Townsville community spirit shines on World Social Work Day

February saw Townsville face its biggest natural disaster in recent times when it was hit by floods that destroyed homes and devastated the community.

But when times are tough, the community bands together.

Department of Human Services social worker, Lisa Valli was part of a team of social workers who helped locals claim disaster recovery payments, contact insurers, or just help them deal with the situation.

“Traumatic events are so overwhelming,” Lisa said.

“It can be hard for people who’ve been through a natural disaster to process what’s happened. 

“For most people, the experience was very different to anything they’d gone through before, and if they aren’t supported correctly, it can lead to feeling their world is no longer safe.

“A key part of my role on the ground was supporting people to regain a sense of control in feeling safe and secure and helping them make sense of the range of assistance available”

Between 5 and 19 February, there were close to 300 face-to-face referrals to department social workers, and more than double this requested over the phone.

“We focused on encouraging people to make an Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment claim,” Lisa said.

“We also connected people to local services and support networks.”

On World Social Work Day (19 March) we recognise the important role social workers like Lisa have in helping people in times of crisis.

The theme for this year is ‘Promoting the Importance of Human Relationships’, which was clearly demonstrated when community organisations and Government departments joined forces to help the people of Townsville piece their lives back together.

Red Cross Emergency Services Manager QLD Collin Sivalingum said their volunteers and staff also provided much needed support during the north Queensland floods.

“While other agencies handle the emergency and clean up the streets, Red Cross is there looking after the people, offering one-to-one support as affected communities work out what to do next,” Collin said.

“In Townsville and the broader region, thousands of trained Red Cross teams were there providing psychological first aid, linking community members to information and services and helping them locate loved ones.

“Red Cross will continue to have a presence in Townsville standing alongside the community as it rebuilds and recovers from what’s been a very difficult time.”

Lisa has lived in Townsville for close to a decade and describes her community as having compassion, courage and strength, coming together to help each other during tough times.

“People are very resilient, but with such significant losses there were strong feelings of fear and not knowing what they’d return to,” Lisa said.

“But this didn’t stop strangers turning up at people’s doorsteps with buckets and brooms in hand ready to help in any way possible.

“It was really overwhelming for us all, but I was inspired to see the Townsville community spirit in full force.”

National President of the Australian Association of Social Workers Christine Craik said World Social Work Day was important in raising awareness of the vital contribution of social workers.

“Social workers are very important to Centrelink customers,” Christine said.

“Their work includes helping them access other services to address the complex issues which often contribute to them needing Centrelink assistance in the first place, such as in times of crisis like natural disasters, family violence or mental health.

“In Townsville they’ve been there to help the community, and in some cases, doing so while being personally impacted by the floods themselves.

“We should celebrate World Social Work Day to make sure everyone knows about the vital contribution social workers make and ensure they take a moment to reflect proudly on the amazing work they do.”

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