By Ruth Limkin
There’s been quite a bit written about the volunteer army that mobilised after the Brisbane floods and the way they transformed devastated communities. There have been accolades given to Premier Anna Bligh, Lord Mayor Campbell Newman and Lord Mayor Paul Pisale. These have all been rightly deserved.
In recent weeks, I coordinated my organisation’s emergency response to the Brisbane floods. With over 300 volunteers deployed over the last few weeks it’s been a busy time, and a steep learning curve.
One thing I’ve learnt, in a list of many, is where our City Council fails.
After all, the difficulty in connecting volunteers with needs over the last few weeks has been a curious challenge.
There were over 60,000 people who registered to volunteer with the floods. We saw the footage of traffic jams of willing workers descending upon suburban streets. There should be plenty of people ready to lend a hand. And yet, as late as just a few days ago, there are those whose homes have had little help at all.
It comes down to Council failures.
The challenge was to you mobilise 60,000 individuals and match them with 6000 private properties, each with unique needs and requests.
The Council has done their very best and they have done exceedingly well. They have operated far outside of their scope. After all, City Councils don’t organise cleaning for private residential properties, yet, in a crisis as vast as this one, they have gone above and beyond.
And yet, quite simply, Council has failed to take the place of community.
When community exists you can easily and quickly reach out for help, or to help.
When community exists you can call a friend, who knows a friend, who can rally another friend.
When community exists you know how to mobilise, how to connect and how to deploy.
When community exists, volunteers and needs are connected.
The Council has failed to replace pre-existing communities of people who know and care for one another.
That’s neither a surprise, nor a indictment. Being a community is not what a Council is designed to do. That’s what people are designed to do.
In our organic, often seemingly haphazard networks of relational connections, we hold the key to respond to needs such as these.
That’s why communities matter and why we should cultivate them.
One day, they just may save your life.