How yarn bombing plus coffee and cake helped this small town get past fire, drought, floods and isolation

The southern Queensland town of Mungindi has been dealt its fair share of blows over the past few years.

Chief among them a devastating fire, drought, pandemic isolation, not to mention numerous floods.

While its population of fewer than 1,000 people may be small, this inland town clutching the New South Wales border is big on bush spirit — and its locals are currently bringing some colour and much-needed joy to their community in a novel way.

Pam Waller brought the idea of yarn bombing to the Mungindi Library craft group and it has since taken off.

“It’s just touched a nerve in a community that’s had so many knockbacks in the last few years,” Ms Waller said.

“This sort of opened people’s hearts … suddenly there’s something we can do to make the town brighter.

“What joy it’s brought to people; such a simple thing and yet it’s created huge interest.”

Harder than it looks
In Mungindi, knitting and crocheting has taken on Olympic sport status as crafty volunteers busily create colourful squares, then the squares are sewn together and wrapped around trees lining the main street.

It sounds simple enough, but as the people of Mungindi discovered, there was a bit more to consider.

“I really wasn’t aware at the time just how much work it was; I’d measure the tree we chose so when the pieces are together we sewed them at the appropriate height,” Ms Waller said.

“One of the husbands came down and held them while we attached them, we stretch them and attached wire to the tree to hook them on, the stretching holds them up, so they don’t fall down.”

But there’s more than meets the eye with these yarned works of art and each piece has its own story or theme.

A purple piece in front of the newsagency is in memory of former store owner and friend Carmen Beatty who passed away recently.

There’s a yellow piece in recognition of Daffodil Day for Cancer and a pink one for breast cancer awareness.

“A lot of people in this area have died from, or are suffering from, cancer of many different types,” Ms Waller said.

“I looked around the [craft] table and realised that 90 per cent of the women there had survived breast cancer.”

The colours of the Aboriginal flag are also represented. So too, the local footy club’s green and white.

‘Surviving in difficult times together’

A lot has happened since 2020, but a fire in September of that year is still etched on locals’ minds.

The massive blaze destroyed the local grocery store, the butcher and the dress shop in a devastating blow to the small community.

The Mungindi Community Store has since been rebuilt and manager Muhammad “Kay” Khuranjaveed has seen the yarn bombing project bring people together.

“They survive in the difficult times together. We were isolated, the whole community was on the same page, it’s a very small town, everyone is very excited, it’s amazing,” he said.

The strategically placed pops of colour are not only good on the eyes, but good for the soul, according to South West Hospital and Health Service Regional Adversity Clinician, Peter Bradford.

“The beauty of yarn bombing is that it’s not something that happens today and is gone tomorrow, it stays there for a while and people see it,” Dr Bradford said.

“It brings positive memories around the community getting together to do something that’s a bit of fun, it brings some colour to the world.”

For everyone to enjoy
“There will always be people who will wonder why and probably won’t get a lot out of it, but the great majority will,” Dr Bradford said.

“Whether it’s just a momentary smile as they drive or walk past, it gets people talking, those that weren’t involved in it will talk about it, they will ask people about it and they will become part of the on-going process of the yarn bombing.”

Mungindi enrolled nurse Marie Rossiter agrees on the benefits of the project, “during the weeks of isolation we would meet at our local coffee shop, eat nice cake and make a colourful jumper for the trees, we didn’t have to think about the flood waters or stock and crop losses.”

Mungindi’s main street has been transformed into an avenue of colour, but the locals aren’t putting away their knitting needles or crochet hooks just yet.

“We have just been overwhelmed, people we don’t even know have dropped in yarn anonymously, the community has just come alive,” Ms Waller said.

“I have so many squares I had to send out a message saying, ‘I can’t do anymore before Christmas’, so we’ll continue this next year.”