Mid West sub centres at centre of cyclone recovery
More than a year on from one of the worst natural disasters Western Australia has ever seen, the coastal town of Kalbarri – and the inland hamlet of Northampton – are still recovering.
With huge parts of each town levelled by the ferocity of Cyclone Seroja in 2021, it was difficult to see how locals would ever rebuild.
But, true to the quintessential Australian community spirit, the process of rebuilding is well under way in each town.
At the centre of the recovery efforts are WA’s emergency services, and a pivotal part of these services has been the local St John sub centres in both Kalbarri and Northampton.
Community paramedic Nic Chadbourne, whose area encompasses the towns hit hardest by the cyclone, has seen both the full force of nature’s fury and the gradual rebirth of each town as residents have banded together to rebuild.
“The night it hit was intense,” Nic said.
“I’ve never heard anything so loud.”
With power lost and the garage doors at the Kalbarri sub centre blowing off their hinges, Nic hunkered down as winds reached 170km/h at the peak of the storm.
Kalbarri was hit hard. But it wasn’t until Nic drove into Northampton the following day he was reduced to tears.
The brand new roof of the Northampton sub centre had been blown away, leaving a trail of destruction inside – and outside – the building.
“It was bad,” Nic said.
“It was just heartbreaking.”
In true St John spirit though, Nic and his team of volunteers sprang into action, setting up a food bank for locals and putting on a sausage sizzle for all those helping in the immediate aftermath of Seroja.
St John vollies – including some who had lost their own homes – turned out to help their community.
“I’m in awe of our volunteers,” Nic said.
“Honestly, they deserve all the praise for their efforts in pitching in after the cyclone.
“I don’t know where these communities would be without them.”
Between them, Kalbarri and Northampton have more than 30 dedicated volunteers who undertook about 400 ambulance cases last financial year. Since the cyclone, both Sub Centres have been substantially repaired with donations from across St John contributing towards insurance excess costs.
As volunteer locations, the sub centres are funded entirely by their on-the-ground operations, community donations and ambulance membership fees which ensure help is available when Triple Zero (000) is called.
St John clinical volunteers have training on par with, or above, the scope of work of international standards.