In the days following Cyclone Tracy’s wrath, 30,000 Darwin residents were left homeless. The Red Cross provided support to many of the affected residents, including this woman and her young twins. Roughly 2700 volunteers coordinated by the Red Cross and the Australian Defence Force helped fill in the cracks of the rescue effort. They were instrumental in reuniting loved ones, locating the missing, setting up mobile shelters, blood transfusion services and 24-hour fundraising hotlines.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Australia’s first Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service was founded in Victoria in 1929. During the cyclone roughly 150 people were seriously injured, and there were also approximately 500 minor injuries to deal with as well. A great deal of blood was collected during the Tracy aftermath. 

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Volunteer staff assisted with the evacuation of Darwin. Here Darwin residents are being flown to Perth where they are eventually housed in the Army Barracks.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Only 500 out of 12,000 homes escaped serious damage from the cyclone and none was left with power, water or communications. Many people left, and the Red Cross was instrumental in taking records of every person that few into other cities so that lost loved ones could find their families. 

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Hercules aeroplanes – military transport carriers – took Darwin’s citizens to cities around Australia, where they found shelter in the aftermath of the cyclone. 

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Crucially, the Red Cross helped connect family members and loved ones who were separated in the evacuation process following the cyclone; some family members were states apart. A national registration and enquiry system called ‘Register Find Reunite’ for families trying to locate members during or after natural disasters came out of Cyclone Tracy. It is now found online at https://register.redcross.org.au/

     

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Cyclone Tracy was the first big crisis that the Red Cross responded to on home turf and it instigated a significant shift in its emergency services tactics.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Red Cross workers help move an elderly person found in a rest home several days after the cyclone to the Red Cross HQ in Darwin suburb of Larrakeyah.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    The recovery effort was huge, with volunteers working around the clock to help affected residents.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Volunteers get ready to move after a tea break in the carpark area between the Red Cross HQ and Leo Price House.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    “Cuts became infected really quickly due to the humidity, so we were doing dressings and things like that,” says Betty Watcham (second from left), a nurse and first aid trainer with the Red Cross when Tracy struck. By 2am of the morning Tracy crossed Darwin, she had been told to report for duty first thing Boxing Day morning. Here she is in 1974 near the entrance of the Red Cross Headquarters at Lambell Terrace in Darwin. 

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    The old Darwin Hospital was run at full capacity in the days following the cyclone. Roughly 500 people poured through the doors and many volunteers flew in to assist in caring for the injured. Red Cross staff and volunteers helped move young babies from the damaged Darwin Hospital to their nearby HQ. “The mothers carried their babies over and they didn’t bring cribs, so we had to find dry boxes to put the babies in,” remembers Betty Watcham.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Here a shift of Red Cross workers leave Darwin on an Airforce Hercules.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Many people, like the ladies above, pitched into the relief effort. The clean-up effort following Cyclone Tracy took months. After all residents had been taken care of, the Darwin Reconstruction Commission commenced work on rebuilding the city on 28 February 1975. Over the next three years, the city was slowly rebuilt from the ground-up. 

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    The Red Cross tracing team whose job it was to help reconnect families separated by the cyclone.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

    Reverend Graeme Bence of the Uniting Church working as a Red Cross volunteer.

    Photo Credit: Ramon A Williams/Worldwide Photos

Cyclone Tracy: unseen images from the Red Cross archive

By AG STAFF | January 13, 2015

When catastrophic Cyclone Tracy wreaked havoc on Darwin on Christmas day 1974, the Australian Red Cross hit the ground running. With 71 fatalities, hundreds seriously injured and thousands homeless the charity stepped up as an essential body providing vital aid. These images have just been released after 40 years in the archives. Taken by Red Cross photographer Ramon A Williams, they document the people of Darwin and volunteers pulling together in a city that was 70 per cent destroyed. An exhibition of Williams’ images can be seen at Community Art Space at the City of Darwin Civic Centre until January 15.