Not everyone is back in business

There’s a house in Rocklea, in Brisbane’s south-west, about 12km from the city centre. It’s home to a very dear friend. It’s a post-war home, reminiscent of many in the area when Salisbury was the epicentre of the 1950s industrial boom.

It has three bedrooms, one of which has been converted for use as a beauty spa. The renovated kitchen boasts an open plan dining area. The quaint bathroom gleams with sparkling tiles and a new loo. There’s a covered patio for long Sunday barbeques, a garden full of fruit trees and a fledgling olive plant. There’s two water tanks, two dogs, and a whole bunch of happiness.

Well, there used to be.

On Thursday, 13 January, flood waters went through the roof of this home. Literally. The beautifully renovated kitchen was invaded by the insidious water that held Brisbane hostage. The disgusting muck surged down the toilet, in between the walls and through the cracks in the polished wood floors. It carted the water tanks away, ripped up the fruit trees and disintegrated the doors and walls.

What was left was a heaving, rancid mess – utterly uninhabitable, unthinkably ruined, devastatingly lost. It wasn’t a home anymore, it was a dump. A wasteland of memories, happiness and sunshine days.

But it was still her home. And that’s the hardest part of all the horror that was the Brisbane floods. It’s still her home even though it is not fit for a wild animal to prowl through during the night.

My dear friend learnt the hard way, as did many many Brisbane home-owners, that insurance cover doesn’t always mean insurance cover . The scoundrels who run these agencies nit-picked fine print to death and managed to invent several meanings for flooding.

Silly me, I always thought flooding was a result of too much water coming down and the rivers and dams not being able to process it quickly enough, so therefore our homes, parks and streets were filled with water.

Apparently not. Whatever caused the flood, they said they’d only cover for the other reasons. Oh, and then said premiums would need to rise to cover their costs. Huh? Isn’t that what insurance is all about. What would I know, I’m just a writer and a home-owner. Mmmm.

So my dear friend lives day by day, battling tears, despair and adversity in an attempt to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that her gorgeous home has become. Little by little she saves up to get some new doors, or to fix the plumbing or to get a new stove. But it’s not fast enough.

It’s now over four months since those dark January days that stopped our city. And for all the lauding on the media that Brisbane is “back in business”, let’s not for a second forget that many people are not anywhere near opening their doors for business, let alone even having a proper door that you can open in the first place.

Just today, I took a drive around the streets of Rocklea, in that little residential pocket off Marshall Road near the McDonald’s. It was an old stomping ground of mine some years ago and holds some very fond memories.

Homes now lay vacant, their doors and windows wide open in surrender. The flood waters won the battle, and they also won the war. Dirty exterior markings brag how high the water rose. The air is putrid with resignation and anguish. A few brave souls soldier on, gamely employing construction crews to right the wrongs. Or simply to jack their home as high as council will allow.

But for many it is just too much. They’ve walked away. Tenants and owners alike. The “for sale” signs are plentiful, as are “for lease” signs. The warm camaraderie that I always knew to exist is still present, just in a very decreased number.

The place I called home all those years ago has been gutted. No longer is there the kitchen where I lovingly prepared my daughter’s meals. Nor the street-facing room where I concocted blogs and columns, and proudly started a small business. I didn’t need a doorway to pass between rooms anymore.

All I could see was the claw foot bath. Not even the nastiest of flood waters was going to move that sucker!

So people, all I ask, is that you spare a thought, and maybe a prayer, for some of our folk who actually aren’t back in business or on the road to recovery. Our folk who still live in rented accommodation because they can’t face the muck that awaits them back home. Or haven’t left the security of mum and dad’s to sort out the mess that once was their home.

Or the brave ones, like my friend, who have no other option than to live in the remnants of their own castle and who each day, try to make a little bit of a difference.

They’re not back in business at all.

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Comments

  1. Very heartfelt Bron, just last week I was brought to tears as I watched the bulldozer clear a house and land in only moments of time…there is still so much to do for so many people. I would like to say thank you to you however for all your help and support to our area during the floods while you were ensuring your residence stayed safe also….x

  2. Thanks Steve x

  3. Thankyou, Bron – for reminding us that it's not all sunshine and roses for many.
    My heart goes out to them all.

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