On 28 February 2022, the town of Lismore in Northern NSW was inundated by what was reported as Australia’s worst flood event on record, with water levels exceeding its projected 1-in-500-year flood estimates. The Wilsons River surpassed all previous flood records by more than 2 meters and reached a peak of 14.4 metres. The crisis of the night progressively developed as rain massively exceeded expectations and predicted river levels continued to exceed flood level forecasts. Hundreds of people needed rescuing from atop the roofs of their homes and an army of volunteers conducted rescues in their runabout boats. The resultant damage bill was in the billions and the devastation caused to businesses and households as well as multiple deaths was catastrophic. At its peak more than 10,000 people were homeless. The entire town was declared a disaster zone. To add to the catastrophe a second event of flooding occurred in March and was followed by another in June 2022.
Members of SSSIOA felt deeply for the people affected by the disaster and wanted to assist by sending much needed supplies to the residents who were in desperate need. It was clear that before the broader questions of rebuilding homes, schools and infrastructure could be addressed, the immediate need was to get basic supplies to the residents who were mostly located at evacuation centres. Lismore’s 700 km distance from Sydney made it difficult to deliver useful quantities of supplies to provide relief. While the NSW Region Team were grappling with how to assist, an opportunity presented itself through the Kincumber Colts Sports Club located in Gosford NSW/ They were organising a 16-wheeler truck to send supplies to Lismore with space available for our donations.
Within two weeks of being made aware of the opportunity, and through generous contributions from members, the SSSIOA managed to deliver 16 pallets of essential supplies (including groceries, dry rations, beddings, pillows, batteries, hygiene products, etc) to Kincumber Sports Club to be transported to the residents of Lismore.
The devastation to the town will require a long time to repair. To maintain our continuing assistance, we have now formed a working relationship with two agencies namely, Social Futures, an organisation providing a range of community support programs with an office in Lismore, and Resilient Lismore, who are providing the recovery and rebuild efforts. In November 2022, a small team from Sydney led by our National and NSW Presidents undertook a road trip to Lismore with the purpose of assessing first-hand how our organisation could contribute to the rebuild efforts and to also consolidate the relationships formed with the two agencies that would guide our future efforts.
Apart from the initial materials provided, some projects that have already resulted due to our relationship with Foodbank and that created with Social Futures and Resilient Lismore are:
·-· At our initiation, delivery of 110 Christmas Hampers to the residents of Lismore through our affiliation with Food Bank Australia.
·-· Provision of minor household items to a young mother and her baby who have been resettled after the floods.
·-· Currently in planning through consultation with Social Futures is a “working bee” weekend where our members will be able to travel to Lismore and assist the locals in tasks that are required to continue the recovery and rebuild efforts.
Within the resources of members, humanitarian relief is a priority of our organisation following the examples of our founder and as an expression of our love and compassion for our fellow beings. When we help those in need, we are in truth, helping ourselves to evolve to our true loving potential.