They lost all their possessions and a beloved pet dog in successive floods, but Fleur and Ron Creed are smiling again.
- Fleur and Ron Creed remember escaping a “tsunami-like” flood in 2022
- Psychologist says anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress after a disaster should seek clinical help
- The Creeds say social connection helped them deal with their trauma
It’s taken two long years and a lot of heartache, but the Dallarnil couple knows they’ve got the right community behind them.
“We did meet people quickly because we were all in it together,” Mrs Creed said.
“One of the things we’re working on as a community is building community here.”
The Creeds have an idea what Queensland’s latest flood victims are going through – they’ve been through it twice before.
Just 10 days after moving to the small town of Dallarnil in 2022 they were caught in a “tsunami-like” flood, and then another flood seven weeks later.
The intense rainfall and flooding in January 2022 was a result of ex-tropical cyclone Seth, and at the time the rare system baffled meteorologists.
“It doesn’t seem that long ago, not at all,” Mrs Creed said.
They’d bought a decommissioned church and were living in a caravan during renovations when they were woken in the dead of night by one of their cats, whose name just happens to be Angel, with wet paws.
“We started to watch out the back door … and the water came up and was all of a sudden over the bonnets of our cars,” she said.
“We couldn’t find the dog … we lost our dog.”
Seven weeks later, Dallarnil was hit by floodwaters again.
“I had a whole lot of books that were lost and a lot of family mementos and photos, that I think I grieved more the second time because I lost a lot of personal items,” Mrs Creed said.
The ensuing months were a blur of clean-ups and insurance claims.
Dallarnil has a population of about 230 people, with many of them coming together through community meetings.
For the Creeds, it helped them deal with their trauma.
“I felt there was a numbness for quite some time, and I found myself as I met different people, it was very easy to trot out the, ‘We were in the flood’ story,” Mr Creed said.
“In talking about it and with others who’ve been through it, that helps you work through it.
“Over time, I felt better.”
Psychologist David Younger said it was important for anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress to seek clinical help, but social connection could also benefit survivors.
“What is helpful for communities is when people come together for community events or activities,” he said.
“They may talk about what they went through, but more likely what they talk about is the aftermath, the consequences, the recovery process, and they share what’s working and what isn’t working.
“They share the general challenges and then they support each other, and that’s where the benefit is.”
Lasting impact of natural disasters
Mrs Creed admits there are times when she still feels anxious about rain and routinely checks the rain gauge and radar.
“I don’t know that we’ll ever really be the same. We’re always very mindful of rain now,” she said.
Dr Younger said that was common among natural disaster survivors and suggested ways to deal with the stress.
“Step one is to have an awareness and build an understanding of this in-built survival response,” he said.
“The second is to learn some good practical techniques like current breathing, grounding to the present moment, along with learning how to read accurately the true indicators of risk.”
He said positive self-talk could be a helpful tool.
“I sort of talk and say things to myself like, ‘I’m safe’ or ‘I’ve taken adequate preparations’ and therefore there can’t be a significant risk.”
Long after emergency crews have packed up and the media throng has disappeared, it’s often charities and non-profit organisations that stay for the long haul.
Australian Red Cross national recovery officer Jocelyn Galvez said communities could learn from their shared experiences and become more resilient.
“I would encourage people to go to the Red Cross website and the get prepared app and start thinking through some of those things that will help them in their recovery,” she said.
“That includes preparing your mind.
“When you have a plan and you know more or less what to do, you have this sense of control.”
Mr Creed said having been through two floods, he now has an emergency plan in place.
“Knowing what’s going to happen, and what to expect,” he said.
It also helps to have a close community around them.
“So that when something happens, you know people and you can pull together,” Mrs Creed said.