Queensland Floods...

January 19th, 2011…

Brisbane Revival…

After 2 days in Brisbane, I'm now back in Sydney. 

It really is incredible up there and only when I set foot in the streets of affected areas did I feel for the first time the absolute devastation that this flood caused. 

Going up and joining a group of friends to pitch-in was an experience I'll never forget. Together we helped to gut houses, sweep the streets of mud pile-up, loads up trucks with rubbish and offer help in whatever we could, but even so I couldn't help but feel guilty as I left yesterday, as this clean-up operation will take months and months more.

Entering a house in the suburb of Graceville, we joined a group of about 10 people who were already tearing down walls and removing debris from within. I couldn't begin to think how the owners must have felt seeing their house in tatters, but even they too joined in. From being full of flood water just one day before, their house was now full of strangers selflessly offering to help; a strange set of events however you look at it. 

This was the amazing thing; everyone in the area cared only for one thing; helping out, and as such all else in the world seemed unimportant. This feeling is something that I'll never forget; nothing else mattered. There were no watches worn or plans made; instead everyone just did what was needed at that moment.

Something like this can put life into perspective quite easily. 

The house that we worked on for the majority of the morning began as wreck, full of rubbish, but within 2 hours we had gutted it and reduced it to it's original wooden framework. This is the process of rebuilding. As we ripped down a wall, water would pour out of the ceiling telling us the harsh reality that only days ago flood had consumed the entire place. This wasn't the only sign of course; there were also fish scattered in and around the house which is incredible considering we were a couple of kilometers from the river itself.

Unavoidably as a consequence of getting stuck in to help, everyone was filthy but this didn't matter; it was needed if we were to be of any use. 

Groups of people roaming the streets with shovels and brooms in hand would approach houses to see if there was anything to do, whilst kids and lesser-abled people walked around offering food and drink to the helpers. The scene was surreal; on every corner there seemed to be a military vehicle of some sort coordinating the area, but next to these was a sausage-sizzle offered by locals with a big smile. It was a charity-filled war-zone.

Piles of debris on every street made us wince is sadness at the thought of loss but painted signs that people had left in their driveway showed the resilience and humor of your typical Australian. In one front yard there was a toilet full of Tooheys New beer which were covered in mud and next to this stood a sign that read;

"Flood Water damaged our Tooheys New. It now tastes better!"

The general stench in Brisbane is absolutely horrific with a combination of sewerage, fish and river bed all fermenting on the streets. Sadly though, it isn't just the streets that are dirty, it's everything. The whole place has a brown tinge and from trees and houses, to street signs and cars, the aftermath of high flood waters is clear to see. We even saw a wheely-bin hanging from a telegraph pole on one street.

At the end of my time in Brisbane I'm filled with mixed emotions. It's so sad to see what has happened up there and how this has affected the locals, but at the same time from seeing the focused volunteers on the streets I'm also filled with optimism that the job will get done.

There are a million stories of both tragedy and revival from this natural disaster and to be able to support in some way is something that everyone is able to do. Thankfully with a total of about $35 million raised from the appeal and a conserted effort on the street we are going in the right direction. 

I don't know know what else to say.

Sunday 16th, 2011…

Pitching In!

It's no secret that Australia is a bloody great place to live. Ask anyone whose visited and they'll tell you the same but its not just the places we have here, it's the people.

As I'm sure you all know, The Queensland flood crisis is something that has rocked a nation but now only days on from record floods levels, mass devastation and lost lives, Australians have got together and are as we speak tidying up the destruction that the floods have left behind.

Matty Southcombe, the man who agreed to walk across France with me purely because he thought it would be fun, rang me yesterday from somewhere near Brisbane. For the past two days Matty, a Brisbane resident, has been walking the streets of Brisbane offering help to those in need. 

It started when he helped a mate clean out his house, but when they finished he looked at the house next door and saw that they needed help too. Without wasting a second, Matty simply walked over to the neighbors milling around in the driveway and offered to help some more. This he did for an hour before repeating the same thing at the next house. 

From tearing out the innards of water-filled houses, to stacking rubbish into huge piles on the streets, Matty has nothing short been inspirational but the best thing about his story is that he hasn't been doing this alone, he is joined by thousands of volunteers working busily in the streets. 

Physically and mentally buggered but Matty told me that he's never felt better. 

It is nothing short of amazing.

In times of crisis, people come together. There are no two ways about it. It almost seems that only when faced with such darkness do we see the light. In this case we have lost so much in Queensland but our natural reflex is to bounce back with tenacity and passion ten times more. It's not only refreshing to see such a communal shift in a positive direction but surely there's a message here; something telling us that ultimately, no matter what we do or where we are, we are all the same. With this realization we suddenly see that together there are no boundaries to what we can achieve. 

As of this week, Australia is going to clean up a disaster zone in Queensland, a task that only two days ago would have seemed impossible, but with people like Matty representing what is an Australian attitude that refuses to give in, we are all pitching-in in one way or another.

Life is simple.

This Monday coming, I had a meeting with a production company based in Brisbane; they were interested in talking to me about the possibility of turning 100Things into a TV show, an idea that of course excites me. A few days ago they rang me and asked if I could get money back on my flights as the meeting would have to be postponed; their offices have been flooded and their entire operation has been shut down. They, like many, have lost what could be everything they have.  

Briefly I considered my options and wondered what I should do. It was then that I spoke to Matty Southcombe.

When you realise what's important; things become simpler I think.

Tomorrow I fly up to Brisbane to join the thousands of Australians who have already decided in the last few days to pitch in.

Armed with a pair of footy shorts, a singlet and some running shoes, Matty, myself and a group of good friends are going to join the cause. I think this is a far more satisfying reason to go to Brisbane than for a meeting!

Sure, what we can offer as a small group of friends is minimal in the grand scheme of things, but in a nation where everyone is doing their thing; together we'll get there!

People inspire people.

If you think that maybe you want to help out by joining Matty and I, just let us know at seb@100things.com.au

I might be out of contact for a few days but i'll be back soon. 

p.s Did I forget to mention that Matty lost his car in the flood and also has no place to stay? 

To donate to the Flood Appeal, please click here: www.qld.gov.au/floods

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