Local historian takes a look at what we can learn from past floods

An Ipswich historian hopes her new book on the history of floods in the Brisbane and Bremer rivers will help communities better prepare for major events in the future.

Dr Margaret Cook is the author of A River with a City Problem, a new book about the history of floods in the Brisbane River and Bremer Rivers.

The book focuses on the 1893, 1974 and 2011 floods.

“It’s been eight years since the 2011 floods but the scars are still deep, tears aren’t far away when people talk about it,” Dr Cook said.

“I’m interested in human behaviour, I’m a social historian.

“I think we need to think differently about floods.”

The book highlights the force of nature that is flooding and the power of the community.

“We get more floods here in Ipswich than Brisbane because it’s low lying and the Bremer doesn’t have a dam on it,” she said.

“In 1974 Ipswich was basically under water for three days.”

Dr Cook recalls  standing on a cliff top at Brassall in December 2010 looking down 19 metres into the river thinking ‘there is no way that will come all the way up here’.

One month later the people on those banks were being evacuated.

“I think people can get complacent about floods and we take risks,” she said.

“When we are in the cycle of drought, it’s even harder to imagine.”

Dr Cook makes the argument in her book, that there must be change to prevent further tragedy.

“I think we need to think carefully about where we are building our houses and think more about using resilient design and better building products,” she said.

“I think we should focus on preparation and prevention, maybe people could come in advance and move things if they have some warning.

“More stay after a flood than I thought they would, taking a chance that it won’t happen again.

“We think we can tame our environment, but we can’t tame a river.”

Dr Cook’s book, A River with a City Problem, will be available for sale at the Ipswich Art Gallery store and at The Corner Bookshop at Riverlink.

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