Australians like to think of themselves as a resilient mob and these pictures prove that through flood, fire and cyclones they indeed can recover quickly from adversity.
From female volunteers battling raging bushfires to families trapped for days by ferocious storms, ordinary Australians have been captured in a set of photographs celebrating the nation’s hardy nature.
The pictures are past entries in the photographic section of the Resilient Australia Awards, a nationwide program to recognise and promote initiatives that ‘strengthen community disaster resilience’.
One powerful image shows a couple surveying the damage wreaked by a tornado which hit Kurnell, in Sydney’s south, in 2016, bringing some of the fastest winds on record in the city.
This image was taken in the wake of a tornado at Kurnell, in Sydney’s south, in 2016, which brought some of the fastest winds on record to the Sydney area. The super cell thunderstorm delivered 213km/h winds to the coastal community, tearing off roofs and raining hailstones the size of golf balls. The photographer described the image as characteristic of the sentiment in Kurnell after the storm. ’Everywhere I looked people were trying to make sense of what had happened,’ Corey Hague said
These residents of Alison Court at Dungog in the New South Wales Hunter Valley have returned home after an April 2015 ‘super storm’ which claimed the lives of three elderly members of their community. Ranging in age from 58 to 91, they endured unprecedented rainfall, causing flooding that isolated the small town. A subsequent inquest found the disaster was likely a one-in-a-thousand-year event. The deputy state coroner praised the heroic conduct of many local residents
Summer Mulvey’s three children look on as a digger clears a path to their home at Brandy Creek near Airlie Beach on Queensland’s Whitsunday coast. The family of five along with visiting friends had been stranded for three days without power or water supply after tropical cyclone Debbie hammered the region in early 2017. The cyclone battered the home while the family sheltered inside. This image was the winner of the 2017 Resilient Australia National Photography Award
The super cell thunderstorm delivered 213km/h winds to the coastal community, tearing off roofs and raining down hailstones the size of golf balls.
Photographer Corey Hague described the picture of a couple with their arms around each other in front of a home with is roof badly damaged as characteristic of the human response at Kurnell after the storm.
Hague said the random violence of the storm was ‘hard to comprehend… people were trying to make sense of what had happened to their homes and wondering what to do next.’
‘Everywhere I looked people were trying to make sense of what had happened to their homes and wondering what to do next.
‘This moment occurred naturally in front of me and seems to encapsulate how many felt that day.’
Another image to encapsulate the feelings of one day shows a group of residents in Alison Court at Dungog in the New South Wales Hunter Valley after a devastating ‘super storm’ in 2015.
This image captures female volunteers from the Wallcliffe and Witchliffe bushfire brigades as they coordinate their response to a fire burning uncontrollably in the south west of Western Australia. These volunteers dedicate hours of their own time in training to be prepared for major events like this when they are called upon to keep their community safe
Victorian State Emergency Service (SES) volunteer Jenny Seeto is a section leader at the Monash unit in Melbourne’s south-east. At the time this image was taken, Ms Seeto had been with the SES five years, having joinined to learn new skills and experience something different to her office job. Ms Seeto is an Australian of Chinese descent. She described the SES as rich in opportunities for everyone: ‘It doesn’t matter what background, race, religion or sexuality you have’
This image features Country Fire Association Caption Andy Rankin from Anglesea, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, with his son Elliot. Elliot was part of a group of Year 5 and 6 students taking part in the Anglesea fire education initiative, a program which aims to develop primary school students’ understanding of fire and the impact it can have on a community. This image captures a part of the program where students simulated taking on a leadership role in the brigade – helmet, uniform and all
The residents, ranging in age from 58 to 91, stand outside a house holding up letters spelling ‘welcome home’ after they were allowed to return to their street.
Unprecedented rainfall had caused flooding that isolated the small town and claimed the lives of three elderly Dungog residents.
A subsequent inquest found the disaster was likely a one-in-a-thousand-year event and the deputy state coroner praised the heroic conduct of many community members.
