As the rhetoric surrounding the proposed flood levy grows ever more hysterical (as exemplified by Senator George Brandis’ performance on Sky’s AM Agenda this morning), it’s easy to succumb to despair. Sometimes, though, you hear things that restore your faith and admiration in people.
Toowoomba in Queensland was incredibly hard hit by the flash floods that hit the Lockyer Valley, killing at least 20 people. Some of the images from that horrifying day were collected by The Chronicle. As you click through, you can see just how much of the town was affected. The cost of cleaning, rebuilding and replacing everything that was damaged is still being calculated, but is undoubtedly very, very high.
People in Toowoomba could be forgiven for feeling just a little bit selfish right now. The job ahead of them is tremendous. The University of Southern Queensland, though, has its eye on the larger situation. While its Toowoomba campus was relatively unaffected by the floods, USQ has been heavily involved in helping with flood relief for its students and the wider community. They’ve undertaken to provide fleet cars for police and volunteer groups, counselling services through its Faculty of Science and organised collection centres where people can donate food, clothing and money.
It goes much further than that. Yesterday I learned that USQ has also set up a system whereby employees can donate to the flood relief through payroll deductions. Judy Halter, USQ’s Senior Public Relations Co-ordinator, confirmed that the total amount of money raised so far is $29,500.
Many of the staff at the Toowoomba campus live in the surrounding area, which was devastated by floods. They would be automatically exempt from a flood levy. It would be understandable if they decided that under the circumstances, they were going to save their money for their own recovery needs.
They’re not. Judy Halter wrote, ‘USQ’s commitment to assist the people in our communities is supported by all levels from Council, Senior Management, staff and students’.
People at USQ understand the importance of lending a helping hand. Even when their own situations are adversely affected, they’ve dug deep for the whole community.
And yet there are people in Melbourne and Sydney whining about having to sacrifice a single cup of coffee each week so that their fresh fruit and vegetables can make it into the supermarkets. They should take a long, hard look at themselves.
Congratulations, USQ Toowoomba. You provide a wonderful example of generosity and real understanding of community spirit for the rest of us.