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Townsville rallies to help flood-affected schools

When North Queensland experienced an unprecedented flood event in late January 2019—impacting over 3000 properties and 61 state schools—the community rallied.

At Pimlico State High School, heavy rain and flash flooding damaged the library, performing arts centre and 16 classrooms—with the homes of more than a dozen staff and 70 school families severely impacted.

When the school was forced to close for a week at the height of the crisis, it was one of few local sites to retain electricity and had the opportunity to be a support hub for the school community.

A holistic approach saw clear communication with parents, staff and other local state schools, practical help through a pop-up recovery centre and support for staff and student health and wellbeing.

The response was overwhelming—with the pop-up recovery centre providing charging stations and computers for use, and enough donated school uniforms, stationery and supplies for not only 65 Pimlico families, but also three surrounding primary schools. Volunteers, including many Pimlico alumni, cleaned dozens of homes and school staff organised carpooling where students had lost the family car.

Wellbeing supports included a rolling transition back to school by year level, student wellbeing surveys to help triage support, and staff training to identify trauma-related symptoms and ensure specialised help was in place.

Hardest hit of the Townsville schools was Oonoonba State School—a school of around 550 students from Prep to Year 6. Extensive damage requiring long-term repair works meant students needed an alternative school location. With no one school large enough to accommodate everyone, the school cohort was split across the neighbouring Wulguru State School and William Ross State High School campuses—effectively creating a 'school within a school' so that class groups could stay together.

To support parents, buses transported students to and from Oonoonba State School to the neighbouring schools, and critical disaster funding assisted students and school staff to replace essential educational resources.

On the final day of Term 1, 2019, Oonoonba reopened its doors for a community day to celebrate those who worked together to get the school up and running again—including the Department of Housing and Public Works, local tradespeople, and the Oonoonba, Wulguru and William Ross school communities. The united recovery effort saw essential repairs—including relining walls, repainting over 130 doors and refilling five sandpits—completed in time for students to return to their classrooms for the start of Term 2, 2019.

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Last updated
09 September 2020