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28 February 2011

Flood helpers at breaking point as Redbank volunteers threatened with stab attack

FLOOD-relief volunteers who have had members of the public threaten to stab them say they need professional help to deal with distraught disaster victims.

Volunteers Kerry Holloway and Kelli Smith (front) at the Redbank flood donation centre.

FLOOD-relief volunteers who have had members of the public threaten to stab them say they need professional help to deal with distraught disaster victims.

The dozen-plus volunteers at the Redbank School of Arts donations centre, which organises and hands out household items to flood-affected residents, said they were at breaking point.

The centre's staff have had to deal with an increasing number of irate clients demanding more items than they were given.

It has caused some of the site's younger volunteers to break down in tears.

Last Thursday a man who lost his house in the flood threatened to stab two volunteers after they denied some of his requests.

"He was threatening to bash us all and said he would come back with a knife. It was frightening and we didn't know how to deal with it," volunteer Kerry Holloway said.

Ms Holloway has worked at the centre part time while juggling work commitments.

"We have had a number of irate people come in. You can understand to a point why they're so quick to get angry," she said.

"I've been here for three weeks now, but I'm not capable of dealing with people who are mentally exhausted and aggressive."

The Redbank donation centre takes flood victims' details and a list of what they require and tries to respond to the list as best they can.

But rarely can they give the client all that they need.

The majority of volunteers at the centre have worked 10-hour days since the flood devastated south-east Queensland on January 12.

Another volunteer at the centre, Mitch Dodrill, said professional help was needed immediately.

"The worst part of the floods is yet to come," Mr Dodrill said.

"Some of our younger volunteers are not coping well, having to deal with people who have lost everything.

"There must be professional help assigned to a centre like ours.

"It's not good enough to rely on volunteers any more. There are problems we aren't trained to handle."

Federal MP Shayne Neumann said many flood victims were traumatised and needed their own help to deal with the emo- tion of losing their possessions.

"There are mentally distraught people out there who need help, and we have allocated funding for that very reason," Mr Neumann said.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said the council was working with community distribution centres to meet the needs of flood-affected residents.

"I would like to thank all the volunteers for their hard work and doing such a fantastic job during such a stressful time," he said.

Federal MP for Oxley Bernie Ripoll said it was time for professional officers to help at relief sites, but the volunteers also needed to know when it was time to stop.

"There comes a time when normality must return to these people's lives," he said.

"My understanding is the Flood Recovery Authority is currently deciding how to distribute professional officers to help volunteers.

"The work done by these hard-working people has been extraordinary, but they should not be afraid to stop."

More flood stories: www.QT.com.au

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