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Seeds of change


Their home, farm and businesses were ravaged by flood waters. Their town of Kerang was cut off from the world for weeks, an island in a new sea. Yet Carol and Ward Beecher are steadily rebuilding their livelihoods as well as their emotional wellbeing along with their once much loved, flourishing garden, with help from Red Cross.

"We fell in a hole and we've crawled out of it," says Ward Beecher of the devastating Victorian floods that damaged his property in 2011.

The past year has been the toughest of the last 36 years that Ward and his wife Carol have run their small farm near Kerang in northern Victoria.

Ward's family were pioneers of the district and Carol comes from an established farming family. Together they run a small farming business as well as a nursery and pet store on the outskirts of town.

Before the waters came, Carol and Ward thought they had prepared for potential flooding. "We put the bank up around the house…I thought I had outsmarted it but I hadn't," says Ward.

Carol describes the frightening moment the flood waters came rushing. "I heard this roar…I could see it just roaring over the top of the State Rivers channel."

The house was damaged, although it was the decimation of their beloved garden that caused the most distress. "It was just devastation, absolute devastation because all that I've worked for has all gone," reflects Carol.

The floods did more than destroy property. They impacted the local community in other ways too. Carol and Ward found their business began to suffer as their customers and friends went about rebuilding their lives. "We could go for several days and not sell a plant," Carol says.

"We had absolutely nothing - we had nothing in the bank," says Ward.

Fortunately, Carol and Ward received two small grants from the Victorian Floods Disaster Relief Fund which is helping them to pay bills and get back on track. The fund distributes grants from the generous donations Australians made to the Victorian Floods Appeal 2011.

The financial assistance has helped them survive and Carol says emotional support has been vital too. Carol describes the ongoing stress. To help local communities, Red Cross personal support volunteers visit homes affected by the flooding to provide emotional support, information and referrals to other agencies as needed. When Red Cross visited her, Carol found the support helpful. "It's nice to talk to someone, and know that someone cares."

Now that the flood waters have long receded, things are starting to look up. "The business has picked up, life is back to normal, just a heap of bloody s**t to clean up, but we knew it was going to be long term," says Ward.

"I reckon it will take at least three or four years for the community to get back to normal," says Ward.

Their once thriving garden is slowly growing back and starting to blossom, softening the difficult times. "I had a gardenia at my back door which would have only been knee high - it was completely submerged for about three weeks, it survived, it's in flower at the moment, I don't know how," smiles Carol.

Photos: Carol and Ward Beecher's house and beloved garden under water during the Victorian floods of January 2011. Carol and Ward in Janaury 2012. Carol tends to plants in her nursery. Ward works on a rose tree in his nursery business. Australian Red Cross/Rodney Dekker.

Back to Victorian floods 2011.