When her high school students were being evacuated from their homes in the dead of night, with rain pouring so hard it was deafening, William Ross State High School chaplain, Kay, was there to support them in any way she could.
The February floods tore through the Townsville high school community, destroying everything in its path – carpets, furniture, resources. Some staff lost everything.
William Ross State High School principal, Allan Evans, who steered the school community through the flood disaster, said one teacher was lucky to escape with her life.
“[The teacher’s] fiance was shifting the vehicle up the road to get out of the water and when they walked out again the water was chest-deep. The guys in the boat said ‘dump the lot or die’, so they got in the boat and that’s what they left with,” he says.
Chappy Kay recalls that many students feared for their lives too.
“I was talking to some kids and they said they were taken out in great big army trucks, and there was a cover over the top but because the rain was so heavy, there was a foot-and-a-half of water inside the truck,” she says.
“They couldn’t see anything, and every time the truck lurched, the parents were grabbing their kids because there was so much water, and they didn’t want them to drown inside the truck.”
In the light of day, the devastation became heartbreakingly clear. Many of the buildings at nearby Oonoonba State School had to be completely gutted and rebuilt.
Mr Evans found himself adopting 350 year 3-6 students on the high school campus for Term 1 after quickly offering his support.
“We were given 12 hours to completely revamp the school. We were a little protective of the younger students,” Mr Evans says.
Even after the floodwaters began to subside, it was clear that the full impact was still being felt. Mr Evans recalls that many of the students would panic whenever it would start to rain again. “Every time it rained, it was like they were re-traumatised,” he says.
But he was full of praise for Chappy Kay and the school’s other support staff.
“The support staff are the pivotal edge of any change. Kay is one of five support staff and each brings that element of support and that’s critical,” he said.
“The day-to-day business, the staff have got the ammunition to deal with it. But when you’ve got the blow-ups, a teacher can’t handle that because they’ve
got 20 other kids – that’s when you call for Chappy.”
Chappy Kay was there to support her traumatised school community because of your support. Help keep this support going, visit suqld.org.au/donate