Do you ever wonder when disaster strikes, “What good can come of this?” I know I do. In the past five years our region has had its share of disasters. Lismore was flooded in 2017, there were widespread and devastating bushfires in late 2019, and since COVID-19 arrived on our shores, many of us have felt that we have been living in a disaster at times.
As if that wasn’t enough, in the early hours of Sunday 27 February, and during the following days, the entire North Coast region, from Tweed Heads in the north to Grafton in the south, was inundated with major flooding. This led to the tragic loss of lives and devastating damage to property, infrastructure, the environment, livestock and wildlife. In fact, the disaster reached further north, well into Queensland as far as Gympie and Bundaberg.
In the face of such widespread destruction, it is easy to feel helpless. Yet we have seen communities come together, helping each other and rallying all kinds of support to save lives, protect property and clean up the mess. Much of this work is happening as I write, and will continue for many months.
Communities will become more cohesive as a result of this disaster. People will be reminded of the value of helping a neighbour, lending a hand, offering kindness. This is a “good” that I see emerging out of this dreadful occasion.
As a faith community, we also have an opportunity to become more cohesive at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the parishes that are deeply impacted. In many cases, parishioners themselves, or members of their families, have suffered losses. Our thoughts and prayers also extend to the wider communities in which we live and worship – our “neighbours” who desperately need a hand to relieve their suffering.
Anglicare North Coast is an established Emergency Relief and Disaster Recovery partner with the NSW and Australian Governments. We are the local welfare organisation, with community infrastructure throughout the region, via our partnership with Anglican parishes and schools. In this regard, we are well placed to deliver relief and recovery oriented assistance to households.
We leverage our work with community partners, including Food Bank and Thread Together, which gives us access to free or low cost items, such as food, emergency supplies, new clothing, donated goods, and storage and distribution networks.
The night the Northern Rivers went under
We have established a flood appeal to raise funds to assist affected households. Our approach is to identify households in impacted communities with the assistance of our parish network on the ground in each community, and to build supportive networks around those households.
We can give immediate assistance with mud cleaning and disposal of destroyed household items; assistance with relocation and temporary accommodation if needed; supply of new clothing and bedding; and, further support once housing is restored by supplying household items, including furniture and whitegoods.
Since the flood occurred:
- We have had a crew in Lismore and Casino with pressure cleaners visiting households that have been referred by our parishes.
- Our mobile food pantry has been on the road daily taking hampers, personal care packs and other supplies to parishes.
- We have been working on setting up a pop-up shop for four to six months in Lismore for free brand-new clothes, as well as a mobile clothing van to visit smaller communities.
- We have leased a warehouse in Grafton and received our first truckload of donated goods from Bishop Druitt College. We will stockpile donations there for the time being until we can distribute these to communities.
Housing will be the long-term issue. We continue to advocate with government to seek their commitment for increased investment in affordable housing, including subsidies for private rentals.
Anglicare North Coast and Anglican parishes working together make a formidable team, combining knowledge, skill, resources and finances to make a real difference for households and communities in times of need.
Together, we bring “hope In action”.
Editor’s note: Since this reflection was written, Northern NSW has flooded again, causing mass evacuations. In this 4 March 2022 anglican focus reflection, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall tells us about Anglicare North Coast’s 2022 Lismore Flood Appeal for tax deductible donations. Please donate if you can.