Mackay Base Hospital social worker Margaret Barrett has spent the last week preventing fires from engulfing her property and others at Eungella.
Margaret has lived in the mountain paradise for 13 years with her husband Greg who is the Parks and Wildlife Senior Ranger.
With her llamas and cattle, many just born in the last few months, Margaret focussed on getting home to open fences to attempt to free trapped cattle.
Being a social worker and knowing how to ‘negotiate’ she managed this late one night despite the last minute sensible advice from her boss Mark Blattman suggesting she would be more alert (safer) in the morning.
Margaret is one of the Senior Social Workers at Mackay Base Hospital and arrives to work each week dressed smartly and always bright in colour.
Little do most people know this is in total contrast to her usual attire of dirty trousers, shirt, working gloves, boots and Akubra hat.
Having her work cut out at home working the property, fencing, mustering cattle and spraying weeds, Margaret finds this a wonderful contrast from working with patients and their psycho social issues which she does from “ 9 to 5”.
Which does she prefer? She absolutely loves them both and would not have one without the other. Margaret considers this the perfect life and loves as much travelling down the range at dawn on a Monday morning as she does heading home on a Friday afternoon (it’s too far to travel daily).
Margaret said the usually tight knit community was even more so with this stressful event, with everyone pulling up anywhere on the road and holding up cars which then also joined in for the expected chat and catch up.
The Eungella Hall was in full swing with Margaret’s mother-in-law Joan and others volunteering to cook and cater for all the emergency crews who had come from as far away as Western Australia.
It was while rolling pastry for the popular homemade pies that the Premier walked in and hugged Margaret and others warmly.
The fact that Margaret was dressed in her shabbiest, old smoky clothes with a carrot hanging lamely out of her pocket was all ‘low priority’ as the locals lined up for the photos with the special visitors.
Margaret said the visit boosted the morale of the residents who felt very special that she had travelled all that way to their little part of the world that was little known.
Margaret’s husband Greg has been fighting fires in the region for the past three weeks in an effort to prevent them occurring.
Never in the known history of Eungella has the rainforest burned and allowed fire to reach Eungella itself.
Greg was given strict instructions that he had overstepped the mark for compulsory ‘hours of rest’ from his job. Easily fixed, Greg donned street clothes, changed the ranger ute for his own, loaded up his own, albeit smaller water spray unit and continued.
Greg said that it just wasn’t possible to take a break when there were others out there fighting fires who had also worked just as hard, the only difference being that they were purely voluntary!
There has been some talk on the dusty roads about how the cyclone sitting off the coast would be so welcome and that the usual fragile and beautiful flora of the rainforest, which Eungella is famous for, having the longest uninterrupted stretch of rainforest in Queensland, may never be able to recover.
However there has been another day of spotting smoke alerts for a community filled with resilience and country spirit.
If you don’t wave to everyone and stop for a chat – well you obviously must be a visitor.