Our mud army | Andrew Ward, on-the-ground in Ipswich
Suncorp employees reflect on what it was like responding to the Queensland floods ten years ago – the adrenaline and the heartbreak – our own mud army.
Ten years ago, Suncorp’s Andrew Ward arrived in Ipswich to find a town of devastation.
“It was a bit of a mess – there was a lot of debris,” Andrew recalled.
An experienced client manager, Andrew had been chosen to lead our Customer Response Team in Ipswich in the immediate aftermath of the floods.
Over the next week, he and his team members stationed themselves at the Ipswich showgrounds to provide face-to-face, on-the-ground support to Ipswich locals facing an uncertain future.
“Once we arrived at the showgrounds, it was quite humbling,” he said. “Everyone was there laid out on sleeping bags, all with nowhere to go. We had to start pondering the difference we were going to make.”
While the team was there to provide practical support – things like helping customers to start lodging their claims, providing emergency payments for customers who needed immediate access to funds, and coordinating the building and assessing efforts to get the rebuild underway as quickly as possible – Andrew said it was often emotional support that people were seeking.
At lunchtime, we pulled out the barbecue with loads of snags, and everyone came along. Whether they were a Suncorp customer or not, there were so many people there who were just looking for something to eat, something to drink, and someone to talk to.
Andrew Ward supported customers in Ipswich during the floods
“It was devastating – especially during the first couple of days. We had people coming in needing to tell us their story and show us their photographs of everything they had lost.
“There were people who needed to lodge a claim, but just couldn’t get the words out.
“And there were people with children who had lost their toys.
“So we were there to really just be that ear that people could talk to.
“Part of our Customer Response Team training had been on mental resilience, and that was something we all needed to draw on and ensure we were looking after each other in the team, because it was emotionally taxing on all of us.
“But it also felt like a really strong community. One thing I remember when we first arrived – at lunchtime, we pulled out the barbecue with loads of snags, and everyone came along. Whether they were a Suncorp customer or not, there were so many people there who were just looking for something to eat, something to drink, and someone to talk to.”
Ten years on, Andrew said that Suncorp has been able to build a lot of the lessons learned during the floods into our training for our Customer Response Teams, which are still used today.
“Being able to achieve what we did achieve in that short space of time gave me a great sense of purpose. I’m really proud of the work that we did, and the team – they were fantastic.
“It certainly taught me a lot about how we can band together as a team, and as a community, to support each other.”