Wave of destruction

Marking 10 years since the 2011 floods

An aeriel view of the UQ St Lucia campus during the 2011 floods.

Warning: this article contains material that may cause distress or trigger traumatic memories for some people.


Anyone who lived through it will forever remember the summer of 2011 – when ‘inundate’ became a cliché, strange scenes like kayakers paddling through the Milton Maccas drive-thru became the norm, and a mud army mobilised to bring hope to a heartbroken South East Queensland community – after a ‘once in century flood’ overwhelmed Toowoomba, the Lockyer Valley, and the Greater Brisbane region for the second time in forty years.

Throughout January 2011, thousands lost their homes, 36 Queenslanders tragically died, and the world watched on in horror as an inland tsunami swept away cars and buildings under the relentless force of its churning water.

Ten years on, the mental scars remain. Many Queenslanders are still traumatised by the events of 2011 – and 1974 – and anxiety levels rise with every new flood warning.

St Lucia was one of Brisbane's worst-hit suburbs. UQ’s St Lucia campus was barely recognisable, resembling a set of islands rather than a teaching and research hub, as floodwater surged through the campus for almost a week.

UQ's Gatton campus also experienced flooding, and a number of other UQ sites, including clinics and research sites in regional parts of South East Queensland, were also affected.

With no power, important research and teaching facilities destroyed, and many staff and students homeless, the UQ St Lucia campus was completely shut down. UQ staff – from Properties and Facilities, academic and research areas, and professional units – worked tirelessly to get the campus back up and running in record time.

Watch a Nine News report on the floods from 2011, showing the flooding at UQ's St Lucia campus.

The School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences was one of the worst affected academic areas, and UQ Sport facilities were also battered.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) Professor Doune Macdonald was the Head of School at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences at the time and recalls the chaos, heartbreak and educational disruption.

"Many staff were impacted both at home and at work," she said.

"Colleagues and students were trying to solve the problems of a closed and damaged campus at the same time as finding safe accommodation, clothes, food, access to electricity... it was a wild few months.

"The School was inundated with about 1.5 metres of contaminated water which took days to subside, leaving the building uninhabitable.

"Our new Student Learning Centre was just about complete for Semester 1 and was destroyed, along with laboratories and teaching rooms. We had to establish a 'command centre' in a nearby building, review the courses we could offer, alter the timetable, and create make-shift labs. The staff and students across UQ were extraordinary in their generosity, flexibility and understanding.

"Spending weeks in mud preparing inventories for insurance was not in anyone's job description, but colleagues did it. It was demonstrably 'one-UQ'."

Contact has headed to the photo archives to share some of the most remarkable images from the 2011 floods at UQ's St Lucia and Gatton campuses – highlighting not just the destruction and chaos, but the community spirit and resilience as an army of staff, students and community volunteers came together to get the campus back up and running.

Keep scrolling to view the photos below and be sure to share your memories of the floods in the comments section at the end of the feature. Everyone has a story to tell and we want to read yours.

A campus under water

An image of the flooded UQ St Lucia campus during the 2011 floods.

Click on the photos below to reveal the full image.

An image showing water almost reaching the roof of the UQ Boat Club.

Water almost reached the roof of the UQ Boat Club, which is usually comfortably set back from the River’s bank on the Ring Road near the main sporting ovals.

Water almost reached the roof of the UQ Boat Club, which is usually comfortably set back from the River’s bank on the Ring Road near the main sporting ovals.

Many UQ buildings almost disappeared under the flood water.

Many UQ buildings almost disappeared under the flood water, Here, valuable agricultural research projects were ruined in the campus’s Greenhouses on Glasshouse Road.

Many UQ buildings almost disappeared under the flood water, Here, valuable agricultural research projects were ruined in the campus’s Greenhouses on Glasshouse Road.

An image of the UQ Athletic Centre under water.

The UQ Athletics Centre resembled the UQ Aquatic Centre at the St Lucia campus.

The UQ Athletics Centre resembled the UQ Aquatic Centre at the St Lucia campus.

An image of Flood water gushing across a pedestrian bridge.

Flood water gushes over the road at UQ's Gatton campus.

Flood water gushes over the road at UQ's Gatton campus.

An image of flooded roads at the UQ St Lucia campus in 2011.

Roads turned to rivers at UQ's St Lucia campus.

Roads turned to rivers at UQ's St Lucia campus.

An image showing Blair Drive is completely submerged as water floods nearby buildings.

Blair Drive was completely submerged as water flooded nearby buildings, such as the Human Movement Studies building and the Joyce Ackroyd building.

Blair Drive was completely submerged as water flooded nearby buildings, such as the Human Movement Studies building and the Joyce Ackroyd building.

