How Lismore pulled together before and during the floods

Monday, 7 March 2022

Tracey Doherty is a member of the Vinnies bushfire recovery and community development team but, living near Lismore, she was caught up in the Northern Rivers floods.

Her home sits on a hill, however, she was cut off from the city by floodwaters and Casino by a landslide.

Prior to the floods, Tracey and her friends and family tried to prepare for the worst.

“We had a couple of friends who have got businesses in the main part of town and we went in and helped on Sunday before the flooding came in,” Tracey said.

One of the buildings Tracey helped move gear and equipment from was the local St Vincent de Paul conference.

“We helped pull all of the stuff out of the Vinnies conference and put it in the office above the shop across the road but that got flooded as well.

“In 2017, it was probably about a foot from going the next level up but this time it well and truly went the next level up,” she said.

When the flooding hit on Monday, Tracey’s community was left isolated from the nearby larger cities.

Her home was cut off, too, from power and telecommunications.

Tracey found herself managing a makeshift evacuation centre in her local sports hall because they couldn’t reach the official ones authorities were directing people to.

“We then had 13 people that had been evacuated from in town brought over in boats that ended up in our sports hall,” she said.

These journeys are made a bit more difficult by local fauna, as in the floodwaters, brown and red-bellied black snakes have been trying to get into the boats, Tracey says.

At her evacuation centre, there were three family groups all told and they needed food and basics like blankets.

Tracey and her community pulled together to make sure they didn’t go without.

“On Tuesday, we started making preparations with NSW Police Rescue to arrange evacuations for those people from our little village to a proper evacuation centre,” she said.

Tracey’s home is near the local airport, which was hard hit by the floods.

“There were aeroplanes upside down at the end of our road.

“Planes upside down in paddocks.

“Friends and family who live in the area have lost everything.

“People here were still recovering from the bushfires, some of them still living in tents and Minderoo pods,” Tracey said.

With floodwaters subsiding, Tracey has been seconded into the recovery efforts Vinnies is leading in Lismore.

Vinnies people live and work in hundreds of communities throughout NSW.

That means they are there for the long haul when it comes to recovery and rebuilding communities affected by natural disasters.

It also means that they, like their neighbours, share the experience of seeing their towns and cities devastated.

On the recovery, “It will take a long time,” Tracey said.

Donations to the Vinnies Flood Appeal can be made at www.vinnies.org.au/nswfloodappeal, by calling 13 18 12, or at any Vinnies Shop.