Premier Bligh leads cyclone Yasi remembrance service in Tully
A year ago today, the biggest cyclone in memory smashed into the Far North Queensland coast. Residents lost their homes, farmers lost their crops and businesses lost their livelihoods. How is the impact zone faring one year on? Meet the heroes of Yasi. V
CYCLONE Yasi victims were told they have become national role models for people experiencing adversity during a commemorative service yesterday at Tully to mark a year since the disaster. Plus read full text of Premier's speech.Acknowledging the work still to be done so communities could recover from the $1.5 billion disaster, Premier Anna Bligh told a crowd of 200 people they had been sorely tested during the past year with monsoonal rain hitting just days after the cyclone, coupled with slow rebuilding and insurance issues.
She called 2011 a year of "heartbreak and loss", symbolised by resilient locals like Rita Porter, 78, who lost her home and then her husband last year, but "still had a tear and a twinkle in her eye".
"Today we salute you," she said.
"We all know that the community of the Cassowary Coast and Point Hinchinbrook were sorely tested last year.
"But when you were sorely tested, we know that you were not found wanting.
"That is why today’s service is so important, it is a moment where we can just pause, reflect and remember.
"A time for looking back, but also a time for looking forward.
"Today, we look back and we remember that the worst of times bring out the best in
"We give thanks to all of those from this community and from all around Queensland and Australia who reached out, who opened our hearts and gave us a hand when we needed it."
Dignitaries, including Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley spoke of the region’s guts and determination.
Tully priest Father Karel Duivenvoorden said the day was a chance for people to "let go of any memories that hurt them and move on".
He spoke of acknowledging the progress and how far the region has come since Yasi.
"Life is different. Life will not be the same again," he said.
"But that is OK. We will come back slowly and in our own time."
Tully resident Michelle Dore said the service was a great chance for the community to come together.
"We are looking at it like a funeral for Yasi," she said.
"Things are not perfect yet, but we are getting there.
"I think most of us are keen to remember the last year and wave goodbye to it."
The full text of Premier Anna Bligh’s speech:
TODAY we come together to remember and reflect on the events of February 2011.
One year ago today the unthinkable was happening. Queensland had just been battered by the worst floods in our recorded history when out to sea a terrible cyclone was forming and heading our way.
As you know, Yasi ultimately tore apart communties on the Cassowary Coast and the Hinchinbook region, wreaking terrible damage to towns and villages like Tully, Tully Heads, Innisfail and Ingham, Cardwell, Kennedy, Mission Beach, El Arish, Silkwood, Silky Oak and many others.
More than 13,000 homes were impacted by the winds, almost 5000 experienced some damage, 2500 of those very serious damage, and nearly 200 of those homes had to be demolished.
The majority of Australia’s banana crop was destroyed, and livelihoods and businesses destroyed with it.
But behind every one of those numbers are very, very human stories of the people of this region.
Stories of heartbreaking loss and sadness, of fear and triumph against all the odds and stories of love and care and kindness.
Stories like that of Rita from Tully Heads, whose home was seriously damaged, who months later lost her husband from a long illness, but who ended the year with a brand new great-grandson and who greeted me this morning with both a tear and twinkle in her eye.
Stories like young Keely, who just spoke to me before the services from St Clare’s who talked to me about living in a caravan while her new home was rebuilt and she waited for her new bedroom.
Each and every one of these stories add up to the story of cyclone Yasi, and as we have worked through the efforts of 2011 I have got to know some of the people and the stories behind this disaster.
But this is a story that has many many chapters and many of you know them much, much better than I do and you know that they still have a long way to go.
Of course it wasn’t only cyclone Yasi; just as you thought that Mother Nature had had her fill and the cleanup had just begun, monsoonal rains then brought more heartbreaking flooding and misery to some of the very same people whose homes had been affected by Yasi and it stretched everyone to the limit.
If you throw in the battles with insurance companies and the wait for builders and other trials of last year, I think we can acknowledge the community of the Cassowary Coast and the Hinchinbook regions was very sorely tested last year.
But when you were sorely tested, we all know you were not found wanting.
That is why today’s service is so important, it is a moment where we can just pause, reflect and remember.
A time for looking back, but also a time for looking forward.
Today we look back and we remember that the worst of times bring out the best in people, and we give thanks to all of those in this community, and those from around Queensland and Australia who reached out and opened their hearts and gave us a helping hand when we needed it.
Given the strength of this region, it should come as no surprise that we also had a chance in 2011 to thank and acknowledge and honour our local heroes and that 260 people from Cairns, the Cassowary coast and Townsville were recognised as Queensland local disaster heroes for acts of bravery, selflessness and compassion in those terrible days.
Once again I salute each and every one of those local heroes, and you know who they are among you.
We look back and we remember those who reached out to us from around the world to lift our spirits.
How Prince William’s visit here to Tully and then to Cardwell and to Cairns raised hopes and hearts.
It seemed as I was here in those days that nearly every local resident was out to catch a glimpse of the handsome young prince and share in his messages of hope and optimism.
We also remember that for many of those who lived through this disaster the memories and the trauma continue to haunt them and that the journey of recovery for some is still a very long one.
But on a day like today I hope that we also look forward with a great sense of hope and confidence to a brighter and stronger future for this great part of our state.
The reopening of the Golden Gumboot last month I think is a very powerful symbol of a community that is getting back on its feet.
Tully’s proud badge of honour is back in business.
Thanks to a new golden paint job, this Tully icon like the people it represents is now standing tall and proud on its restored viewing platform as a sign of recovery for all to see.
To bounce back from Yasi as you have done with cyclone Larry still so fresh in everybody’s minds has taken plenty of guts and lots of determination.
Thankfully, guts and determination are in very large supply here in Far North Queensland.
What very great spirit you have shown and what inspiring role models you are for anybody who experiences adversity.
You’ve made every one of us proud to be Queenslanders, proud to be Australians.
Today we salute you and wish you all the best for 2012 as you continue your journey of recovery.
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Keeping the faith: Premier Anna Bligh at yesterday's memorial service at Tully marking the first anniversary of cyclone Yasi. Picture: TOM LEE