FLYING over the north west Queensland area was a vision that I will never forget.
Only the day prior, I had been alerted by the Chief of the Defence Force from my headquarters in Brisbane to immediately form a Joint Task Force and proceed north.
In Townsville, I met up with Senator the Honourable Linda Reynolds CSC, then Minister for Emergency Management and North Queensland Recovery, and we flew in a Royal Australian Air Force aeroplane to a number of flood affected towns on an initial reconnaissance of the area.
What we saw from 23,000ft was a vast inland sea. It became immediately clear to me that the Queenslanders below us were facing their greatest disaster in living memory.
In those first few days of the disaster response mission, I saw a wide range of Australian experiences.
Senator Reynolds and I met devastated cattle producers who had lost everything they had worked for in their adult lives.
Gone was their cattle, infrastructure, and the prospect of their livelihood.
It was very confronting to be with Australian families, whose hopes and dreams for their children's prosperity were shattered. This resonated with me the most.
I also crossed paths with some of the most magnificent Australians I had ever encountered.
At Julia Creek Airport I met bush pilots who were desperately flying out to the stations and delivering fodder to pockets of the emaciated, dying cattle, that had managed to survive the initial conditions.
Every day they went out, and every day the cattle that they were trying to save were found increasingly fatigued or dead in the awful saturated black soil.
The exhaustion of the cattle was only matched by the exhaustion of those valiant pilots. They were heroes of the north west.
Through the disaster response I had the privilege of supporting exceptional leaders.
From Mayors John Wharton, AM, Greg Campbell, Belinda Murphy, Gavin Baskett, and Jane McNamara, as well as their fellow councillors and staff, their commitment and tenacity was inspirational.
Each of them was facing an unprecedented national emergency in their lives, but they were steadfast in their coordination of support to their constituents. I could see in each of them their deep affinity to their people and our country.
I will always be proud of the hundreds of Australian Defence Force personnel of my Joint Task Force in those weeks of the disaster.
Whether they were pumping fuel, working with the councils, unloading planes, flying helicopters or running the command post - they worked their utmost to support their fellow Australians in their greatest hour of need.
It was hard for them to leave the north west after having developed the strongest affinity for the wonderful Queenslanders that hosted them in their communities.
I often think of those cattle producing families, and the tremendous people of north west Queensland.
As we approach one year since the disaster, I have hope and aspirations for prosperity in the region. Just like those families have for their children. I am honoured to have served them.