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Natural Disaster Fund – Assisting Our Members In Townsville – Eileen’s Story

EnergyGeneral March 13, 2019

Eileen Dycher is an Energy Industry worker who lives in Townsville. She was one of the many members of The Services Union severely affected by the recent floods in her town. Eileen’s home was damaged and her shed and contents destroyed. Our Union was proud to help Eileen through our Natural Disaster Fund and she has been able to buy a brand new lawnmower, to replace the one that did not survive the flood.

Eileen tells her story.

“Prior to the flood we were on Level Two water restrictions. Life was pretty normal, dry, hot, and it was getting more humid coming into summer.

Then we had rain… lots of rain!

Initially we all loved the rain as we desperately needed the water. It cooled the air and it was nice to have it as it reduced the humidity too. But it kept raining – hard – like some kind of monsoon.  Then the Ross River Dam started to fill up extremely fast!

Not only were the lakes and rivers filled up from excessive rain, the Dam had to be released as it was over 200% capacity.

The water rose about half a metre at its highest point around my house and through the streets around us. It was like a river in the street. Thankfully for my family we had no water come into our home. We were very lucky. After the water receded, a few days later, we assessed the damage and found our shed swamped and muddy. Our lawnmower and wiper-snipper were severely mud damaged.  Our shed shelving soaked and it had turned mouldy.  We later realised we also had a hot water system and also an air conditioner damaged at the side of our house as they sit on the ground level. They too were water logged.  We had about four leaks through our roof and damage to an external wall.  The garden was swamped with leaves and mud with all our garden edging and mulch was scattered all about the place.  One of our cars was water logged too and smelled bad for about 10 day afterwards but thankfully it was still running.

When the flood waters rose, I guess I mostly felt surprised. I never thought we would get flooded to the extent we did. Nobody thought this would happen – especially after being without rain for so long.  However, we did feel safe as we were well informed by local radio and Townsville City Council I did feel much concern about the prediction it was going to continue raining and doubling the water levels.

The flood did say a great deal about the people of Townsville. In my street I saw how helpful, supportive and kind people really are.  Our neighbour offered for us to stay in her house (as it was higher set) if ours got flooded.  It was great to know we could go next door if we needed to.

We helped another neighbour as she lives in a ground level house. Her house flooded.  The night she stayed we ate pasta and meat balls and chatted and did jigsaw puzzles to pass the time. I saw other neighbours doing the same; all helping each other. Across the road, my neighbours had a generator and helped us save some of our fridge food and I even got a six pack of beer from them. It was so kind of them and we offered them petrol to help with the generator.  Everyone just pulled together. Some locals with a boat also came down to see if they could help people who wanted to evacuate. How good of them!

Things are getting back on track now! We had a lot of mold cleaning to do and had no power for eight days; that was the hardest thing. A number of houses are still empty while works are going on and it’s a bit eerie. There is definitely a sad feeling in the neighbourhood for all the loss people have suffered. It has taken its toll but we have had so much support from government, SES, Council, police, volunteers and neighbours; it is very heart warming.  I feel blessed to live in a nation that really takes care of its people in a crisis.

I’d like to thank my Union for helping me through its Natural Disaster Fund and I really appreciate it.  I was very surprised by the offer from our Union and it will help relieve some financial stress – as I will be able to buy a new lawnmower from Bunnings.

Eileen’s lawnmower after the floods.

Eileen’s new mower courtesy of The Services Union

I also believe that all working Australians must have access to Natural Disaster Leave. When a crisis like this happens we do not need the extra stress of trying to juggle work commitments and home/life demands.  Having Natural Disaster Leave at my workplace Energy Queensland Limited, has helped me to get back on track without feel deprived of valuable annual leave. This leave is something our Union negotiated and is evidence that membership is so important.

In life, I always like to see the ‘silver lining’ in a situation. In this case, it was realising how blessed and fortunate we are in Townsville and in Australia general to have such support and help when things go wrong.

Mother Nature hit hard but Human Nature is always stronger.”

Flood ‘19 by Eileen Dycher

Once was a trickle, now is a gush,

Once, brown and dry, now green and lush,

Ross River swelled,

The Ross Dam felled,

Unprecedented flush.

A night of terror, on third of Feb,

Woke the next morning, Water round the bed,

Mud soaked, heart broked,

But our spirit’s not dead.

We work in the heat,

We play in humidity,

But that torrent flood,

Aghast our stability.

Jenny donned the safety cap,

Some haters gave her crap,

We stand behind her hard decisions,

Which were executed with precision.

Army, council and SES,

Band together to clear the mess,

Neighbours sought to do their best,

Helping others who had less.

We’ll mark this season with some surprise,

One that made,

Our strength to rise,

From mud and water we will rebuild,

Our homes, our lives and town that still is Townsville.


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