#A decade on
In the summer of 2010-11, 35 individuals tragically lost their lives in the Queensland floods which resulted in three-quarters of the state being declared disaster zones. One million square kilometres of Queensland went underwater and 130,000 Queenslanders were displaced by devastating floodwaters.
Ten years after the disaster, memories of the floods are still vivid.
To mark the anniversary, Suncorp remembers this extraordinary natural disaster that affected thousands of individuals and businesses and left a lasting impact on the Australian insurance industry.
The loss from Queensland's largest catastrophe was truly heartbreaking. Floods have a devastating effect on communities. Mitigation is a key issue to limit the exposure from major events such as the Queensland floods.
Suncorp was heavily engaged in flood response and at the time, the only insurer to provide cover for any type of flood. To this day, we continue to advocate for flood mitigation. We must learn from the past and try to effect change through better planning and infrastructure.
Suncorp Group CEO, Steve Johnston
#The floods explained
Dubbed ‘the river city’, the state capital of Brisbane has acutely felt the effects of both flood and drought since records began in 1841, each event continuing to make its mark on residents to this day.
While these dramatic fluctuations are a result of many climate factors, they are largely influenced by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather system. A multi-year weather event, the Bureau of Meteorology classifies its effects into two overarching categories; cool and wet La Niña, with cooler ocean temperatures resulting in higher-than-average rainfall, and hot and dry El Niño, where hotter-than-average days are recorded across multiple years.
After an almost decade-long El Niño pattern, Australia is currently experiencing a La Niña system. The last time the same system was in place was between 2010 and 2012, when Queensland recorded its wettest year on record.
#Timeline of disaster
Monsoonal rainfall brought by Tropical Cyclone Tasha when it crossed the North Queensland coast on the 25th of December 2010, exacerbated floods already impacting communities in Central Queensland. Rockhampton, Gympie, Emerald, Bundaberg, Dalby and Roma, were all deeply impacted by the extreme rainfall, which later devastated communities in Toowoomba, the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and Brisbane.
Look back at how the disaster unfolded.
As a nation, we are grieving the loss of Australian lives. 72 Australians are unaccounted for and that means in Queensland and around the nation there are people who are frightened, people desperately waiting for news of loved ones...27th Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard
[There are] still more dark days ahead...but the spirit of Queensland is to face these circumstances with courage and determination.
Loss in Australia's GDP
Homes and businesses inundated
Suncorp insurance claims in SEQ
Homes and businesses partially flooded
In damages total
Of QLD declared a disaster zone
#Heartbreak for communities
The floods affected thousands of Queenslanders, destroying their homes and businesses, and displacing families.
Suncorp customer, Christine Newsome vividly remembers the day she evacuated her home in Graceville.
Ten years on, Christine is still emotional when she recalls the events that saw her home and belongings swamped by floodwaters.
#Suncorp's flood response
Standing side by side with volunteers through one of Queensland's worst natural events in recent history were Suncorp employees; supporting our communities when they needed it most.
At the time, Suncorp Group was the only insurer to offer automatic flood cover for home insurance under it's Suncorp brand. It was important to ensure that customers were covered for what they required.
Suncorp deployed assessors, a comprehensive financial relief package and donated $1 million towards the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal.
Dedicated customer support teams were also available on the ground in local communities to help customers lodge a claim as quickly and safely as possible.
Suncorp Bank teams were also helping customers with claims and financial relief packages across Queensland.
Reflecting on their personal experiences responding to the Queensland floods, hear our peoples' stories from the ground, from our contact centres, and our front line.
Each of their stories represent the incredible displays of kindness and generosity shown by Queenslanders in various neighbourhoods throughout the state.
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.Andrew Ward, Client Manager at Suncorp
There were people who needed to lodge a claim but just couldn’t get the words out.
#Our partners on the ground
In the days and weeks after the floods, the QLD State Emergency Service (SES), government deployment task forces, Australian Defence Force and more than 55,000 local volunteers cleared 400,000 tonnes of flood debris.
Suncorp also partnered with The Australian Red Cross. In 2020, Suncorp proudly became the Principal Community Partner of the Queensland State Emergency Service (SES).
#Lessons learned, lessons to learn
In the years since the Queensland floods, there has been progress understanding flood risk, but there has been little in the way of significant flood mitigation works completed.
"As a nation, we spend 97% of disaster funding on recovery and repair and just 3% on pre-emptive mitigation and resilience. Simply put, we are stuck in a cycle of 'damage, repair, recover, repeat'. Queensland can't afford to go another decade without significant investment in flood resilience. Suncorp continues to advocate for greater investment in flood mitigation infrastructure, and much-needed flood mitigation in locations such as Bundaberg and Rockhampton," said Suncorp Group CEO, Steve Johnston.
Following the 2010-11 Queensland floods, the insurance industry introduced a standard definition for 'flood' and moved to include cover for flood in home insurance policies. Other initiatives also made it easier for consumers to understand whether their insurance policy provided flood cover.
The Queensland Government has also invested in updating flood mapping across the state. Brisbane City Council has also established a program to identify properties at risk of flash flooding and suggest actions homeowners can take to reduce damage. Similar programs are now being explored by other councils across the state.
Climate change has increased the need for us to adapt how and where homes are constructed. Increasing the resilience of our buildings by retrofitting existing homes, enhancing building codes and having better land-use planning is part of the solution when mitigating risk.
"Sadly, Queensland is still vulnerable to floods. Much of our flood risk is the result of legacy town planning frameworks and decisions made several decades ago. We can't change these decisions; however, it's essential we don't continue to place new homes and communities in harm's way. Urgent action is needed to ensure town planning more comprehensively considers flood risk and the potential impact of our changing climate. As an industry, we must continue to work with government and other stakeholders to help ensure appropriate development, both under current conditions and those in the future," Steve Johnston said.
Suncorp are the last ones standing in terms of offering insurance cover in these communities - other insurance companies left the scene a long time ago.Former Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, May 2012
#A history of weather events
Between 2016 and 2018 there were over 120 natural disasters in Australia - 42 of these in Queensland. Disrupting and displacing local communities, damaging homes, business premises, and economic and social infrastructure, the state has long tackled the effects of extreme weather events.
As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends, and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders; we're the people that they breed tough north of the border. We're the ones that they knock down and we get up again.Former Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh
# Building a resilient and ready Australia
With heightened rainfall frequency paired with longer and more frequent periods of drought, and as higher average temperatures make for more intense storm activity across the state, Queensland is vulnerable to more severe flood events in the future.
Mitigation and developing a more resilient community to the effects of flooding and extreme weather events is critical. In addition to improving data capture, monitoring systems, it is crucial communities are prepared for impending storm seasons and the likelihood of extreme weather.
Suncorp is working with local communities across the country through various investments to address financial, social and natural hazard resilience. Boosting economic participation, improving disaster preparedness, and building our communities' strength to support each other in times of need.
In 2011, our whole neighbourhood went underwater. It just made sense to build in a way that respects our changing climate and the treacherous weather it sometimes brings.Daniel Franks, Suncorp customer and Brisbane resident