Disasters remind us of the power of partnerships
Losing everything but the clothes on your back is something most Australians will hopefully never experience.
However, for thousands of Australian families this is the stark reality they now face after the devastating bushfires, with many months of hardship ahead as they rebuild their lives from the ashes.
As I witnessed when I was Queensland Premier, rebuilding confidence and optimism and a whole new life after such a tragedy is done inch by inch and painful step by step. Recovery calls on every ounce of resilience, and then some.
It is in these times that we see the best of Australians, who surround victims who've lost everything with love, support and generosity. The incredible donations we've seen, over $500 million, is just one example of this amazing generosity and the very best of what it means to be Australian.
In 2011, Queensland faced its worst ever floods and cyclones. When the floodwaters finally subsided, Queensland faced a recovery task of post-war proportions. In the early days, the task threatened to overwhelm us.
There was so much destruction on so many fronts, so many individuals and families were gripped by shock and grief and loss and so many farms and businesses were on their knees. The landscape was grim in every direction and it was impossible to imagine that we could ever recover what had been.
But people did rebuild their homes and their lives, massive holes in highways did get repaired, warped and buckled railway lines were fixed, businesses recovered, farms began to flourish again and the State's reputation as an international tourism destination was regained. Of course, for some the disaster brought great changes, with decisions to leave their town, to sell their property and not rebuild or shut the doors of a business.
The greatest lesson learnt from experience is that one of the most critical ingredients of that massive recovery effort is the power of partnership.
Not just partnership for a week but partnership for the long haul. All levels of government co-operated to get the best results, corporate Australia rallied and worked hand in glove with government to mobilise staff, money, donations, equipment and assistance and all sectors worked with charities and community agencies to harness an extraordinary volunteer effort.
The weeks and months ahead will require this same co-operation as fire-ravaged communities work to get back on their feet.
Once again, corporate Australia is rising to the challenge and Australia's banks are working to support their customers as many face some of the most difficult financial circumstances of their lives.
For all of us, financial security underpins our confidence and sense of wellbeing. Money worries can be corrosive in the best of times. In a crisis they can be debilitating.
As those whose lives have been ripped apart by fires this summer reach into their own stores of strength and resilience, many will need an enduring partnership with their bank.
Banks know from experience that the earlier customers talk to them about financial problems, the more likely it is that they can help in very practical ways such restructuring loans, deferring payments, waiving fees or extending business overdrafts.
Anyone who is in this situation should contact their bank's hardship teams (details are on www.ausbanking.org.au/doingittough).
Among the many lessons from the floods in Queensland and the other natural disasters I've witnessed, is that real and full recovery will take longer than anticipated and that those who've lost everything will need partners and support with them for the long haul.
They will need their families, their friends and their communities to be there for them long after the crisis is no longer on the front page. And they will need government and business, including their banks, to work with them and with each other to rebuild their lives.
Anna Bligh is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Banking Association and former premier of Queensland.