My thoughts on the Mud Army

The Mud Army was a term being used by the media to descibe the volunteers that helped thousands of Brisbane residents prepare for and recover from the flooding from the Brisbane River (after the Toowoomba flash floods Mon 10 Jan 2011).  Like mud, the name just stuck.

I had the privilege of being part of the ‘uniformed division’ of the Army in my SES orange overalls.  After watching the news of our regional Queensland towns being flooded, and just wanting to get out to help them, I (along with hundreds of others) was needed in my own backyard.  The weather forecast had not been good, but I had no idea that I’d ever see the Brisbane River get so high.  I also had no idea that the general public would roll up their sleeves and help.

To me, the Mud Army is not a label which is limited to the Brisbane City Council-registered volunteers.  Did you fill a sandbag? Did you help someone evacuate? Did you carefully pull sodden possessions out of someone’s home? Did you check on a neighbour, a friend, a complete stranger? Did you cook sausages or drive down the street handing out cold drinks? Did you get in your own car and just drive? Did you join up with other friends, businesses or community groups?  Then in my books you’re an honaray member of the Mud Army, whether you were in the council areas of Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley, Emerald, Condamine, Rockhampton … anywhere across 75% of our beautiful state where the rivers just couldn’t contain their contents.

These fantastic people deserved an identity, so I thought it would be great if they had a t-shirt – something to wear with pride to say they were part of something great.  So I posted on the Today Show’s facebook page.  And someone read it.  And someone took notice.  And Cam mentioned it to Premier Anna Bligh who loved the idea.  And before I knew it, the Today Show had everything organised.  Wow.

I’m blown away that a simple idea like this was embraced and made a reality.  I love that the proceeds will go to the Flood Relief Fund.  I think this is an opportunity for those who couldn’t be part of the Army to show their support of the volunteers and contribute to the Relief Fund at the same time.  One one hand, I wish I had enough cash to give all of the volunteers their own tshirt for free .. but that amount of money would do significantly more good in the Flood Relief Fund instead.

To the Mud Army, it was a pleasure to serve alongside you.  You served the homeowners with enthusiasm, determination and most of all, respect and no job was too hard or beneath you.

Who knows when the Mud Army’s tour of duty will end?  Some say that Brisbane had had all of the focus.  I think the response here was necessary due to the sheer size of the impact (including the central business district of our state’s capital) and it’s proximity to volunteer help.  I know that the towns outside of Brisbane are hurting too and I also know of Brisbane Mud Army members who would deploy across our state in a heartbeat.  Brisbane still has a while to go before a complete recovery which I think needs to be balanced with the recovery of the regional towns.  If only we had enough resources to tackle everything simultaneously, because with the influx of a large number of out-of-town volunteers would come accomodation, travel, food requirements etc on an already stressed town.  That’s not an excuse, that’s just a personal obervation.

And I’ll leave you with one more personal observation – the response from the Premier and her office.  This is not a political advertisement (being a kiwi, I’m not even allowed to vote here), but I think it’s important that you know that whilst Anna Bligh deals with the recovery of the economy of her state capital, the recovery of 75% of her state (businesses, farmers, homeowners all impacted) and questions from the media and others about whether this could have been predicted better, she has time to ensure her office follows up my little story about a t-shirt idea.  That’s impressive leadership.


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