Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Floods

I walked around Mt Archer this morning and took in the views around Rockhampton and the great “sea” of Rockhampton which wraps around much of the city. I also rescued my plane from the airport on New Year’s day. I have included a picture of what I saw taking off from Rocky airport.

I spoke this morning to our colleagues at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba. Amazing and utterly devastating. Tragically, I’ve been informed that some USQ staff are unaccounted for this afternoon – our thoughts and best wishes are with our friends at USQ. We have offered any help we can provide.

These floods, now affecting most of the state, have and will continue to have an impact on our students, staff, stakeholders and communities for months and years to come. In the midst of this, CQUniversity has put some financial measures in place to aid some students in need, and over the next few weeks we’ll be directing research funds into projects directly tied to the Central Queensland Flood and the its social, economic and environmental impacts. I’m very pleased that CQUniversity has been able to provide shelter to hundreds of displaced residents and animals at the CQ Community Sports Centre at Rockhampton and at our facilities at the Ag College in Emerald and am very grateful to our Facilities and Security staff, especially, who have liaised with the Red Cross to ensure enough resources are available to manage the evacuation facilities.

Some of our staff are stuck, unable to return to their campuses, but are working from other CQUniversity facilities or at home. Many here in CQ– students and staff – are hampered by the flood waters which have yet to really recede. I know, too, that this is also a worrisome time for many of us as we have families and friends in flood-stricken and flood-prone areas. I want you to know that your continued safety and well-being is my utmost priority. We can put processes and procedures in place to deal with flood-related administrative and academic issues, but we can’t replace people. The weather is unpredictable and no doubt there will be more harsh storms and flooding in the weeks to come.

Evacuation centres will remain operational for (at least) weeks to come as the communities we serve deal with the aftermath. CQUniversity is and will contribute to the recovery by providing services and expertise. Free mental health care for example is being provided by staff at the CQUniversity Psychology Wellness Centre in Rockhampton. Our experts have been talking with stakeholders about the floods’ impact on the Reef, the long and short-term economic issues we’ll be dealing with, as well as the infrastructure challenges we face across the state. As with other disasters CQUniversity will make donations to causes, in this case to organisations with which we have strong relations through our workplace giving program: the Capricorn Rescue Helicopter, the Royal Flying Doctors, CQUni Cares and more. Alumni and students have approached us wanting to contribute their talent and time as well….

For now, it is business-as-usual best-we-can in most circumstance, as we follow through on our engagement agenda. The construction of new Learning & Teaching and student residences in Mackay is on schedule for completion next month and the ongoing renovations of Rockhampton’s Engineering Precinct and Library are proceeding. Student applications and commencing numbers appear very strong. Some staff will be inconvenienced by the Evacuation Centre operations but I know they will understand under the circumstances.
As we prepare for T3 exams and T1 orientation and try to make some sense of the unfolding tragedies let’s please look out for one another and continue to be considerate of the personal circumstances of our friends, colleagues and neighbours.