Story by: Susan Cullinan, Australian Red Cross

Images Tiane Hokins/Dave Hancock, Australian Red Cross

Elder Joyce Dirdi has spent four days away from her homelands in the remote Northern Territory township of Booroloola. She’s among 1000 people sheltering in evacuation centers while Tropical Cyclone Trevor unleashes its fury.

“I’m tired and anxious to go home,” she says. “We’re wondering what happened to our home. It’s traumatic to leave home and come up here to Darwin.

“The kids are closed in in the stadium and all the clans are sleeping together – it’s the first time we’re sharing a space.

“But some good things have happened. We’re used to having community meetings and we’re still getting together every day.”

Red Cross managed three evacuation centers sheltering up to 2000 people living in the path of the severe Category Four cyclone. Staff and volunteers provided personal and practical support to community members from a range of remote towns and island communities.

“The best thing is being together,” says Auntie Joyce. “Having the whole groups of families together. In Booroloola there are four clan groups. Now we are all together, and having constant meetings and working things out.

“I want to say that Red Cross is doing a very, very great job. We are on board with Red Cross. They’ve been a great help, sitting down and listening to us, planning what to do with us.

“A big thank you to Red Cross from all the clan group.”

Ainsley Kerinaiua has been deployed to Darwin from the Tiwi Islands where he is a Red Cross youth worker. He says it’s been a great experience.

”I’ve been working with Red Cross staff and volunteers doing whatever the community members need to help. It’s my first time in an evacuation centre and oh my god seeing all the community here when I arrived – all away from their home – made me nervous.

“They’re all missing their home and family members left behind. I try to talk to them, make them feel comfortable, say, ‘It’ll be OK. You mob will be able to go back home soon.’

“They really like seeing an Aboriginal person from Red Cross. They come up to me and ask for what they want. I feel useful.

“The best thing? I found my uncle’s wife and children from Booroloola. They were very happy to see me.

“It’s been a good experience. If anything like this happens again I’ll come back and help.”