School communities rally in flood disaster
18 January 2011
Inundated ... Condamine State School surrounded by floodwaters.
Students from all 92 of Queensland's flood-ravaged state schools were able to go back to school on time, with only three facilities unable to reopen ready for 2011.
Students from hardest-hit Rocklea State School, Milperra State High School and Milton State School will attend neighbouring schools in Brisbane while repairs are undertaken.
In the course of Queensland's worst ever floods disaster, facilities at 92 state schools were affected and the grounds at a further 26 schools inundated.
Six TAFE institute campuses were affected, and some 100 early childhood services were affected by either facility damage, grounds inundation or no access due to floodwaters.
The Emerald campus of the Capricornia School of Distance Education suffered facilities inundation, while in Brisbane the Languages Other Than English Centre at West End was rendered inaccessible by floodwaters.
The Department of Education and Training has worked closely with flood-affected schools and their local communities to restore classrooms, grounds and facilities for the start of the year.
Education and Training Minister Geoff Wilson said: 'It is important to get students back into schools as soon as it is safe to do so, to provide a sense of normality and stability for them and their families during this difficult time.'
Across Queensland, department staff and school communities rallied to track and repair damage and clean up as floodwaters receded, only to have them return in some centres with devastating consequences.
State schools played their part in the disaster response, with 10 being used as evacuation/recovery centres, one as a Red Cross centre and another as an SES response centre.
Director-General Julie Grantham expressed her admiration for the dedicated response of department staff in often harrowing circumstances.
'There are thousands of our staff out there who have lost homes and possessions, been stranded, or have family who have been badly affected,' she said.
'We have been inspired and moved by the stories of our staff's courage, bravery, determination, selflessness and heartbreaking losses during this crisis.
'Our staff have been working in recovery teams, others are State Emergency Service volunteers. I know in the coming weeks we will learn more about what our people have been doing behind the scenes to support their communities.'
Ms Grantham said damage to buildings, grounds and other resources would run into many millions of dollars, but that should never be allowed to overshadow the human cost of a disaster which rapidly escalated from trauma to tragedy.
The safety of staff was always of paramount importance to the department. 'I would remind everyone of this. Please take care of yourselves if you are travelling in any of the affected areas and take heed of any warnings by authorities,' Ms Grantham said.
'This disaster is far from over, but we are beginning the recovery process. We know this will take time.
'I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation during this crisis. I know this is a difficult time for so many and the level of professionalism that has been demonstrated by staff has been exemplary.
'I thank not only those staff in the disaster areas, but also those in other parts of the state who have had to shoulder more of the burden and have offered support to their colleagues to make sure our important business continues.
'I would like to remind staff that special leave provisions are available to those who are prevented from attending their normal place of employment because of the floods.
'For those people who are unable to access their place of work, or who require more time to clean up and repair their homes or look after loved ones who have been affected, up to five days of special leave are available. If you require more than five days, please speak to your supervisor about leave arrangements.'
The latest information on the crisis in Queensland, including how to donate to the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal, is available on a dedicated Queensland Government website.
The Department of Education and Training's natural disasters website includes information on affected areas, health issues, special leave provisions for department staff, employee support, hardship assistance and returning to the workplace.