Home is calling for residents evacuated after Jasper

Keira Jenkins |

For more than 120 days after Cyclone Jasper, Wujal Wujal residents have been temporarily relocated.
For more than 120 days after Cyclone Jasper, Wujal Wujal residents have been temporarily relocated.

Kathleen Walker is dreaming of sitting on her verandah, cup of tea in hand, watching the crocodiles cruise past her home on the river.

She’s one of 300 residents who were evacuated by helicopter from the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal back in December when Tropical Cyclone Jasper caused record flooding in far north Queensland. 

As some residents begin to return home four months later, Ms Walker – an elder in the community – said people are excited.

Ms Walker’s home isn’t ready to move back into yet but she’s hoping to be back in community by the end of April.

“Home is calling me back,” she told AAP.

“But the home is saying ‘I’m not ready yet’, I’ve got to be patient.”

A soldier assisting a resident to evacuate from Wujal Wujal after Cyclone Jasper in December. (HANDOUT/DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Leeanne Enoch on Thursday said the hope is for all residents to return to the community by the end of May. 

“For more than 120 days residents have been temporarily relocated in Cairns, Cooktown and surrounding areas, while the reconstruction work was under way,” she told Queensland parliament.

“To say this extended disconnected from Country has been incredibly difficult for this community is an understatement.”

The community is still reeling after December’s flooding, which left some residents stranded on roofs while waiting for rescue.

But Ms Walker said going home to community will be part of the healing process. 

“When I see big rain, I think the whole community are worried,” she said.

“We need to be strong, our hearts gotta be strong, be strong for our kids, the young ones … don’t let the water beat you.” 

Wujal Wujal is not just a home to Ms Walker, it’s the place her family are buried and where many cultural practices are tied to. 

“I want to go back and look for some bush food and bush medicine,” she said.

“I miss my fishing too, I want to do all those things we used to do before we moved to Cooktown.”

While she waits for her home to be ready, Ms Walker said she’ll be thinking about the first thing she’ll do when she gets back to Wujal Wujal.

“I can’t wait to sleep in my own room, have a cup of tea on my verandah and look down to see the crocodiles cruising,” she said.