In early March 2022, communities in Southern Queensland and northern New South Wales (NSW) had each received more than a year’s worth of rainfall in a week. By the beginning of April, the areas were hit with by series of heavy rains yet again. This forced thousands of families to flee and evacuate their homes.
Members of the veteran community answered the call to support those affected by the floods. One of them is DDLS People Logistics Consultant Anthony Beck who shares his experiences of helping flood recovery efforts through Disaster Relief Australia (DRA).
A brief history of Disaster Relief Australia
Disaster Relief Australia was launched in 2016 to combine the skills and experiences of military veterans with those of first responders to rapidly deploy disaster relief teams. Their first disaster relief operation was launched in April 2017 in response to the devastation wrought by Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
This 2017 operation aka “Operation Dunlop” was named after WWII Surgeon Sir Ernest Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop. It saw DRA volunteers helping in the hard-hit town of Proserpine, North Queensland. Since then, the DRA has deployed to the United States, Greece, the British Virgin Islands, Indonesia, the Philippines and throughout Australia. Most of their operations are named after heroes of the Australian Defence Force.
The DRA also has local Service Resiliency Projects per city where volunteers visit local communities on their free days to support long-term recovery efforts like providing continuous health care services, clearing and cleaning and building work. These efforts are controlled, iterative and based on damage assessments from previous disasters.
Answering the call to lend a hand
DDLS Logistic Consultant Anthony Beck is himself a veteran and joined the DRA as a volunteer for its major operations after an invitation from a friend to help the situation with the bushfires in 2019 and 2020 in South Australia.
For Anthony, responding to the invitation was a no-brainer. Being able to keep practising his skills, help others and connect with people provide a strong sense of self-worth and purpose. This is why he is ready to put his hand up or take time off from his Logistics consultancy work when needed.
In response to the flooding in Queensland and New South Wales, the DRA launched Operation Kelliher (named after Richard Kelliher, a recipient of the Victoria Cross.)
Anthony was deployed in Coraki, NSW where his skills in logistics and team management were put to work. He and his team were tasked with organising equipment like personal protective equipment (PPEs) masks and gum boots, refurbishing stores, and seeing to broken gear. They also managed the purchase and delivery of food supporting the DRA team for their relief operations.
Overcoming challenges at the Coraki floods in 2022
When asked about the difficulties their team faced in Coraki, Anthony notes that the location itself was dangerous because of the mud, sludge, contaminated water and debris. So, team and personal safety were paramount. And morning and evening meetings helped volunteers discuss day to day tasks, issues and how to avoid or resolve them. Anthony was also part of the incident management team that assessed the location for accessibility and safety concerns.
There was the danger of mental and emotional exhaustion too. Volunteers were trained to provide emotional first aid to the people who were devastated by the disasters. This included being present and supportive to those who experienced severe losses, those who may have felt abandoned during the first few days of the events, or those who may feel some separation anxiety in cases when a batch of volunteers turnover to a new batch.
Anthony shared that it was physically and mentally demanding partly because of the sleep situation – volunteers camped out and slept in stretchers and sleeping bags next to each other. He would also start work at 5 in the morning and wrap up at midnight with only 3-4 hours of rest. Anthony also missed family and partner during his deployment. But he appreciated the great mental health support at the DRA, the moments of downtime and the check-in calls that volunteers got weeks after their time on the site.
Supporting Disaster Relief Organisations in Australia
Organisations like the DRA help communities that were hit by disasters while supporting Australian veterans in finding their purpose through service. Local and federal agencies have pledged support in funds.
But individuals, families and community groups can also offer cash, materials, skills and time. This helps increase our capacity to send out volunteers and launch recovery operations after natural disasters. Learn more here.
About DDLS People
DDLS People is a team of consultants who have been providing strategic and advisory services in learning and development, logistics and program and project management for 20 years. We have a long and successful history with the Department of Defence and have broadened our client base to include a range of Government organisations and corporations.
DDLS People is the advisory and consulting business unit of DDLS Group, Australia’s leading provider of corporate IT training, process training and cybersecurity training. Reach out to our team to enquire about getting consultancy or training support for your projects.
Photos courtesy of Disaster Relief Australia.