Deb Payne is
Deb Payne is "gobsmacked" at the treatment she received at the RSL during a free dinner for cyclone affected residents of Proserpine. Peter Carruthers

Counting the human cost of Cyclone Debbie

AS THE cold hard reality of the new normal bears down on the people of the Whitsundays there are those who seem to fall through the cracks of an overloaded system.

Deb Payne is one such person.

Ms Payne lived alone with her cat CJ in a small flat in Proserpine before Cyclone Debbie tore a path of destruction through the Whitsundays two weeks ago.

During the storm her flat was inundated with water and soon after soggy plasterboard fell from above.

She had help in the form of emergency volunteer crews who came in and removed some of the mess.

They took with them light fittings and deemed the flat to be structurally unsound and not fit for habitation.


The sign out the front of the Proserpine RSL stating
Water leaking through the roof of Deb Payne's Proserpine flat.

Having no family nearby and not able to saying the cyclone shelter because no pets are allowed has left Ms Payne with nowhere to go.

It was with reluctance she revealed where she had been staying.

"(I have been sleeping) under a house, where ever I can lay my head," she said.

Seeking respite and a free feed at the RSL building on Chapman St, Ms Payne took up the offer which was open to emergency crews and "locals in distress".

But nothing could prepare her for what came next.

Ms Payne claims she was verbally abused and called a "sponge".

But Joe Little, who was at the RSL with the Proserpine Lions, said there was a flip side to this story.

He said Ms Payne arrived at the morning meal and took off to the pub before returning for the lunch time meal.

He said she then returned to the pub before finally arriving back at the RSL for the evening meal.


The sign out the front of the Proserpine RSL stating
The sign out the front of the Proserpine RSL stating "locals in distress" are welcome.

Ms Payne said she wasn't angry at the treatment but she did feel "hurt".

"I left totally bewildered," she said.

"I was hurt and gobsmacked."

Mr Little however reiterated how much the service organisations had provided for people in genuine need.

"I spent 16-18 hours a day (cooking free meals) and she had the hide to tell me I didn't know the meaning of humanitarian and I had no compassion," he said.

"I (just) have no tolerance for those who want to rort the system."

Deb Payne is
Deb Payne has been left homeless by Cyclone Debbie. Peter Carruthers

Ms Payne said she believed she was entitled to a free meal as she was in genuine distress after having her flat destroyed and she was spending time at the pub because she had nowhere else to go and was only using the pub as a place to charge her phone and use the toilet. 

She insists she was not drinking while at the pub. 

The Proserpine Lions in the immediate wake of Cyclone Debbie have tirelessly fed members of the ADF, the SES and Team Rubicon during the clean up of Proserpine.