Where do you come from?

For me, the answer to that is a beautiful place on top of a big hill, way above Brisbane. 2 hours from Brisbane, in fact. Out west. It’s a big town but has managed to retain a country feel, true right down to its roots. Back generations and generations ago, to when my ancestors farmed there and built it up.

Toowoomba found itself catapaulted onto the world stage in January during one of the worst and most odd natural disasters I’m sure anyone has heard of. Flooding and and then an inland tsunami.

I stayed in Toowoomba for a few weeks in early March. During this time the area was still recovering from the January floods but doing pretty well for itself. Going to Grand Central shopping centre via Margaret St was a big shock. The ground floor was so badly flood-affected there had to be major reno to fix the damage. Usually you can just walk straight into the shop from Margaret Street entrance. But that entrance was quite damaged too. And Garden Town was more like a ghost town.

Flooding in Margaret Street. Grand Central shopping centre, looking from Garden Town. From The Courier-Mail.

I had visited in late January as well and you could barely tell there’d been any sort of devastation unless you looked really close (the residents had done a beautiful job), but the damage on the way up the range and in Helidon, the Lockyer Valley and Withcott was heartbreaking. Uprooted trees, erosion, destroyed roads, closed shops.

They say the inland tsunami that ripped through the Toowoomba CBD was a 100-year event. We’d never heard anything like it before. Unprecedented … but the rain from December through January was unrelenting and it just ruined lives. But the residents cleaned it up, mended and did make do. And today it’s just like it was. But with a bit more of a story to tell.

Toowoomba is where I have met and worked with some of the most beautiful people. It has a unique flavour. Businesses still close on Saturday at midday. People have the time to chat to each other. Every afternoon at around 5pm a man would practise playing the bagpipes in Queen’s Park while schoolkids did rugby drills and people walked their dogs.

Can’t wait to see the flowers in September.

Margaret Street in Toowoomba, post-floods, March 6. All better - kind of. Taken by me.


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