When the rains started in February, Diane and Derek started preparing.
They’d faced floods before in the Hawkesbury region of New South Wales and knew how to move their downstairs furniture and belongings to avoid damage. But this year, the rain hit harder than usual. “It came in a metre upstairs, which caused a fair bit of damage,” says Derek.
The scale of the damage was devastating; the couple lost parts of the downstairs living areas, and upstairs kitchen, bathroom and office space. “This one hurt mentally pretty badly,” says Derek. “And the clean up will take a while.”
“We plod along each day, get something done, then the body tells us to slow down. We stop and start again the next day, which is within our limitations of what we can do.”
Diane and Derek avoided the flooding by moving to higher ground in their caravan, and when the time was right, accessed a Recovery Centre to see what support was available.
“We were met by a very friendly Red Cross person that was meeting everyone at the door. He would immediately assess us from a mental capacity; how were we emotionally? Right behind us was our neighbour who had a very bad time for medical and emotional reasons. She walked in and just broke down. Within seconds, the Red Cross volunteer was immediately able to engage with the right people to give the right support. But then he stayed with her all the way through, walked through the different services that were available and made sure that she was cared for.”
Diane and Derek relied on each other for emotional support, but were thankful for the services offered. “You couldn't put a dollar value on that,” says Derek. “It was gratefully accepted. It took a load off our minds and relieved a lot of stress. We are just in total admiration of the setup, the process, how it all worked, and how it supported us and many others.”
Derek and Diane applied for immediate relief grant from the Red Cross and received $500 to support the cost of refurnishing. “I’ve ordered blinds for the windows,” says Diane. “Because at the moment, we have sheets in for curtains.”
Some of their neighbours have used the relief grant for groceries to feed the family, and to feed their animals.
Meanwhile, the clean up continues. “We’re still finding small things we need to fix or chuck, especially little electrical kitchen items,” says Derek. “Now that they’ve been through the water, we can’t take the risk of turning them on. So we need to replace things like the blender and kettle.”
After their experience, Derek says the one thing that will remain is the dedication and support of Red Cross volunteers. “The main thing that stood out for me with the Red Cross was they knew what they were doing. Not everybody was the same and they didn't treat everybody the same. When you first walked in, there was a friendly face. There was no judgment. They are very quickly able to assess the situation of the person that's in front of them.
“It made a big impression on me the fact that it's not just money. It's not just goods and services. It's the mental support they provided. Everything else was a process that was above and beyond the support that they gave us.”