Tully has one of the highest rainfalls in Australia so built a giant gumboot with a frog as its icon.
In the immediate aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Yasi in the Tully area, North Queensland, June Perkins took to documenting the story of resilience of the people around her. In the process of this documentation, June was one of the people activating resilience-building activities for the community.
The stories she tells in “After Yasi – Finding the Smile Within” are simple, almost pedestrian, and so are, in style, a commentary on the paradox of an ordinariness of the community spirit that seems quite extraordinary. These straightforward stories shine a light on the vulnerability of people who have had their lives turned on their heads in one day of environmental violence.
The poems that people wrote for the book are similarly simple and authentic, a sharing of lives finding their way out of the struggle to making it work again.
Throughout June’s photography captures both the devastation and the recovery, and, in the recovery, the beauty and the friendships.
Having an interest in contemporary dance, I particularly appreciated that one of the recovery events that June documented was a dance workshop run by local dancer Danielle Wilson. Contemporary dance is still a less well-developed community art form in Australia, so it was great to see it working for the community in resilience building. When the world shows us that, rather than being stable and faithful, it can be unstable and fickle, it often attacks the very core of our identity. In that attack, the body and mind can need the experience of revisiting the feeling of the event and the aftermath. Often it can be difficult to express in words what is showing up for the body. Facilitated contemporary dance can allow the mind to honor what the body is expressing and then generating a new story, a new future as a reconstituted identity and self-assurance. Contemporary dance also brings bodies and minds together, so that the sharing of experience and a new future with others, restores faith in that our true stability and support and our tomorrow is in the people around us.
Leaving home in Atherton last Friday, a small cyclone, Anthony, seemed unlikely to be a problem to my and my son’s car trip to Brisbane, some 2000 kilometers south. Indeed, after the first day’s journey, with some relief we left the coastal regional city of MacKay as predictions that Cyclone Anthony would cross near that city the following morning.
In the background of the watch for Cyclone Anthony, a cyclone that had begun near Fiji, and was called Yaris, had steadily moved west. As Cyclone Anthony faded into a rain depression with little influence, Yaris caught the full attention of the media as it moved passed Vanuatu, to Australia’s East by Sunday evening 30th Jan.
Even then, my thoughts were that, maybe Yaris would deviate, run down the east coast and even veer out to the southern Pacific. However, Yaris maintained a straight course, heading for my home region of North Queensland. As my only son left in Atherton with his mother, had to leave for Sydney and USA as soon as the risk of being stranded for a long while became apparent, it hit me that my wife was alone, my ageing parents were also alone in an old farm house, and my sister and her 2 children were in a flood prone area of Cairns.
Watching, powerless to do more that phone and talk about their preparations, I find myself feeling disappointed with my failure to better prepare the household for a major cyclone before I left. It now seems obvious that, given the current weather system, a major cyclone could easily develop before I returned from Brisbane. I wonder what I need to understand from this. I certainly have become of the habit that, apart from general seasonal preparations, final preparations can be done as cyclones make their run into the north. But this shows me that such a habit can be seriously flawed. I can only sit and pray as my sister’s family and my parents have now taken refuge with my wife in our Atherton (mountain) house, as Yaris bears done on them as a cat 4 cyclone. A little better than the cat5 that hits Cairns, but potentially devastating all the same.
And I pray for all my friends across the north who will take more direct hits that they. Sitting here, watching.