Even after the February 2022 floods destroyed Monica’s home in Woodburn, she feels optimistic about starting over.
“Third time lucky!” jokes the aged care and disability worker, and mum of two. Monica had already started over multiple times, after leaving former relationships and moving to Woodburn, just an hour south of Byron Bay.
When the rains came in late February, Monica’s first thought was to be close to her family and friends; one of her sons lived close to her best friend, Shelley, in an apartment compound and Monica waited with them until it was safe to move out on boat.
“I was at Shelley’s when the house started filling up with water,” she recounts. “It probably took two and a half days for that to happen. Just nonstop raining. I've never seen it like that before. Just pouring down. There was no give in it. It was just torrential, and we looked out the back and it was like a river.
“Once the house started filling up - it was about one step about every half an hour that was going under and we knew we had to get out.”
Monica’s second son brought his boat around, and she, Shelley, and son evacuated. “By the time we got the evacuation notice, it was too late to leave in a car,” she says. “The roads were blocked the day before and it wasn't high enough for a boat. We were waiting for it to reach a level where my son could get his boat in and that happened at 7:30 at night and the water was up to my belly button.
“So at 7:30 at night he took us to the evacuation centre and dropped us off. And then he and his father went until 4am in the morning and they saved about forty local families from their houses.”
Since then, Monica has moved from one holiday accommodation to the next; the place she was renting in Woodburn is completely destroyed and uninhabitable. It’s not been easy, she says. “The last time I moved I had a meltdown, and I haven't really cried much since the floods. Sorry, I'm gonna cry now. Like I’m a very nice person, and I haven't had anywhere to call home and it's really hard. That's probably taking the biggest toll.”
When she received the Relief Grant of $500 from Red Cross, it took a financial burden off her housing costs. “The unit we're I’m in now has cost me five and a half to six grand in holiday accommodation. But we've got this unit now for three months guaranteed.
“The hardest part is you just don't know where you're going to end up cause there are no houses available. We looked at a rental and half of Woodburn and half of Broadwater was up there looking at it. They wanted $750 a week for it. We offered them $850 but the people that got it offered them over $1,000 a week. That's how hard it is get into the rental market.”
Always looking for a silver lining, Monica says she’s grateful for the support of Red Cross and its donors. “[With Red Cross] the people that I dealt with were absolutely beautiful. They were understanding and they made sure I was okay. It was such a relief and I just felt so supported by that one organisation.
“I think it’s important to thank the people that have helped everyone through this tough time. I’m so grateful for Red Cross and I know some people think $500 is not much. But it’s huge when you have lost everything. Not everyone in this area even realised how bad it was until they saw it for themselves.”