They say every cloud has a silver lining and when the storm clouds finally cleared and the rain stopped falling over Cloncurry in 2019, Emmy Lou Gallagher found her positive in the form of a scholarship to study with TAFE Queensland.
Emmy, who grew up on the family-property at Normanton and is a self-confessed horse lover and rodeo competitor, was in Cloncurry working for the Cloncurry Shire Council when the region experienced record-breaking flooding caused by the 2019 Monsoonal Trough.
“I remember it being around Australia Day Weekend when the rain started to set in. At first, everyone was so happy because it was finally raining and there were some places that really needed it,” Emmy said.
“At the time I remember I was thinking about trivial things like how to dry my clothes. It wasn’t until a few days later when the rain really hadn’t let up at all, that I started to think it was going to be something much bigger than a normal wet season storm.
“After a week or so, it really became apparent that this was going to be an event that would impact pretty much everyone I knew, and not in a good way. It was horrific to see friends and family suffering the loss of their animals, their livelihoods, and some even lost their houses. The rain event itself was so much smaller than the effects it has caused,” she said.
It was all hands on deck for the Council's employees as the community grappled for survival and later recovery.
"I was stuck in Cloncurry, not being able to get home to my family and animals, so I really tried to do everything I could at work to help," Emmy said.
“We did fodder drops, emergency medical and food supply drops, and facilitated countless meetings and phone calls to Cloncurry Station owners and residents to make sure they were alright. It was a massive effort from everyone involved at the Council, and it was good to be able to do something instead of feeling helpless about what was going on around us.
“I think it [the recovery process] has bought out the resilience that lies in all of us. As a community we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and then managed a worldwide pandemic," she said.
Emmy is well versed in participating in and planning community events - having been heavily involved in the Australian Junior Rodeo Association as secretary, and also historically linked to the Normanton Rodeo and Races and Normanton Swimming Club. As the Council's Community Activities Officer, Emmy worked hard to boost community spirits and get Cloncurry back on the map by giving visitors new reasons to visit.
"I have seen firsthand what events can do for small towns and their community groups, and I love being able to contribute to that," Emmy said.
“This year especially with COVID-19 we are really feeling it in small towns. COVID has obviously changed the way that nearly everyone operates. It has especially changed the way we do things in the events department.
"Where we used to be able to put on an event for the community in two weeks, we now require between three and six months of planning to ensure we cover off on our COVID needs and requirements,” she said.
Emmy is currently enrolled in the Diploma of Events Management (SIT50316) and said she is grateful that she can study for free after being awarded a Volunteers and Events Training Program scholarship.
"A Diploma of Events just seemed to fit, and when TAFE released their scholarships for volunteers and people in flood-affected communities it just fell into place," Emmy said.
"The scholarship helped me to not only take the leap in furthering my studies but also financially allowed me to be able to study. Without it, I don’t think I would’ve considered studying the diploma at all," she said.
The Diploma of Events Management (SIT50316) is offered online, with the course covering topics including orientation, resilience, and leadership.
The Volunteers and Events Training Program is funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, aiming to provide skills and build resilience, with a focus on helping the tourism industry to recover and prepare for the future.
TAFE Queensland is proud to be working side-by-side with the local community to help boost the skills and confidence of volunteers working in the tourism and events industry.