People and community 23 Feb 2023

Lending a helping hand to flood recovery

Woodsider Donna Walker journeyed to Fitzroy Crossing to lend a hand helping the flood-affected community.

Hard physical work and long, exhausting days in hot, humid conditions, amid heartbreaking scenes of devastation.

This was the harsh reality Woodsider Donna Walker faced when she arrived in Fitzroy Crossing to lend a hand helping the flood-affected community clean up after the recent disaster.

Donna was confronted with a town in which roads and other infrastructure had been washed away and buildings and homes destroyed.

"You see images on the news, but to be there in the heat and humidity and experience the actual feel and smell of the mud and water that's washed through, where things have dried out and the decay process has begun, it's challenging," Donna says.

Far from her airconditioned office as a Training Team Lead at Karratha Gas Plant, Donna has found herself in some extraordinary places in her 19 years as a Karratha State Emergency Service (SES) volunteer. In locations across the Pilbara and Mid-West, from the ocean to the desert, her operational duties have involved protecting homes with roofs damaged from cyclones, trekking kilometres to search for missing people and responding to road crash incidents.

Up at Fitzroy, she was flown in by Australian Defence Force helicopters along with 25 other Western Australian volunteers, for a week of 13-hour workdays to assist with the response.

Donna’s responsibilities ranged from logistics and resourcing, to removing mud from inside properties, to moving damaged furniture and debris into collection piles.

The dangers in this environment were very real - crocodiles, snakes, wild dogs, mosquitos and the gruelling 80% humidity.

But Donna insists the risks and demands of her volunteer work are all worth it. She says the SES has become her second "orange" family and she's developed deep connections to the local communities where she’s worked as a volunteer.

"It's so rewarding helping people and knowing you've made a difference to so many. You also meet and work with absolute salt-of-the-earth, capable and passionate volunteers, which is such an energising experience," she says.

Donna also acknowledges her Woodside colleagues who supported her by taking on some of her workload while she was away.

"It takes a team effort when one person is missing and they readily stepped up to do what needed to be done. If it wasn't for their support, I couldn't have gone to help."

Last year, there were 518 Woodsiders who volunteered on team days through our Corporate Volunteering Program, which entitles employees to 12 hours of paid volunteering. This equates to a contribution valued at around $125,000 to the WA community through team-based volunteering.

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