Thursday, April 9, 2009

Flowerdale - An example to all Australians

On Tuesday General Peter Cosgrove (Ret.) came into Flowerdale. Peter is a legendary Australian with more experience in disaster management than anyone in the country. He led the Interfet force in Timor and then led the effort to rebuild Innisfail and surrounding areas after Cyclone Larry. He had a distinguished military career and was Australian of the Year in 2001.

The Community Committee asked Peter to come and share his experience with us and to review what was going in Flowerdale and give us some advice. We also asked him to meet the locals and provide us with his impressions.

Peter said that the DIY strategy of getting out in front and driving our own destiny was spot on. He said that in times of disaster you cant sit back and wait you need to take control of your own destiny. He did remind us that we needed to avoid the broader community outside Flowerdale saying "those guys in Flowerdale are OK we don't need to worry about them". We need to make sure we continue to engage with government, industry and philanthropy and continue to provide a clear picture of what the community needs.

He also urged us to ensure that we do not lose the opportunity to record the history of Black Saturday and the recovery effort. He said the fires were the biggest thing that would happen to Flowerdale in 100 years and we needed to find a local historian or group of people whose job was to record the history. (Volunteers welcome, if you are interested let us know via the comments or email me

Peter spent time mixing with locals at the Pub and it was really pleasing to see a number of the "Flowerdale Cowboys" in attendance. Peter is very down to earth and the locals really warmed to him.

"The crowd at the pub"

Just before he left he addressed the crowd. he said that the Flowerdale Hotel in his mind was like the Alamo, the place where a brave group of locals gathered and decided to take a last stand against Mother Nature at its most ferocious. He praised the Cowboys for their bravery and determination and refusal to give in against overwhelming odds.

He also commented on the example Flowerdale had provided to the rest of Australia. He said he was honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to visit a community that had been knocked down but had refused to give in. He praised the community spirit he had observed and experienced during the day. He like most Australians had watched the day unfold and had no idea of the stories of bravery, courage and the resilience shown by the Flowerdale community. He reminded us that we needed to stick together and continue with our approach to rebuild the town.

As I dropped him off at the Airport I thanked him for coming down and spending the time, he said to me that he didn't want thanks, for him it was the first opportunity he had to visit a bushfire ravaged community and he thanked the community of Flowerdale for sharing their experience with him, "It was a privilege and honour to be invited and to spend time with the Flowerdale community" he said.

I think he inspired everyone there and we need to make sure we capture the history, continue to drive the community led model and maintain the spirit.

PS Thanks to Mel Kerr at the Photo Art Gallery for the pics

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