3 April 2024

100 days on: 'Things will never be the same again' for Rossville resident

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Brad Smith

Rossville resident Brad Smith is unsure about returning to community after losing everything in the flood event that followed Tropical Cyclone Jasper. Photo: Supplied.

“Nothing can prepare you for what comes afterwards.”

One hundred days after the flooding event stripped residents of their homes, Rossville resident Brad Smith told Cape York Weekly his story of grief, loss, displacement, and the uncertainty of returning to his community.

“Once you’ve had time for reflection and just to be out of it, it starts to sink in that things will never be the same again,” he said.

“To be honest, it’s getting harder, not easier.”

Mr Smith and his wife were relocated to Cooktown five days after the flood washed away everything they owned, including some animals, and are conflicted on whether they want to return.

“When you think of all that’s been lost, like we lost all our horses, just going back there, it’s not happy days, it’s actually the opposite,” he said.

“And just the scope of works; houses and buildings can be fixed, but the landscape and environment, it’s going to take decades, so questions do arise about if we want to stay there.

“When people see flood on the news, they go ‘it just dries out, you get rid of the crap and you start again’, but it’s not that easy when you’ve got so much debris, sediment and rock all over your property.”

Despite this, with nowhere permanent to go, the pair decided to repair the damage and see how they felt about continuing life in Rossville.

“At the moment, it’s sort of in the context of ‘we’ll fix it up and we’ll sell it’, because it’s too hard to go back,” Mr Smith said.

“We’ve got nowhere else to go, so we’ve got to go back and do it.

“We didn’t have insurance, so it’s going to be a very expensive exercise; we’ve already spent close to $100,000 just getting new tanks, signing contracts with builders to come and do the structural repairs, getting new cars, all that sort of stuff.”

Mr Smith said grant application processes to aid the rebuild had been slow, with days consisting of never-ending phone calls to move things along.

“We’re still living out of camp chairs and fold-up tables inside, because it was for sale,” he said.

“The logistics and just the time it takes seems to compound everything, and it’s easy to fall into depression, I suppose; it’s not conducive to people’s mental wellbeing.”

Mr Smith took to Facebook on the 100-day anniversary last week to remind his neighbours about the impacts Tropical Cyclone Jasper’s post-flooding event continued to have.

“I just thought I’d be saying to people that it can happen to you, whether it be a cyclone or a fire or any disaster, and that whatever you do, just consider other people’s misfortune, and don’t become forgetful or dismissive when people are struggling, because it’s very real,” he said.

“I feel that a lot of people really don’t have any clue about the impact that’s happened there, and it’s not their fault, but it’s just a reminder to be kind and considerate.”

Before and after satellite imagery

Before and after: satellite imagery of land surrounding the Smith’s property. Photo: Supplied.

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