Our NSW Northern Rivers area teams in Lismore, Mullumbimby and Byron Bay teams are recovering physically following horrific flood events in the past few months. These events mental scars no doubt. The poor residents of Lismore copped it twice recently. OCTEC staff in these areas pitched in and assist with the clean-up and rebuilding of their communities. North Coast and Richmond Regional Manager, Shakella Matloob shares her experience of the situation as we celebrate the both Mullumbimby and Byron Bay opening.
What was the experience for our colleagues in the North Coast and Richmond ESA during the recent floods?
Natural disaster of any kind leaves lasting financial and mental scars. I have seen staff experiencing a range of emotions including anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, sadness and grief. Some staff did discuss difficult sleeping, loss of appetite, depression and angry moods during this time.
We got hit by two record breaking floods back to back.
Most people lost everything twice. It was a surreal feeling, when the entire CBD can’t operate, has no power. Road access was affected across the region, left impassable even after waters receded. Social impacts like family disruption, homelessness, time off work, financial consequences and fears of such events in future were also major concern.
What was the extent of damage?
Sadly all offices of Northern Rivers were effected, even those outside of the flood zone, as the flood had lasting impacts for all in the area. Lismore office was totally destroyed. Next round of floods hit our Mullumbimby and Byron Bay same week. Mullumbimby and Byron Bay offices were inundated, but only knee high and our team with the help of community volunteers, cleaned Mullumbimby/Byron Bay quickly and efficiently, ripping it all out in record time.
Thanks to the resilience of our colleagues in the area, we’re back in business. What are some examples of courage from your team and you?
All staff from North Coast to Richmond have shown incredible amount of courage and done incredible job as part of clean up. Our Richmond ESA Deborah, Karen, her daughter, Catherine Cooling and Lucas Meeuwissen assisted in clean-up efforts for not only their office in Lismore, but also Mullumbimby.
We didn’t stop there, some team members went further and offered assistance to building management team in Lismore and continued with their clean-up efforts, shovelling, and cleaning for hours to other buildings too.
The sight of Lismore and office was one that must truly be seen to be believed, with furniture carried onto rooftops and items bolted to floors thrown across town.
All I could see was smile, courage, bravery and desire to be part of the community.
Upon reflection, how you can you describe the whole experience, and why?
If you could look at the extent of damage, it was an incredibly traumatic experience. Among loss and devastation, we have some great stories of bravery and kinship.
We learnt flexibility, how to accommodate others in their difficult times, adaptability and resilience was the key learning points for us in this experience.
I am super proud and thankful to each one who have offered their kind assistance to us.
Lismore is still rebuilding, business are still opening and closing daily.
Participants are still scattered in temporary arrangements and emergency housing.
Times have been tough, but Lismore loves Lismore. Our town has heart, and we fight like no-one else.
Opportunities are starting to show, doors are opening, and our team can’t wait to see our own door of Lismore OCTEC re-opened alongside the many more opening each day. We will take our new-found strength and skills and put them to use in the next chapter, cementing OCTEC as an integral part of our community and the surrounding region.