A FORMER Bega man has been recognised for helping those less fortunate in flood-affected areas.
Michael Carriage, a member of the State Emergency Service (SES) in Moreton Bay, Queensland, has been awarded a prestigious National Emergency Medal.
The medal was established by the Queen and approved in 2011 during her visit to Australia.
It was recently awarded to 30 members from the Moreton Bay area of relevant organisations or individuals who “rendered sustained service” in response to nationally specified emergencies within Australia.
Mr Carriage was recognised for his commitment to helping the community in 2010/11 following the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.
It is the second time the medals have been awarded, after the inaugural batch was presented following the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009.
Mr Carriage returned to the Bega Valley last week to catch up with family and friends.
On Friday, he told the BDN he was humbled to receive the honour.
“They give individuals a medal, but it’s all team work,” Mr Carriage said.
“There are always other people in the background.”
A series of floods hit Queensland in December 2010, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities.
Mr Carriage and his fellow SES volunteers spent time in some of the heaviest hit areas, including Brisbane and Fernvale.
However, the worst was arguably to come when severe tropical Cyclone Yasi hit northern Queensland on February 3, 2011.
The cyclone caused severe damage to affected areas and was recognised to a “category five” system at one stage.
Mr Carriage put his hand up to help and was deployed to the north end of the state, where he was based in Cairns.
Mr Carriage was then sent to Tully and Mission Beach, making a couple of return trips to the areas on five-day deployments.
“It was pretty disastrous – there was no power, no facilities, no sewerage, no nothing,” he said.
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Mr Carriage said the hardest part was the lack of communication available due to the power cuts.
“Nobody could phone us up,” he said.
“We were trying to find out who wants help, but they can’t communicate with you.”
Mr Carriage describes Mission Beach as an “upmarket place which had been flattened”.
The cyclone forged a two-metre high tidal surge and reached 1.5km into the area.
Mr Carriage said Cyclone Yasi hit Mission Beach hard, before there was a “vacuum effect” as the water was pulled back into sea.
While surrounded by devastation, Mr Carriage said it was the power of human spirit and humour that kept him going.
As an example, he described a sign outside a demolished house that asked the cyclone “haven’t you got anything else to throw at us?”
“At the end of the day, they [the people affected] help you through it,” Mr Carriage said.
“It brings positivity out of you and it’s a two-way street.”
Mr Carriage has been a member of the SES for the past four years, saying it had been a rewarding experience.
“It’s an organisation where if you are looking for excitement, you will be totally disappointed,” he said.
“It’s all about helping people and enjoying it in your own kind of way.”
Mr Carriage said a key to his enjoyment is the kindness of others, particularly members of the community.
He remembers a time when an anonymous resident had left 12 hard-boiled eggs for the SES, which featured love hearts and messages from that person’s children.
“That’s what makes it worthwhile – it’s pretty special,” Mr Carriage said.