Building assessor feels empathy
ELLYOTT Allan admits his role in the reconstruction effort in Grantham and Goodna has been one of social work as much as building.
A builder by trade, he is well qualified to be a shoulder to lean on because of the recent pain he and his family has gone through.
Working for Southern Cross Projects, he has been assessing homes for insurance companies and giving advice to residents.
“Everyone needs to tell a story and you need to listen,” Mr Allan said when asked how he approached people who had lost everything and more.
“The thing that prepared me a lot for it was that my wife was diagnosed with cancer last April. We’ve gone through three lots of chemo and seen her deteriorate to where we thought we were going to lose her.
“Amazingly the last lot of chemo has finally shrunk the tumours in her liver. I feel like my life was on hold for a year, and I was probably in a good place to be able to empathise. I feel a huge amount of empathy. I think that comes across, and people realise that I am there to help them get through this. I feel that I’ve been preparing for this, to tell you the truth.”
Mr Allan will be involved in the assessment of 400 flood-affected homes from Toowoomba down to Brisbane.
He lives in Sydney but has moved to the area to work on the reconstruction.
Mr Allan’s experience in Grantham has been heart-wrenching but reveals a community still suffering.
“I spent two weeks in Grantham, and out of the 15 or so homes that I had to visit and assess from a building point of view, only one wanted to stay in Grantham,” he said.
“Everybody, without exception, had lost a neighbour or tragically a body had arrived on their lawn or been washed onto their property with the debris. They needed to tell that story and I would spend at least an hour listening.
“Some of the people have cried. Particularly in Grantham, you initially see the terror in their faces, but once you talk to them about the value of their home and what they are going to get in their hands they start to loosen up.”
Mr Allan said he believed the people of Goodna would pull through, but it would take time.
“The biggest thing that is needed is communication – between everybody,” he said.
“The amount of time it takes to get around all the properties, to get back to them and for them to see something actually happening while their lives are on hold is going to take 12 months or more.”
Mr Allan said he was sure the communities could pull through if they stick tight. What would he tell them?
“It is often well after loss that people become isolated,” he said.
“Somehow they have to remain connected. Don’t forget the connections you made through the crisis with either the volunteers or neighbours.
“Keep in touch and retain that sense of community.”