Statement following community church service in Murphy’s Creek
Sunday, 16 January 2011
Words really cannot express what the people of the Lockyer Valley are feeling at the moment. In fact I don’t even think they could accurately describe their thoughts.
What we do know is that the events of this past week are unprecedented in this nation and were unexpectedly forced upon this region with devastating and tragic consequences.
When I saw the first images of the scenes that unfolded firstly in Toowoomba and then here in the Valley I was numb. The feelings of helplessness as I watched these people that I consider my people, were consuming. I’m sure that all of us – as we viewed these images from around Queensland, Australia and the world – experienced the same sense of grief, horror, anger and powerlessness.
As I saw the results of this freak of nature yesterday, I started to understand the power of this wall of water that destroyed houses and property. Yet as I surveyed the material damage this reality was ever-present: Timber and bricks can be replaced. Lives cannot.
It is this loss of human life that sets the Lockyer Valley and Toowoomba regions apart. While not in any way downplaying the destruction the recent floods caused – and continue to cause – across Queensland, and now in other parts of Australia, we can truly say that Grantham and Murphy’s Creek – is Ground Zero.
Lives of men, women and children were taken from us. Someone lost a husband, a wife, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter. These are not statistics. These were real people with families, friends, careers and futures. There are many others missing, presumed deceased – names we are yet to learn.
Tragically – their futures were cut short, yet I am determined that their memories will endure. I am also determined that we treat the people of this region who have lost so much, with the greatest respect and honour.
I’ve had the immense privilege to talk to some of these people and I pledge to be their advocate. They don’t ask for much, but what they do ask for is fully deserved. They ask that we make sure their town is secure, so that they don’t suffer the indignity of losing more than what has already gone.
They ask that we allow them back to see their homes as soon as possible. They recognise that emergency services are doing a wonderful job, but they ask us to remember that seeing their homes is a part of their healing process. It’s the least we can do.
They ask that when it is safe to return, we allow them 48 hours to sort through their homes before opening the town to the public and to volunteers. They will appreciate and value help to clean up, but need a time of privacy first. I am asking the police and government to agree to this.
They ask to be kept informed and while I know police have done their best, I feel we have let them down a little in this area. I’d like us to do better in our communication and understanding.
Finally, a request from me. I might be their representative in the federal parliament, but compared to these brave people I am nothing. I ask that our political leaders treat the people of this region as they would their own families; that they don’t see visits as photo opportunities but as a way to make a difference. I ask that we never forget the tragedy that occurred here and the people whose lives have changed forever.