Rese and her partner Kai had just started their farm stay and Air BnB business on Goat Island in the middle of the Richmond River before the floods washed it away in February. With 60 goats, horses and cows, it was a place where the couple would raise their blended family and maintain an income.
But when the rains came, Rese and Kai lost their haven. “When the floods hit Lismore we knew that it was going to be quite high” says Rese.
After a sleepless night with neighbours back on the mainland, Rese and Kai used their boat to rescue people across the community who were stranded. After three days on the water, Marese was exhausted and had to retire from the rescues to focus on healing her body. She says the $500 Relief Grant she received from the Red Cross paid for fuel for the boat rescues, water that they were handing out to stranded people, and medicines to heal the injuries she incurred after three days on the boat.
“We like to think that that's Red Cross money. That was fuel. Absolutely nearly all of it fuel. And it wasn't just for us. It was the other people to get people out and evacuate and get some water to people that stayed in their homes.”
When Polly went to bed on a Sunday, she couldn’t have known less than 24 hours later she would be sobbing into a stranger’s arms. The flood warning she was watching assured her the floods in Lismore weren’t expected to peak until the following day.
But as she awoke in the dark, she knew it was time to move. “I woke up about 3:30 in the morning, and picked up my phone. A friend of mine had texted me to say I hope you're on high ground. I went into the kitchen and I picked up a torch, and I looked out the back and all I could see from my backyard was the top of my birdbath so I knew that there was at least a half a metre of water in my backyard.”
She was eventually rescued by an SES crew and taken to an evacuation centre where she collapsed emotionally. With all her belongings washed away in the water, including her mobile phone, Polly had no way to let her family and friends know she was OK. She was supported to register with the Register.Find.Reunite service, and found siblings and friends had already enquired with the service to see if she was safe.
“They said, “Where are you from? Are you OK?”. I said, “No, I’m not.” I didn’t have my phone. I didn’t have anything. I had no way of letting anybody know that I was okay. And that's what the Red Cross did.”
“I lost everything. I lost my business. I lost my home, I lost my dog and I lost my cards. It was through the Red Cross, that made me feel alive.”