the time at how strange and wonderful this interconnected Internet world is, and what a godsend it is, especially, for those of us who are less able to get out and partake of the physical world as much as we'd like. Good luck with the website! A big undertaking, it sounds like. And incredibly generous.

  8. So glad that you are still safe and have managed to avoid the worst of the flooding. It must be terrifying for all of those who have been affected. My heart goes out to them all.