Back Roads: May 6

Tonight on Back Roads guest presenter Kristy O’Brien heads out to north-west Queensland and big cattle country, Cloncurry.

The ABC News and Landline reporter was born and bred in the Sunshine state.

Mitakoodi Country and Kalkadoon Country.

She knows drought and hard times are all part of the landscape and lifestyle in the outback. But in early 2019, mother nature unleashed a whole other level of natural disaster on the region. At first, a tropical monsoon was met with joy by people living in the lower gulf and north-west Queensland. Graziers welcomed the drenching rain after a brutal seven-year drought but then, the deluge kept coming. Flooding rain and freezing winds battered northern Queensland for a week.

By the time the slow-motion disaster had rolled out, more than 500,000 head of cattle had perished, and graziers struggled to deal with the enormity of the devastation. Kristy asks the question, ‘how do people out here keep getting back up?’

In Cloncurry, she found the community rallied together. Professional photographer and grazier Jacqueline Curley put out an urgent call for help from the isolated region. Her heartbreaking photos went viral, and help flooded in. “I think it brought the best out in everybody for a long time, just trying to help each other,” she said.

Susan and Peter Dowling launched an online fundraising campaign… and Australians responded, donating $1.3 million within weeks. “People who were in drought themselves were donating just to help the cause,” says Susan. “That was phenomenal.”

Support came from all areas as government, individuals and organisations swung in to help with financial and practical assistance. The region’s Flying Padre, David Ellis, says people right through the community were impacted. He uses a light plane to visit his community, which spans an area three-times the size of Victoria. “These are great salt of the earth people, there’s a genuineness and integrity, a wholeness about their lives that’s just amazing.”

It is a community that pulls together in the tough times. From a saddle bronc riding school supporting men’s mental health to an outback spirt lifting ‘paint and sip’ session, Kristy finds the people of Cloncurry know how to look out for their mates… and that getting back on the horse is a way of life.

Executive Producer, Brigid Donovan. Story Producer, Kathy McLeish

8pm tonight on ABC.

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