Apunipima providing support to displaced residents of Wujal Wujal

 In Uncategorized

February 21, 2024

As a response to the December 2023 flooding event in Wujal Wujal and surrounds, Apunipima Cape York Health Council has been working together with Cape York Partnerships (CYP), Torres & Cape Hospital & Health Service (TCHHS), Wuchopperen, Centacare and many other organisations to provide whatever services they can to assist community members with their many and varied needs at this difficult time.

Along with the nearby community of Degarra, Wujal Wujal residents were forced to leave everything behind as they were evacuated by helicopter to escape the rising flood waters. Community members are currently spread out across Cairns, Cooktown and Mossman – many in hotels and other temporary shelters – facing a long wait before they can go home. “The situation is changing regularly so for us it’s about making ourselves available and ensuring we are flexible to meet the needs of the people of Wujal as they arise,” said Apunipima’s Primary Health Care Executive Frankie Clive.

Ordinarily in Wujal Wujal, Apunipima operates in a Social & Emotional Wellbeing capacity mainly providing services like counselling, therapy and support programs, however Ms Clive said Apunipima has a strong footprint in Wujal Wujal with great relationships.

“While we don’t have a Primary Health Care Centre in Wujal, our Community-Controlled Health Care model means we have built strong relationships with community members that are invaluable at a time like this, when some community members may be feeling vulnerable and require support,” she said.

Apart from regular wellbeing programs like Men’s and Women’s groups, Apunipima’s core services currently being delivered to community members include referrals, transport and Integrated Team Care (ITC) which is a program that helps manage chronic disease. In addition to these core services, Ms Clive said that Apunipima is providing assistance as required in collaboration with all the organisations involved.

“There’s lots of other areas we’re helping, for example our pharmacists provided support for access to medications in partnership with TCHHS, we’re assisting CYP and DIYDG (Deadly Inspiring Youth Doing Good) with community events designed to maintain connections for the displaced residents and we’re working alongside Wuchopperen to support their pop up clinics to help Wujal residents address their health needs. There’s lots of work being done in the key areas of housing, food and education so we’re assisting other organisations in those areas across a broad spectrum of projects.”

In late January, Apunipima staff escorted a group of Elders from Wujal Wujal who wished to return to the community to see the impacts of the flood firsthand. Apunipima team member Raeleen Veivers, who lives and works in the region, said it was an emotional experience.

“Seeing the sadness in their eyes was heartbreaking, it was an emotional experience as it dawned on them that their community would never be the same again. The damage is devastating,” Mrs Veivers said.

Reports suggest up to four metres of rain fell in the Wujal Wujal area in just a few days during the flooding event, and the recovery and rebuild effort is expected to take many months. With their building being destroyed by floodwaters, Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council staff have set up a temporary workplace at Apunipima’s Head Office in Cairns for the next three months.

“Our whole building went under and we lost everything including our computers and all our records but we are very grateful to Apunipima for providing us with this office. We’ve been able to make great strides since we arrived because we have this dedicated space,” said Corporate and Commercial Manager, Micah Nkiwane.

Mr Nkiwane said that the overall health of community members is quite good but they are very eager to return home and the fact it might be months until they can is causing some stress and anxiety.

“Water, Sewage and Electricity are progressing nicely, but there is still lots of work to do on the roads. We also need to get the clinic open, get the school and the shop open, so there’s a lot to think about. We have 35 houses that are uninhabitable, so do we rebuild those destroyed houses in the same spot or do we plan something different? There’s a lot to work out and we want to move quickly because it’s likely the longer the community members are away from home the worse their mental health will get.”

Ms Clive said Apunipima will be available to help for as long as it is needed.

“We will continue to provide support for the Wujal Wujal community for as long as the community recovery effort lasts, and regular community support services will recommence once residents return to their community,” she said.