Diggers muck in to help community

Department of Defence

The rural towns of Ayton, Bloomfield and Wujal Wujal were among some of the hardest hit communities devastated by floodwaters that decimated Far North Queensland just days before Christmas.

The small communities were isolated, with many residents evacuated and unable to return home as floodwaters reached their ceilings, wiped out roads and cut off power.

Following the immediate evacuations in late December, the ADF has put boots on the ground to support the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, working alongside local contractors and emergency services to help communities get back on their feet.

Living only a couple of hours north in Hope Vale, Army reservist Private Coleridge Scotford, of 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, jumped at the opportunity to help his fellow north Queenslanders.

“I just thought, these people have gone through such a terrible experience, what more can I do?” he said.

“I helped with food deliveries during the evacuations and then came back to help with the clean-up work at the local school and council depot.

“A couple of locals came up to talk to me and said they were grateful we came to help. That was a good feeling because I could see they were a bit scared.”

Not one to shy away from tough work, Corporal Grant Woodholme, of Rockhampton, has deployed to support multiple severe weather relief activities since he enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2013, and said it was great to be a part of recovery efforts in Wujal Wujal.

“The amount of devastation we’ve seen here, especially in such a small remote community, is staggering,” he said.

“So it’s good to get our feet on the ground and get our hands dirty to help as much as we can.”

Swapping their Army boots for gum boots, the team has been working hard to clean up vital infrastructure, including the local school and council depot.

“We’ve been working at Bloomfield River State School alongside the local contractors,” Corporal Woodholme said.

“There was just tonnes and tonnes of mud that’s come down from the mountain, so we got in shovelling, draining, cleaning and trying to get the school ready to rock and roll.

“Then we were able to help clean out the council depot to get their local council back in action so they can get back out into the community and do what they need to do.

“It’s been hard yakka for the team working in thick humidity, but the local community are providing much needed morale and motivation.

“It’s very hot, very sticky, especially after all the tropical monsoonal weather, but it’s been fantastic, and working with the locals has been great.

“They’ve been so welcoming towards us and are very appreciative of the work that we have been doing. It’s very rewarding.”

Commander Joint Task Group 629.3 Brigadier Richard Peace said he was proud to see Defence personnel coming together from units across Queensland to support the Wujal Wujal community.

“I am very proud of how our people are supporting Queenslanders and the reconstruction efforts to enable communities to commence their recovery,” Brigadier Peace said.

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