Protests and uproar as Kimberley town buckles in wake of worst-ever flood

“The people of Derby and surrounding communities have, and will always be as supportive as possible in donating what they have to help those in need.

“Our little town of Derby was struggling before this. Our medical facilities were already overstretched and severely under-staffed.

Fitzroy Crossing Bridge was damaged by floods.

Fitzroy Crossing Bridge was damaged by floods.Credit:DFES/Main Roads WA

“Our one and only grocery store again, severely overstretched and under-staffed, and yet now we have so many others who need help and support being shipped into an already struggling town.”

Things got worse when local police imposed strict liquor laws that prohibited anyone from buying takeaway alcohol.

The move was made to avoid problems that may be associated with evacuees who mostly came from “dry” communities where alcohol was prohibited.

On Saturday, about 60 locals attended a protest at the Derby police station to voice their frustration.

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“To ensure the safety and security of residents in Derby and those displaced from their communities; the suspension of take away liquor sales will remain in place until 26 January 2023 (inclusive),” Kimberley District police posted to their Facebook page.

The direction meant Australia Day would be a decidedly quieter than usual affair in the Kimberley.

“We’ve got no alcohol, no smokes and no lamb,” Boone said.

“All we will be eating on Australia Day is lettuce – if we can get it.”

Jodie McIntosh has lived in Derby for six years. She said everyone in the town was frustrated, tired and angry at the state government, which they felt was letting them down.

Many WA roads and bridges have been damaged due to the floods.

Many WA roads and bridges have been damaged due to the floods.Credit:Suzanne Smith

McIntosh said the town’s only supermarket – a Woolworths – was empty and young staff members were being abused by locals desperate for items.

“There was no fruit and vegetables, there’s no fresh milk, no eggs, no meat,” she said.

“Since we got cut off everyone went into panic mode.”

But a Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson said everything was being done to alleviate the problem.

“Derby was used as a relocation point because it had large-scale accommodation options to safely house people including motel rooms,” they said.

“DFES and the Department of Communities are now facilitating flights for people who want to return home where it is safe, with 84 people returned to Noonkanbah over the last two days which is a major step forward in terms of getting people back to their community as soon as possible.

“More people will be able to return home over the coming days, with flights transporting people back to Wangkatjungka tomorrow and other communities to follow.”

The spokesperson said there was a “significant operation underway” to get essential supplies into Derby and other isolated communities throughout the Fitzroy Valley.

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“While road access is cut to Derby, food and essential goods are regularly delivered via barge and air,” they said.

“Over the last two days, 15 containers and 65 pallets arrived via barge and Australian Defence Force aircraft.

“Resupply efforts will continue until supply chains get back to normal.”

For Derby’s residents, help can’t come soon enough.

“This situation is crazy and outrageous” a local, who asked not want to be named, said.

“We may not live in big cities, where I guarantee this would make headline news worldwide, but Kimberley lives matter. We matter.”

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