Mundubbera delivers aid after Tonga torn by cyclone
WHEN Cyclone Gita hit Tonga in late February images of the devastation were sent back to the permanent Tongan residents of Mundubbera, and the Mundubbera community felt compelled to help.
A community meeting was called by the North Burnett Mundubbera Social Cohesion Committee and a large event raised over $13,000, before Deputy Mayor Faye Whelan and volunteers visited Tonga earlier this month to distribute resources and provide hands-on help.
"The Mundubbera community felt compelled to help in some way because during our time of need, when Mundubbera suffered two large flood events within two years, the Tongan workers and residents helped our community groups and essential services evacuate the houses at risk of not only people but furniture,” Cr Whelan said.
"This saved much heartache especially for those flooded twice. They also assisted with the clean up.”
Cr Whelan was accompanied by volunteers Colleen Whelan and Heyokah Hansen, who paid their own way, and North Burnett Manager of Community Connections Trisha Hansen.
Local Tongan community member Siuea Prescott Maile travelled over prior to their arrival to help co-ordinate with Mundubbera's Pacific Seasonal Workers friends and the Government of Tonga.
"The trip was not a holiday with most days being long but also very rewarding with a knowledge that we helped in a small way a Kingdom that does not enjoy a lifestyle that we are accustomed to,” Cr Whelan said.
"From the point of touching down on the tarmac in Tonga until our departure we were superbly supported by the Tongan Government.”
Cr Whelan said the Tongan community was most grateful for Mundubbera's contribution to the citizens still recovering from the cyclone.
She spoke on Tonga Radio Broadcasting and the team had television coverage of their endeavours.
"I had the privilege to meet with the Prime Minister the Hon. 'Akilisi Pohiva who said he would like to visit Mundubbera next year and the Australian High Commissioner Andrew Ford,” Cr Whelan said.
"The Minister for Internal Affairs Losaline Ma'asi met with us twice and gave staff support and car and driver throughout our mission for which we were most grateful.”
Resources, shipped over in three large crates, included food, hygiene products, clothing, footwear, school resources, first aid supplies, hardware sourced locally in Mundubbera and medical supplies for the hospital from Wide Bay Health.
Supported donations came from the public, Anglican Op Shop, QCWA, Lemon Jo Ladies, Baptist Church Ladies, Mundubbera Show Society and IGA bags.
The team also took cash to distribute to schools and kindergartens for further resource purchase.
"The schools are still in very bad disrepair, demolished or partly,” Cr Whelan said.
"We packed and distributed, with the help of returned Mundubbera Pacific Seasonal Workers, 190 food bags for families.”
Other items were distributed in halls at the three worst-affected villages and the medical supplies were presented to the CEO and Matron of the hospital where they were desperate for beds.
"The tragedy affected the Mundubbera Community like I always expect the community to react... Mundubbera cares,” Cr Whelan said.
"The support for the fundraising and the donations received is testimony that we are surrounded by people who recognise that there are poorer countries who cannot support their people in adversity like Australia.
"Australia can and should support our farmers through this drought. Places like Tonga have little revenue source.”
Cr Whelan said it was a rewarding experience, and she enjoyed working with a great support team both in Mundubbera and in Tonga.
"The most rewarding was the smiles of gratitude on the faces of all the people we could support and the grateful school children who are happy with so little.”