A River With a City Problem by Margaret Cook

1. First lines. 2. Published 2019 University of Queensland Press 3. Brisbane River in flood [CC BY 2.0] Cropped and smudged. via Wikimedia 4. 1974 flood in Brisbane, Australia [CC BY 2.0] Cropped and smudged. via Wikimedia 5. View from North Quay during the floods, Brisbane, 1893. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
About this book:

This is a history of flooding in the Brisbane River catchment. It deals mostly with the major events of 1893, 1974 and 2011.

  • “The Turball and Jagera people have a symbiotic relationship with rivers and land; for them, the river is the giver of life and needs care in return.”
  • “There is little societal understanding that there is a 1percent chance of a major flood occurring in any given year. Although experience and hydrological reality proved otherwise, many South East Queenslanders were reluctant to accept the truth of living on a subtropical floodplain: floods will come again.”
  • “The (2011) flood response echoed that of 1893 and 1974 with emergency and financial resources mobilised for rescue, relief and recovery. The community responded with compassion as people were relocated to evacuation centres and many donated time and finances to help with the clean-up. While the volunteers earned praise, political leaders received mixed reviews, and insurers and government relief programs earned scorn for their inequities. As in earlier floods, the media shaped the rhetoric, drawing on language that echoed 1893 and 1974, and reinforcing notions of battling nature rather than engaging in debate on the human causes of flood damage.”
  • “Despite centuries of Turrbal and Jagera knowledge and almost 300 years of settler experience and hydrological research into devastating floods, successive generations have adopted the same approach : attempt to control the river.”
  • “Political scientist Colin Hughes says that development lies at the heart of Queensland politics; it is a state ‘concerned with things and places, rather then people and ideas.'”
My opinion:

This is a fascinating account of the major floods in Brisbane and Ipswich – 1893, 1974, 2011. The author argues very convincingly about the causes and effects of these floods, with comprehensive research to back up her conclusions. This topic could have been dull, but the book is very interesting and readable.

Opinions of others:
  • Books and Publishing: “Cook crafts an illuminating narrative that is hard to put down, and in the process builds a convincing case against the real culprit: leaders who for economic gain have exploited the population’s short-term memory, due to the episodic nature of floods, while promoting the arrogant belief that man can control nature and that dams are the answer to flood control. This clear-sighted examination of Brisbane’s intractable flood history offers hope that change is still possible.”

Margaret Cook

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