An image showing how Storage facilities were left floating and upturned.

Storage facilities were left floating and upturned.

Storage facilities were left floating and upturned.

An image showing how water reached shoulder height inside the Connell building, at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

Water reached shoulder height inside the Connell building. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water reached shoulder height inside the Connell building. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water flooded foyers and rooms inside the Connell building, at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water flooded foyers and rooms inside the buildings at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water flooded foyers and rooms inside the buildings at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

An image of water inundating Saint Lucy's cafe.

Cafes like Saint Lucy's, which are usually a haunt for coffee meetings, post-work dinners and tennis sessions, had water views during the 2011 floods.

Cafes like Saint Lucy's, which are usually a haunt for coffee meetings, post-work dinners and tennis sessions, had water views during the 2011 floods.

An image of flooded UQ Sport grounds and facilities.

Many UQ Sport facilities were flooded at the St Lucia campus.

Many UQ Sport facilities were flooded at the St Lucia campus.

An image of Only the roofs of UQ's glass house facilities sticking out of flood waters during the 2011 floods.

Only the roofs of UQ's glass house facilities could be seen during the 2011 floods.

Only the roofs of UQ's glass house facilities could be seen during the 2011 floods.

An image of flood water swamping the UQ Aquatic Centre.

The normally sparkling blue water at the UQ Aquatic Centre was one giant, muddy pool.

The normally sparkling blue water at the UQ Aquatic Centre was one giant, muddy pool.

An image of Services Road at UQ's Gatton campus submerged during the floods in 2011.

Services Road at UQ's Gatton campus was submerged during the floods in 2011.

Services Road at UQ's Gatton campus was submerged during the floods in 2011.

An aerial view of flooding at UQ's Gatton campus in January 2011.

An aerial view of flooding at UQ's Gatton campus in January 2011.

An aerial view of flooding at UQ's Gatton campus in January 2011.

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An image showing water almost reaching the roof of the UQ Boat Club.

Water almost reached the roof of the UQ Boat Club, which is usually comfortably set back from the River’s bank on the Ring Road near the main sporting ovals.

Water almost reached the roof of the UQ Boat Club, which is usually comfortably set back from the River’s bank on the Ring Road near the main sporting ovals.

Many UQ buildings almost disappeared under the flood water.

Many UQ buildings almost disappeared under the flood water, Here, valuable agricultural research projects were ruined in the campus’s Greenhouses on Glasshouse Road.

Many UQ buildings almost disappeared under the flood water, Here, valuable agricultural research projects were ruined in the campus’s Greenhouses on Glasshouse Road.

An image of the UQ Athletic Centre under water.

The UQ Athletics Centre resembled the UQ Aquatic Centre at the St Lucia campus.

The UQ Athletics Centre resembled the UQ Aquatic Centre at the St Lucia campus.

An image of Flood water gushing across a pedestrian bridge.

Flood water gushes over the road at UQ's Gatton campus.

Flood water gushes over the road at UQ's Gatton campus.

An image of flooded roads at the UQ St Lucia campus in 2011.

Roads turned to rivers at UQ's St Lucia campus.

Roads turned to rivers at UQ's St Lucia campus.

An image showing Blair Drive is completely submerged as water floods nearby buildings.

Blair Drive was completely submerged as water flooded nearby buildings, such as the Human Movement Studies building and the Joyce Ackroyd building.

Blair Drive was completely submerged as water flooded nearby buildings, such as the Human Movement Studies building and the Joyce Ackroyd building.

An image showing how Storage facilities were left floating and upturned.

Storage facilities were left floating and upturned.

Storage facilities were left floating and upturned.

An image showing how water reached shoulder height inside the Connell building, at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

Water reached shoulder height inside the Connell building. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water reached shoulder height inside the Connell building. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water flooded foyers and rooms inside the Connell building, at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water flooded foyers and rooms inside the buildings at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Water flooded foyers and rooms inside the buildings at the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Image: School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

An image of water inundating Saint Lucy's cafe.

Cafes like Saint Lucy's, which are usually a haunt for coffee meetings, post-work dinners and tennis sessions, had water views during the 2011 floods.

Cafes like Saint Lucy's, which are usually a haunt for coffee meetings, post-work dinners and tennis sessions, had water views during the 2011 floods.

An image of flooded UQ Sport grounds and facilities.

Many UQ Sport facilities were flooded at the St Lucia campus.

Many UQ Sport facilities were flooded at the St Lucia campus.

An image of Only the roofs of UQ's glass house facilities sticking out of flood waters during the 2011 floods.

Only the roofs of UQ's glass house facilities could be seen during the 2011 floods.

