'My Teacher Told me "Toowoomba will Never Flood"'

Regional Community Uses of Facebook During the 2011 Queensland Floods


  • Kelly McWilliam University of Southern Queensland




Regional Queensland, social media, Facebook, 2011 Queensland floods, grassroots crisis communication


Regional Queensland and social media are not standard bedfellows in studies of Australian media use. Yet regional community responses to recent natural disasters on Facebook in particular warrant further investigation. Indeed, while the increasing use of social media by government organisations during disasters and other crises is by now well documented, the comparative surge in community uses — and particularly regional community uses — has received considerably less attention. This article is broadly interested in regional Queensland uses of Facebook during the 2011 Queensland floods, specifically the ‘Toowoomba & Darling Downs Flood Photos & Info Page’ (https://www.facebook.com/TmbaLockyerFloods?fref=ts 10 January 2011). Drawing on an interview with the page's creator, I consider both the speed and apparent efficacy of the page as a tool of grassroots (or unofficial) crisis communication, partly compared with its most obvious official counterpart, the Toowoomba Regional Council's Facebook page. Ultimately, I argue that the ‘Toowoomba & Darling Downs Flood Photos & Info Page’ offers an emphatically more useful model of social media-based crisis communication from which others might draw.

Author Biography

  • Kelly McWilliam, University of Southern Queensland

    Kelly McWilliam is a Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at the University of Southern Queensland. Since being awarded her PhD from the University of Queensland, she has researched and taught widely across film, media, and cultural studies, including publishing several books, securing over half a million dollars in grant funding (largely ARC funding) and winning multiple research and supervision awards.


BMT 2011. Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry: technical report on the Toowoomba flood of 10 January 2011, April, http://www.floodcommission.qld.gov.au.

Bruns, Axel, Burgess, Jean, Crawford, Kate and Shaw, Frances 2012. #qldfloods and @QPSMedia: crisis communication on Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods. Brisbane: ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology.

Bryant, Nick 2011. ‘Australia floods: 72 missing and at least eight dead’, BBC News, 10 January, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12149921.

Bureau of Meteorology 2011. ‘Flood summary for Toowoomba, January 2011’, http://www.bom.gov.au.

‘City downpour sparks flash floods’ 2011. The Chronicle [Toowoomba], 10 January, http://www.thechronicle.com.au.

Crowe, Adam 2011. ‘The social media manifesto: a comprehensive review of the impact of social media on emergency management’, Journal of Business Continuity and Emergency Planning 5, 1: 409–20.

‘Eight dead, 72 missing in Australian flash floods’ 2011. Dawn.com World News, 11 January, http://dawn.com/2011/01/11/eight-dead-72-missing-in-australian-flash-floods

Facebook page for ‘Toowoomba & Darling Downs Flood 15 Photos & Info Page’ 2011. 10th January 2011, https://www.facebook.com/TmbaLockyerFloods?fref=ts.

‘Facebook and Twitter key for Toowoomba and Queensland flood information’ 2011. Daily Telegraph, 11 January, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au.

Foley, Meraiah 2011. ‘8 die from latest flooding in Australia’, New York Times, 10 January, http://www.nytimes.com.

Gearing, Amanda 2011. ‘Warning signs to disaster’, Crikey, 10 February, http://www.crikey.com.au.

Hagar, Chris 2010. ‘Crisis informatics’, Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 36, 5: 10–12.

Hanna, Noel 2011. ‘Wettest day for Toowoomba since devastating January floods’, Weatherzone, 7 February, http://www.weatherzone.com.au.

Khazan, Olga 2013. ‘The entire world is increasingly using Facebook’, Washington Post, 4 January, http://www.washingtonpost.com.

Landsbergen, David 2010. ‘Government as part of the revolution: using social media to achieve public goals’, Electronic Journal of e-Government 8, 2: 134–46.

Magro, Michael 2012. ‘A review of social media use in e-government’, Administrative Sciences 2: 148–61.

McWilliam, Kelly 2011. Interview with ‘Susy’, creator of ‘Toowoomba & Darling Downs Flood Photos & Info’ Facebook page. Email correspondence, 1 April.

Palen, Leysia and Liu, Sophia 2007. ‘Citizen communications in crisis: anticipating a future of ICT-supported public participation’, in CHI 2007 Proceedings: Emergency Action, http://www.takebay.net/data/chi07/docs/p727.pdf.

Palen, Leysia, Vieweg, Sarah, Sutton, Jeannette, Liu, Sophia B. and Hughes, Amanda 2007. ‘Crisis informatics: studying crisis in a networked world’, Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on E-Social Science, Ann Arbor, MI.

Queensland Flood Commission Inquiry, Transcript — Day 8, 19 April 2011, http://www.floodcommission.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/5731/2011-04-19-QFCI-Day-8-Toowoomba.pdf.

Queensland Police Service 2011. Disaster management and social media—a case study. Brisbane: Queensland Police Service, http://www.police.qld.gov.au/Resources/Internet/services/reportsPublications/documents/QPSSocialMediaCaseStudy.pdf.

Ryan, Barb and Matheson, Amalia 2010. ‘Significance of communication in emergency management’, The Australian Journal of Emergency Management 25, 1: 54–7.

‘Toowoomba torrent no one knew was coming’ 2011. The Australian, 11 January, http://www.theaustralian.com.au.

Ulmer, Robert, Sellnow, Timothy and Seeger, Matthew 2011. Effective crisis communication: moving from crisis to opportunity, 2nd ed.London: Sage.

Vieweg, Sarah 2009. ‘Technology-mediated social participation in mass emergencies’. Position paper for the iParticipate Workshop, http://www.tmsp.umd.edu.

Yates, Dave and Paquette, S. 2011. ‘Emergency knowledge management and social media technologies: a case study of the 2010 Haitian earthquake’, International Journal of Information Management 31: 6–13.

‘Warnings were hours late for thousands’ 2011. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 January, http://www.smh.com.au.

Weatherzone 2011. Website, http://www.weatherzone.com.au.






How to Cite

McWilliam, K. (2013). ’My Teacher Told me "Toowoomba will Never Flood"’: Regional Community Uses of Facebook During the 2011 Queensland Floods. Queensland Review, 20(1), 86-95. https://doi.org/10.1017/qre.2013.7