Another moving image shows the personal impact of tropical cyclone Debbie, which hammered large parts of Queensland in early 2017.
Photographer Summer Mulvey was ready with her camera as her three children watched a digger clear a path to the family’s home at Brandy Creek near Airlie Beach on Queensland’s Whitsunday coast.
Here a highly-skilled critical care paramedic winches down from a hovering helicopter to a life raft below in icy waters off the coast of Western Australia. It may be an exercise but it’s true to the life-threatening situations emergency service workers are faced with regularly, including difficult decisions around triaging multiple casualties under pressure. This exercise involved Naturaliste Marine Rescue and an RAC rescue chopper, the state’s emergency rescue helicopter service
In this photograph an aerial exercise is underway as part of Operation Plutus, a biennial multi-agency training event at Shoalhaven, on the south coast of New South Wales. The training camp facilitates knowledge-sharing between emergency service staff and volunteers of various agencies, preparing them for complex, large-scale operations when they occur
The family of five along with visiting friends had been stranded for three days without power or water supply as Debbie battered the district.
As the cyclone raged the family sheltered inside. A shed behind their house was completely flattened.
While holed-up in their house the family caught rainwater from the roof, not knowing how long they would need to wait for relief.
Ms Mulvey recalled the support from the community, with one neighbour supplying a generator, while others helped get word to reassure other family members.
That image was the winner of the 2017 Resilient Australia National Photography Award.
Another award-winning image features Country Fire Association Captain Andy Rankin from Anglesea on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road with his son Elliot.
This image was taken at a 2015 bushfire on Blackhill Road near Kyneton in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges by a photographer for the Bendigo Advertiser. The Country Fire Association had 80 trucks and aircraft on-site ready for a forecast wind change that drove the fire forward. Crews bravely scrambled to put out spot fires springing up left and right in scorching heat
This resident pictured after a 2013 bushfire on Carlton River in Tasmania has seen disasters before. He is shown here ready to begin cleaning up after the Forcett/Dunalley bushfire swept through his property in January that year. The bushfire started in Forcett, covering 1,000ha with a 20km perimeter in less than 24 hours. The pictured resident lived through a far greater challenge after the catastrophic 1967 bushfires which claimed more than 60 lives and left over 7,000 people homeless
Elliot was part of a group of Year 5 and 6 students taking part in the Anglesea fire education initiative, a program delivered by the primary school in partnership with the local brigade.
The program aims to increase primary school students’ understanding of fire and the impact it can have on a community.
Students demonstrated their learning through community workshops, passing on their knowledge to friends, family and peers about how to ‘survive and thrive’ before, during and after a bushfire.
An image of Elliot showing part of the program where students simulated taking on a leadership role in the brigade – uniform, helmet and all – won the 2015 Resilient Australia National Award.
Fire is a constant theme. One image features David, one of a crew of South Australia’s Country Fire Service volunteers deployed to a fire in a duplex at Millicent, about 400km south-east of Adelaide.
Before the picture was taken David’s team had donned breathing apparatus to search the building for anyone trapped by the fire.
Here Wadawurrung elder Uncle Bryon Powell is seen with Emma Taunt of Victoria’s Country Fire Association and Parks Victoria indigenous field services officer Shu Brown addressing students of Anglesea Primary School. Ms Taunt is wrapped in a possum skin cloak. Traditionally worn by elders for special occasions, the cloak is donned by people working and learning about bushfire as part of ‘connecting with Country’. The presentation is part of the Anglesea fire education initiative
The reality of bush life is that fire presents a constant danger for many communities. This image features a practical community resilience activity carried out at Lachlan in Tasmania. In the photograph, taken by Peter Middleton of the Tasmania Fire Service, a member of the local brigade demonstrates the speed with which a fire can take hold. The Bushfire-Ready Neighbourhoods program aims to support high-risk Tasmanian communities to work together to prepare for infernos
Following the search, the team went back to fight the fire from inside the burning building. David is pictured removing and checking his face mask before resuming his duties.
