Q&A with Glenn Telford from Queensland Murray
A resilient community has the ability to work together, finding
local solutions to local problems.
This is what happened earlier this year in Roma.
After experiencing yet another devastating flood in February
2012, townsfolk and farmers faced a big cleanup. Farmers in
particular were confronted with large-scale challenges to repair
fences, sheds and other infrastructure in order to get their
livlihoods back on track.
Building on a previous project from 2011, the Queensland Murray
Darling Committee (QMDC) stepped in to help. QMDC is a
not-for-profit organisation providing resource management and
environmental services across the Murray-Darling Basin. From their
Roma office, QMDC secured funding to run an extensive volunteer
cleanup operation in farms covering over 40,000 square kilometres.
QMDC marshalled an army of volunteers from all over the world to
give farmers a much needed hand.
We caught up with Glenn Telford, Land Liaison Officer at QMDC,
who coordinated the effort.
Q: What was involved in this operation?
The project began mid-February with a large outreach effort.
This involved phoning landholders, assessing damage and managing
the many requests for help. After this, we setup accommodation
centres in the local areas, which involved finding homes, halls or
even sheds that we then stocked with basic amenities and kitchen
Q: So where did you find all the
This was probably the most interesting and rewarding part of
the project. We had dozens of backpackers arrive from all over the
world. There were lots of German, English, Irish and Italians as
well as some from Asia and North America.
Q: What drew them to this project?
With all the flooding, the usual work for them wasn't
around, so they were all looking for a great Aussie experience and
complete the required number of days work to
fulfil their visa obligations. I think the idea of helping out
people in need and seeing some of the outback was a big draw card.
Of course it became quite a social experience for them, with food
and accommodation provided, the overwhelming experience was that it
was "fantastic". We advertised on a backpacker website, but word of
mouth among the backpacker community spread very quickly.
Q: What did the volunteers do?
Mostly physical work, lots and lots of fencing! It was
certainly a full day's hard work, which sometimes included a long
drive from the accommodation to the worksite. For
the volunteers, it was such a different experience for them,
but they were all very positive and enthusiastic. One
particular group were given an orphaned kangaroo joey to help look
after while its carer was busy. When it came time to leave, there
were quite a few tears!
Q: How did the farmers react?
This was the best thing. Farmers were just so excited about
the help they got. I had grown men in tears telling me just how
much it meant to them. They were down in the dumps after the flood,
the emotional toll was so heavy, but all the energetic young people
injected a much-needed boost to morale to the people on the
Q: What have been the long-term benefits of the
Well all the volunteer workers have come away with a unique
experience of Australian life and have made a real impact on this
particular community. The farmers have had a big boost in morale
and are getting their farms fully functional. For us at QMDC, we've
been given the opportunity to build stronger relationships with
landholders for us to continue engaging with communities to protect
the Murray-Darling basin.