Hi, I’m Eddie, a long-time Port Douglas local. Port Douglas is just one town in the larger Douglas Shire Council, encompassing nearby towns such as Mossman, Wonga Beach, Daintree, and Cape Tribulation.
Cyclone Jasper marks my first experience with a natural disaster and my first time deeply embedded in a local community during disaster recovery. Category 2 Cyclone Jaspar was one thing, but the unexpected torrential rain following a few days later shocked many of us long-term locals. It was something we had never witnessed before.
Pete Williams, a DisasterWISE community member, asked me to share what is happening on the ground and some of my general observations about the community.
Since you are all disaster recovery community enthusiasts, I thought I would list the community activations I have encountered or observed. This list is not exhaustive —just what I’ve seen through updates as I hear them – online and offline. Of course, I’m sure that by the time this is published, there will be even more community initiatives at play.
1) Given that the Captain Cook Highway, the main artery from Cairns to Port Douglas and a lifeline on many levels, is facing major roadblocks, with the latest reports indicating it will be blocked until early January, the local maritime industry has stepped up to fill the gaps. At the time of writing, at least six maritime businesses—from fishing charter boats to larger Great Barrier Reef boats—are helping transport people from Cairns to Australia and delivering rescue food packages.
2) Other initiatives from small businesses include a shuttle company offering free transfers to the hospital, a local courier company providing free pickups of essential items from Cairns, a cleaning business offering free donation services to shop fronts on the business street, and a roof restoration company responding to needs.
3) The Neighborhood Centre became the main hub for distributing water bottles when the water was turned off. It was great to see so many volunteers helping get the water there.
4) Further up in Daintree, helicopters carrying police and ADF personnel crisscrossed the skies to deliver 5000 litres of fuel, medication, food stocks, and water to the remote beauty of Daintree. One local set sail to personally deliver fuel jerry cans across the area—epic stuff.
5) Given that this all happened a week before Christmas, a community toy donation drive has been set up with a Facebook group.
6) In my eyes, the 5 or 6 Facebook groups are little microcosms of the emotional landscape of the town—some supportive posts, others offering resources, some complaints, others critiques.
Maybe you could call it psychological electricity. They have all been very active, and it shows how much online spaces serve as vital connectivity tissue when the physical is broken.
As a disaster recovery newbie who loves contemplating the dynamics of community, here are my initial observations:
Emergence in the Absence of Infrastructure: When the nodes of infrastructure are missing (roads, electricity, water), it has been moving to see how humans naturally rise to the surface to fill the gaps. Social infrastructure to fill physical infrastructure, shared humanity is sometimes only revealed when the structures collapse. The value of community is becoming evident during this time, and people are showing appreciation for it.
- Common + Unity: A yoga teacher hosted a free session that I went to. At the beginning of the class, she shared unpacked community into two elements -Common + Unity. What is common is what is unifying. I’ve never heard the term unpacked like that before.
- In the case of what I am seeing, the commonality of shared suffering and hardship creates a unifying effect, as though the crisis is activating our altruistic natures. Seeing a unifying echo vibrate throughout people is awesome to witness.
- Collective Intelligence: Our collective intelligence in this shire—finding ways around blocks, people filling the gaps when basic elements go down—is very cool to see. It reminds me that people are incredible at making extraordinary things happen when needed.
To connect with Eddie, please contact Pete Williams on this platform who can put you in touch.