Many entries over the years have been portraits. In one, Queensland SES volunteer Bob Jaecocke is captured after the devastating tropical cyclone Marcia.
Marcia crossed Queensland’s Capricorn Coast on February 20, 2015 at category 5 – the highest – intensity, wreaking havoc in the Yeppoon and Rockhampton regions.
The portrait of Mr Jaecocke represents all those members of the community who were instrumental in the rescue and recovery efforts during and after cyclone Marcia.
Mr Jaecocke’s smiling face shows just how resilient Australians can be in the worst of times and how determined they are to rebuild after disaster.
This image features David, one of a crew of South Australia’s Country Fire Service volunteers deployed to a duplex fire in Millicent, about 400km south-east of Adelaide. The team donned breathing apparatus to search the building for anyone trapped by the fire. Following the search, the team went back to fight the fire from inside the burning building. David is pictured removing and checking his face mask before resuming his duties. The marks left by the mask are clear on his face
This portrait of Queensland SES volunteer Bob Jaecocke originally appeared as part of the exhibition Twenty: Cyclone Marcia – Rescue, Resilience, Recovery. Tropical cyclone Marcia crossed Queensland’s Capricorn coast on 20 February 2015 at category 5 intensity, wreaking havoc in the Yeppoon and Rockhampton regions. The exhibition marked the one-year anniversary of the cyclone and featured portraits of community members the photographer met while covering the disaster
Cyclone Marcia was indiscriminate in the destruction it caused. One image features Dave Smedley replacing the wombat enclosure at Cooberie Park wildlife sanctuary on the outskirts of Yeppoon.
The park, which was hit hard by Marcia, was originally a botanic garden owned by a European botanist. Today it cares for injured and orphaned wildlife and gives visitors the opportunity to interact with Australian wildlife.
Cyclone Marcia destroyed enclosures and brought down many trees, stripping branches and leaves. Volunteers pitched in to support the park’s owners and employees in the clean-up after the disaster.
Since 2000, the Resilient Australia Awards have ‘showcased innovation and exemplary practice across Australia, celebrating achievements that might otherwise go unseen, and inspiring others to build greater disaster resilience in their own communities.’
This fire was deliberately lit – and for good reason. It was a prescribed burn carried out near Howard Springs, an outer rural area of Darwin, early in the 2016 dry season, by volunteers from Bushfires NT and the NT Fire and Rescue service. Invasive species such as gamba grass contribute to higher fuel loads for fires in the area. The land pictured is privately owned. Volunteers manage relationships with landholders to build support for the burning and protect the entire community
Cyclone Marcia, which struck northern Queensland in 2015, was indiscriminate in the destruction it caused. This image features Dave Smedley replacing the wombat enclosure at Cooberie Park wildlife sanctuary on the outskirts of Yeppoon. The park, which was hit hard by cyclone Marcia, was originally a botanic garden owned by a European botanist. Today it cares for injured and orphaned wildlife and gives visitors the opportunity to learn about and interact with Australian wildlife
The awards are sponsored by the federal government in partnership with the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) and the states and territories.
According to organisers, the photography category is ‘an opportunity to share narratives of resilience in action through images.’
Past submissions such as those reproduced here have depicted emergency services and volunteers, community members helping out in disaster recovery efforts and education programs.
‘This category highlights the personal nature of resilience – it means something unique to each community,’ the AIDR website states.
Entries for this year’s photography award are open now and will be accepted until May 31. The winner in each state will be determined by a people’s choice vote and the national winner chosen from those winners by a committee.
Guidelines and the submission platform are available from the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience.
Photographer Richard Cowling took this picture of a post office tower with a dramatic storm backdrop from the top of the Cimitere Street police station in Launceston, Tasmania. The image was taken during a period of flooding in 2013 when the north of the state was pounded by torrential rain, temporarily shutting down parts of the local rail network
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