23 January 2024

Familiar faces among the clean-up as Army Reservists dig in

| Matt Nicholls
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Wujal Wujal local, Private Clayton Baird, said it has been hard to see the damage to his community.

Swapping their army boots for gumboots, some familiar faces have been spotted among the crowd of Australian Defence Force personnel in the Bloomfield Valley, with some local reservists assisting the clean-up.

Private Coleridge Scotford, of 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, said he jumped at the opportunity to help his fellow north Queenslanders.

“I just thought, these people have gone through such a terrible experience, what more can I do?” the Hope Vale resident said.

“I helped with food deliveries during the evacuations and then came back to help with the clean-up work at the local school and council depot.

“A couple of locals came up to talk to me and said they were grateful we came to help. That was a good feeling because I could see they were a bit scared.”

With him was Private Clayton Baird, who also serves with the 51st.

A Wujal Wujal local, the young reservist said it was difficult to see the damage to his community.

One poignant task for Private Baird was cleaning his old school.

“It was really hard to see the school damaged and to see my friends and family evacuated,” he said.

“I felt sad, but the Elders said they were proud to see me here with the Army and I’m glad to help.”

Private Coleridge Scotford from Hope Vale at the Ayton boat ramp. Pictures: Defence Media

Not one to shy away from tough work, Corporal Grant Woodholme, of Rockhampton, has deployed to support multiple severe weather relief activities since he enlisted in the Reserves in 2013, and said it was great to be a part of recovery efforts.

“The amount of devastation we’ve seen here, especially in such a small remote community, is staggering,” he said.

“So it’s good to get our feet on the ground and get our hands dirty to help as much as we can.”

The team has been working hard to clean up vital infrastructure.

“We’ve been working at Bloomfield River State School alongside the local contractors,” Corporal Woodholme said.

“There was just tonnes and tonnes of mud that’s come down from the mountain, so we got in shovelling, draining, cleaning and trying to get the school ready.

“Then we were able to help clean out the council depot to get the local council back in action so they can get back out into the community and do what they need to do.

“It’s been hard yakka for the team working in thick humidity, but the local community are providing much-needed morale and motivation.

“It’s very hot, very sticky, especially after all the tropical monsoonal weather, but the locals have been great. They’ve been so welcoming and are very appreciative of the work we have been doing.”

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