We all have a story to share. During hard times many of us make a choice to stay quiet and suffer in silence. This can lead to a community that is not only geographically isolated by the flood event, but also emotionally shut down. The After the Flood project allowed for people to begin making connections, not only with people from their own community but also with the ‘outside world’.

The After the Flood project came about through the Creative Regions Ltd project Afloat – Creative Recovery. Afloat is funded through Arts Queensland’s Creative Recovery – Building Resilience program, an initiative of the Queensland Government. I thought a community driven digital storytelling project curated on the Bush TV site and using social media to distribute and curate would work well. It was initiated by the Queensland Government who are keen to get communities back on their feet. Quite often we spend our time and money and efforts replacing infrastructure and cars and assets but we forget that the most important thing to replace is our sense of belonging and community. That connectedness to each other, our neighbours, our families and our community is what this project is all about.

I come from Central Queensland and so do the artists involved in After the Flood. We were able to approach the flood affected communities and identify storytellers quickly because we had experienced the floods ourselves and knew that some people had been hit worse than others and it was those people we wanted to identify.

Participants were keen to process the recent flood event and at the same time connect with other community members and the wider public by sharing their stories of both loss and resilience.

People voices needed to be heard, complaints needed to be aired and strategies to move forward put in place. This digital storytelling project was accepted by the community because many participants utilize social media in their every day lives, as well as during critical phases of the flood event. They could recognise how this project could be utilised beyond mere communication and actually become a part of the recovery strategy.

On a connection level, the project created opportunities for storytellers to share their stories with families and friends and start conversations around recovery and coping with the aftermath.

Quite often story tellers wanted to talk about and thank their neighbours and those people in their communities who went above and beyond to help them and others. These are people who may have been strangers before the flood event. The process of telling stories allows people to move on from the stresses and strains associated with the flood – the crisis moments. It allows for a sense of community to be created and opens the door for some people to become connected with their community in new and deeper ways.

During the community screening events new leaders were able to emerge and they began to speak on behalf of themselves and their communities at other flood recovery projects and events.

The project ultimately gave flood affected individuals and communities a collective digital forum – a medium that was and is available to all. It is a space that is shaped by those who were intimately affected by the crisis and who want and need to connect with others who experienced similar things. The stories are curated on the Bush TV website permanently for community storytellers to access, share and distribute.

Tom Hearne is the founder of BushTV and is a prize winning docomaker. He won the Reconciliation Award for his work with BushTV and has also being a finalist for media training in remote Indigenous communities. He has a Master of Arts in Documentary from AFTRS and runs media workshops and master classes from time to time.





Feature image: Leonie Paish from Boyne Valley (courtesy of Tom Hearn)