1956 Flood, extract 1
1956 Flood, extract 1
Writer: Mike O'Reilly; editor: Phil Guerin; research: Diana Byrne & Graham Downie
[re-edited extract: Sophie Boord]
An initiative of the Murray-Darling Environmental Foundation and the Murray-Darling Association Inc
Cannot be repurposed or downloaded without the express permission of Adrian Wells, executive OfficerCopyright
Murray Darling Environmental Foundation
An edited extract from "1956 Flood", a film that explores the impact of the 1956 floods along the Murray and Darling Rivers, using historical film footage and photographs, many sourced from private archives.
The full video is over 25 minutes long, and copies can be obtained from:
Emma Bradbury, Murray Darling Association, Post Office Box 1268, Echuca 3564
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 03 54803805
REPORTER (VOICEOVER): The swirling clouds raising every minute until they've engulfed every building they haven't washed away. Water surging through the streets, tearing at the buildings, the homes, the shops. For our floods bring tragedy, they also highlight the Australians' courage and tenacity.
NARRATOR: As the ancient lowlands along the River Darling and River Murray were succumbing to the greatest flood of our time, deluging town after town as a flood peak made its way to the sea. Flood prone towns and communities knew weeks or months ahead it was coming, but how high would it be?
Important state-owned infrastructure was at serious risk. On water's edge sat power stations and pumping stations that must be kept operating. Without them, the towns wouldn't survive. Local engineers at the critically important Mildura and Red Cliffs power stations kept alerting head office in Melbourne there was trouble brewing. Maintaining electricity was crucial. Without power in the districts, hundreds of pumps would fail, creating an even greater disaster.
MAN 1 (VOICEOVER): One wet Melbourne Sunday evening, I arrived home to find the SEC chief civil engineer waiting in the lounge room with my ticket for the first plane out of Essendon Airport next morning. He said the power stations at Red Cliffs and Mildura were in danger of being flooded by waters of the Murray River rising at the alarming rate one inch per hour. When I got there, I worked from the Monday morning until midday on the Wednesday before finally sleeping. At Mildura Power Station, we made a raft for the engineer to go out by cable to the pumping station out in the river. It was very difficult with the swift movement of the river, and twice we nearly lost this headstrong Dutch engineer, who was hellbent on being a hero, much to our dismay.
NARRATOR: The community response became a local military style operation, something that came naturally to the thousands of World War II soldier settlers, Aussie diggers who'd been given development land along the river. Joining them were thousands of European migrants, the so-called new Australians escaping the aftermath of war. Now, they were about to face a slow moving common enemy, the bringer of wealth to the region in good times, now threatening life and property around every turn.
WOMAN (VOICEOVER): Many people evacuated their homes and were taken to the Mildura migrant camp where flood evacuees were stationed. Half the camp's population of over 200 people during the flood period came from Wentworth and district. Around the town, a number of men were allotted to each section to patrol its banks. Sirens were placed at the town hall and at the post office, and sounding of the sirens and the number of blasts would indicate to the town where help was required.
MAN 2 (VOICEOVER): While the floods were rising, we tried to maintain a cash flow by moving vegetables by boat and by devising a flying fox. It was difficult and dangerous work. I well remember brother Jack taking a full load of bagged pumpkins across Boyle Creek. He was swept against a stump, and the boat overturned. Pumpkins floating away. Only a few bags were saved and no boat. Lucky we were both strong swimmers.
Another day, this mermaid suddenly appeared out of the water. My wife had swum the swollen, steadily flowing snake, snag, and insect laden flood waters to tell me that the government was considering allocating flood free lease land to those who had been flooded out, and was I interested.