Tough Economy Sparks New Call for Urgent Disaster Appeal

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
1 Feb 2013

Queensland Flood Appeal

Australians dug deep for the victims of 2009's Black Saturday Bushfires. They were equally generous two years ago when appeals were launched to help people who lost everything in the floods that swept across Queensland and NSW. But in the wake of the recent natural disasters charities are asking Australia to dig deep once more.

At the same time they acknowledge times may be tough financially for many people however there are many fellow Australians who have lost everything.

Donations to the Red Cross and St Vincent de Paul Society's appeals that have been set up to help those affected by Tasmania and Victoria's catastrophic bushfires and victims of the massive damage inflicted by Cyclone Oswald have slowed.

Vinnies Bundaberg almost completely submerged in this week's floods

The Cyclone not only spawned 150 km winds and mini tornados but its record breaking downpours triggered flash floods and swollen rivers which have submerged entire towns and wreaked on coastal Queensland and northern NSW.

"We launched our Queensland Flood Appeal 2013 on 29 January but so far donations are not coming in at either the speed or the size we saw two years ago during the first few days after we launched our appeal to help  victims of the 2010-2011 floods," says Brian Moore, President of Vinnies Qld.

The Red Cross has seen a similar response to its flood appeal launched earlier this week.

Brian believes the reasons for the slowdown in donations is not a lack of caring by Australians who are normally so generous.

"There are many reasons with perhaps the central reason being the economy. Many people are struggling financially at present. There is concern about the economy as unemployment figures inch up and living costs continue to rise and families battle to cope with the sharp increases in electricity, train and bus fares and other expenses," he says pointing out that an increasing number of Australians are having difficulty keeping their own heads above water with day to day costs leaving nothing left over to donate.

Among other pundits there are also fears Australia may be facing what Americans dub "donor fatigue."

Brisbane apartments, office blocks, houses underwater during the 2011 floods

Over the past four years the nation has experienced a series of devastating natural disasters. On 7 February it will be exactly four years since Victoria experienced its worst-ever bushfires. The intense inferno swallowed up entire towns leaving 173 dead and 414 injured.

March 2010 brought wild storms, gale force winds, hail and flash flooding to Perth and south western Australia creating $1.4 billion in damage to homes, businesses and property.

Later that same year, Cyclone Tasha made landfall in North Queensland. Short lived but intense, the cyclone damaged or wiped out homes and businesses, destroyed crops and swamped rivers which broke their banks and triggered widespread flooding as far south as Brisbane. Intense rainfall from the Cyclone continued and by 28 December more than half of Queensland was underwater. By January Brisbane, Toowoomba, Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley were battling the worst floods more than 40 years which would ultimately cause billions of dollars in damage and tragically cause the deaths of 78 people.

The Queensland floods had spread to NSW and Victoria by 2011 inundating farms, drowning stock, destroying homes and crops.

On February 3, that same year Cyclone Yasi roared through North Queensland flattening banana plantations and other crops and destroying huge swathes of towns such as Tully, Innisfail, Mission Beach and Cardwell. The category 5 Cyclone caused massive devastation.

Cyclone Yasi devastated Australia's far north in February 2011

A few weeks later in early 2011, Western Australia and the Margaret River area battled major bushfires where despite the best efforts of fire fighters, many homes were lost.

Two years later once again Australia is fighting bushfires that have raged across Victoria, Tasmania as well as Cootamundra where once again many homes were lost and people found themselves left with nothing.

Added to this are the floods which are simultaneously creating devastation throughout Queensland as well as in Grafton and other towns of northern NSW.

Having given generously to previous appeals including the Tasmania bushfire appeal launched a few weeks ago, Australians are now responding more slowly to the latest request for help.

"Financially, these are not easy times, but I ask you to make a sacrifice in support of those who have suffered so much," the Most Rev Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane asks.

"Two years ago, I saw the floods from afar on TV and in newspapers," says he says recalling how during the Qld floods of 2010 and 2011, he was Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn and living in the ACT.

Black Saturday bushfires worst in nation's history

"The anxiety and the pain cuts more deeply now that I live where the floods have hit.  I think particularly of those who have suffered a second time in two years.  That is truly heart-breaking.  It is worse still for families who have lost loved ones.  May the Lord give eternal rest to those who have died and peace to those who mourn them," he says.

Archbishop Coleridge encourages members of the Brisbane Archdiocese as well as those from dioceses across Australia to give whatever they can to help support those who have lost everything, adding that all support should be directed to St Vincent de Paul Society which is coordinating the Archdiocese's relief efforts just as it did two years ago.

"Financial donations are the easiest way to make sure we can quickly provide assistance to those who need it," says Brian Moore, President of Vinnies Qld and reiterates Vinnies commitment to the long-term recovery of people affected by this latest disaster, promising that "Vinnies will be here long after the water has gone down."

To donate to the Queensland Flood Appeal go to or call 131812.