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Sizzling fry pans and attentive students is a sight of relief for I Can Cook owner, Shereen Walsh, knowing that her business is back up and running following the recent floods.

Six women stand behind a stainless steel kitchen bench, smiling into the camera.

Shereen, who only opened her business in Gympie less than 12 months ago, was one of many small businesses who were inundated by water as a result of the recent South East Queensland flooding.

“I opened this business in May 2021, and we weren’t expecting to experience something as devastating as these floods in the first year of opening,” she said.

“We thought water would come to the door, but we never thought it’d go as high as it did. There was about a metre of water go through the building.

“I managed to get the student files out which was the most important thing but everything else like our electrical cooking equipment, power points, laptops, a lounge, chairs, desks – it all went under.”

“All of our food was contaminated so we couldn’t save any of it, we also lost a freezer full of meat,” she said.

Shereen was able to access an Extraordinary Disaster Assistance Recovery Grant administered by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) to help get her business back up and cooking.

“We used the grant to replace all of the equipment we lost in the floods. The dishwasher, kitchen appliances, stock, everything we needed to get back up and running as soon as possible,” she said.

A white kitchen, with water marks one metre high on cupboards, muddy water on the floor and sun shining through back window

“If I didn’t get the grant, I would have had to close my business.”

Shereen started I Can Cook to help bridge the gap in local services available to people with a disability.

“My daughter has autism and there aren’t a lot of programs and services available in Gympie for her,” she said.

“The classes teach the students how to be independent and cook their own meals or how to cook for their family.”

“Our classes start off very easy and then gradually get more complex as the students develop their skills.”

While not fully operational, Shereen has been able to start teaching classes again and enable her students to get back into their usual routine.

“We were able to open a week after the floods but there are still a lot of obstacles we are facing. We’re still waiting for the floors to be replaced and we only just had the air-con reinstalled,” she said.

“The students are extremely happy to be back in the classroom. It’s their social time and a part of their everyday routine so it’s good to see them back and learning again.”

Disaster recovery grants and loans are available to eligible primary producers, small businesses and non-profit organisations affected by the South East Queensland Rainfall and Flooding, 22 February – 5 April 2022.

For more information on the disaster assistance available, including guidelines, visit our disaster recovery webpages for primary producerssmall businesses and non-profit organisations.

QRIDA administers financial assistance to disaster affected primary producers, businesses and non-profit organisations under the joint Commonwealth / Queensland Government funded Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018. 

Last updated
26 May 2022