Only the roofs of UQ's glass house facilities could be seen during the 2011 floods.

An image of flood water swamping the UQ Aquatic Centre.

The normally sparkling blue water at the UQ Aquatic Centre was one giant, muddy pool.

The normally sparkling blue water at the UQ Aquatic Centre was one giant, muddy pool.

An image of Services Road at UQ's Gatton campus submerged during the floods in 2011.

Services Road at UQ's Gatton campus was submerged during the floods in 2011.

Services Road at UQ's Gatton campus was submerged during the floods in 2011.

An aerial view of flooding at UQ's Gatton campus in January 2011.

An aerial view of flooding at UQ's Gatton campus in January 2011.

An aerial view of flooding at UQ's Gatton campus in January 2011.

The aftermath

An image the mud and destruction on the UQ tennis centre.

Click on the photos below to reveal the full image.

An image the mud and destruction on the UQ tennis centre.

What was left of the tennis courts after flood water inundated the St Lucia campus.

What was left of the tennis courts after flood water inundated the St Lucia campus.

An image of a drained UQ Aquatic Centre after the 2011 floods.

The UQ Aquatic Centre underwent major repairs after the 2011 floods.

The UQ Aquatic Centre underwent major repairs after the 2011 floods.

An image of a boat left stranded on the St Lucia campus after the floods.

A boat is left stranded on the St Lucia campus after the floods.

A boat is left stranded on the St Lucia campus after the floods.

An image of Mud and silt caked onto the ground, trees and buildings between the multi-story car parks at UQ's St Lucia campus.

Mud and silt is caked onto the ground, trees and buildings between the multi-story car parks at UQ's St Lucia campus.

Mud and silt is caked onto the ground, trees and buildings between the multi-story car parks at UQ's St Lucia campus.

An image of pile of debris on across the St Lucia campus.

The 2011 floods left piles of debris across UQ's St Lucia campus.

The 2011 floods left piles of debris across UQ's St Lucia campus.

An image of the path of destruction along Sir William MacGregor Drive, on the banks of the Brisbane River.

The path of destruction along Sir William MacGregor Drive, on the banks of the Brisbane River.

The path of destruction along Sir William MacGregor Drive, on the banks of the Brisbane River.

An image of filing cabinets and equipment pulled out of buildings.

Many pieces of teaching equipment and files were lost in the floods. Image: Professor Doune Macdonald

Many pieces of teaching equipment and files were lost in the floods. Image: Professor Doune Macdonald

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An image the mud and destruction on the UQ tennis centre.

What was left of the tennis courts after flood water inundated the St Lucia campus.

What was left of the tennis courts after flood water inundated the St Lucia campus.

An image of a drained UQ Aquatic Centre after the 2011 floods.

The UQ Aquatic Centre underwent major repairs after the 2011 floods.

The UQ Aquatic Centre underwent major repairs after the 2011 floods.

An image of a boat left stranded on the St Lucia campus after the floods.

A boat is left stranded on the St Lucia campus after the floods.

A boat is left stranded on the St Lucia campus after the floods.

An image of Mud and silt caked onto the ground, trees and buildings between the multi-story car parks at UQ's St Lucia campus.

Mud and silt is caked onto the ground, trees and buildings between the multi-story car parks at UQ's St Lucia campus.

Mud and silt is caked onto the ground, trees and buildings between the multi-story car parks at UQ's St Lucia campus.

An image of pile of debris on across the St Lucia campus.

The 2011 floods left piles of debris across UQ's St Lucia campus.

The 2011 floods left piles of debris across UQ's St Lucia campus.

An image of the path of destruction along Sir William MacGregor Drive, on the banks of the Brisbane River.

The path of destruction along Sir William MacGregor Drive, on the banks of the Brisbane River.

The path of destruction along Sir William MacGregor Drive, on the banks of the Brisbane River.

An image of filing cabinets and equipment pulled out of buildings.

Many pieces of teaching equipment and files were lost in the floods. Image: Professor Doune Macdonald

Many pieces of teaching equipment and files were lost in the floods. Image: Professor Doune Macdonald

The clean up

An image of clean-up volunteers walking through piles of debris.

Click on the photos below to reveal the full image.

An image of UQ grounds staff cleaning the mud off the UQ Athletics Centre running track.

UQ grounds staff cleaning the mud off the UQ Athletics Centre running track.

UQ grounds staff cleaning the mud off the UQ Athletics Centre running track.

An image of a worker in a bobcat clearing away the mountains of mud left on campus after the floods.

Clearing away the mountains of mud left on campus after the floods.

Clearing away the mountains of mud left on campus after the floods.