The Lismore floods hit hard, and ongoing support will be needed.
It will take some time for Lismore to get back on its feet, says Emma. “We're all falling apart when we talk to each other. It sounds strange, but when I talk to people and they start crying it actually makes me feel better because I think, I'm not alone in this - like somehow our tears make each other stronger.”
When the floods came in late February 2022, Emma thought she was prepared. Expecting the water to reach similar levels to the 2017 floods, she had just helped a neighbour move some of his belongings before securing some of her own high up. She says she was shocked by the levels the water reached.
“I had decided to stay because I've been through the 2017 flood,” she says. “And that came up about half a metre underneath the floorboards. It didn't come into the house. But this time, I knew that we were in trouble. My house is probably about three meters off the ground. It's lifted on stilts.
"By 2am it came bubbling up through the floorboards. And then the carpets started floating.”
Emma raced to the roof to spend the night as she waited for rescue. “My immediate next-door neighbours have two very small children and they'd gotten up inside the roof cavity. All day I could hear them banging trying to get the tin off so they could get out on the roof. The water was well over my head in the house, probably half a metre off from the ceiling.”
After being rescued, Emma spent a few days at the evacuation centre in Goonellabah. Unlike thousands of others who were left with no homes to return to, Emma was able to rent a caravan she has parked on her neighbour’s property. She says she’s one of the lucky ones. “I’m just lucky I didn't have any pets or children. It was just me. I've got a caravan that I'm renting, and I feel very lucky to have that.”
She says she’s grateful for the Relief Grant from Red Cross, which she intends to spend on purchasing new bedding and kitchen items when she has a more permanent address. “Thank you. The most sincere thank you possible. It's from my heart. It's incredible, because just this thought of rebuilding is just it's so overwhelming. I'm 51, you know, it's your whole life. And seeing your life out on the street was just devastating.
“I basically lost everything in the flood. [Because of housing issues] I don't even have anywhere to put anything at the moment. So I’m still waiting to buy some lovely clean bedding and some saucepans. But I’m still in the mud in the caravan.”
Just as important will be the mental health support for people as they recover, she adds. “We’re in crisis now, but we're still going to need you guys in a year's time. Particularly on the mental health side of things. We're all still just in shock and we’re just go go, go go, we just can't stop. I wouldn't be surprised if when we finally can sit down and process what happened, that's when things are really going to hit hard on that emotional level. I would imagine, over the next year, that the ongoing support is just so important.”