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Aussie dad forced to make tragic $100k decision after being stranded in outback

Faced with high rents and four months without work, Mick has less than a month before he goes broke.

A father-of-four was left drinking out of a dam and running low on food after he became stranded on a western Queensland cattle station he was working.

Flood waters surrounded his camp, leaving earthmoving contractor Mick Cusack and his crew stranded in a remote part of Marion Downs for a month. What was once desert now resembles an ocean extending 125km north to a neighbouring outback town that has become an island.

In January, when there was a break in the rain, Mick fled east with his equipment to the rural Central Highlands town of Emerald, but left without work since January, he's been forced to make the tragic decision to sell off $100,000 worth of assets.

The outback Queensland region where Mick once built dams has now become entirely flooded. Source: Supplied
The outback Queensland region where Mick once built dams has now become entirely flooded. Source: Supplied

“I’ve sold almost every asset I’ve got, everything I’ve accumulated over the last 12 years — semi-trailers, trucks, floats, fuel tanks, generators — pretty much everything I need to run on an isolated camp,” he said. “Paying off that big machinery, it was really taking a toll on my bank balance.”

Mick considers himself lucky to have found temporary accommodation and now be reunited with his kids. But while houses in Emerald are cheap to buy, rent is punishingly high, likely because of competition from the mining industry. These payments are eating into Mick's savings and the ongoing floods have prevented him from returning to the cattle station.

He is now trying to keep up repayments to hold onto his last remaining caravan, vehicle and earthmoving machine, so when the waters recede he’ll be able to get back to work.

I've just to keep going so I can work again and get an income.Mick Cusack

Why Mick struggled to ask for help: 'Never taken charity'

Having run a successful earthmoving business for 20 years, it’s been hard for Mick to ask for government assistance, but after speaking with Yahoo News Australia he's decided to seek help. “I’ve always been well off and thought that sort of thing was for more unfortunate people out there,” he said.

Inset - Mick Cusack. Main - his camp in the red desert. Caravans and other machinery can be seen.
Mick Cusack's outback campsite on the Marion Downs station was surrounded by floodwaters. Source: Supplied

Attempts to return to the cattle station where he’s worked full-time for two years have been hampered by weather. “There was a window when I thought I could get back across the Georgina River, but then other roads were closed. The rain just kept coming down everywhere, when one road opened another one closed.”

Waters across the Boulia Shire where Mick mostly works are expected to recede over the coming weeks. “I don’t want to be a whinger about it. I’ve never taken charity in my life. If I go broke it just means another small business going down the drain.”

How you can get help if you're impacted by flooding

In March, the Palaszczuk government announced that $12 million was available to help flood-affected communities in Western Queensland. Under a joint Commonwealth and state recovery plan, grants are available for small businesses, primary producers and non-profits that have suffered direct impact of the flooding.

“These grants can be used to hire or purchase equipment and materials, clean up, remove debris, replace fencing and other costs associated with the recovery process,” a department of small business (DESBT) spokesperson said. Regional officers have reached out to neighbouring Diamantina Shire.

Businesses in Boulia, Burke, Carpentaria, Cloncurry, Doomadgee, Mornington and Mount Isa council areas can contact Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority on 1800 623 946 or visit www.qrida.qld.gov.au.

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