We are residents of the Northern Rivers area speaking on behalf of some of our brave and determined community leaders organising rescue and supply operations across the region.
CAPTION: A community meeting to plan flood-relief efforts at the Rotorwings Hanger, Lismore Airport. Photo by Leila Joy.
We wish to acknowledge many dozens of community coordinators and many thousands of community volunteers – all of them heroes – who have worked alongside us in the last 11 days.
All of us stepped up to support community where official emergency services were overwhelmed managing a disaster of this size.
We are burdened with the emotional weight of what our community is journeying through, with the devastating circumstances of the community members we are supporting, and the enormity of what is still to be done in North-eastern NSW.
There’s much work done already, and so much more to do.
Communities have coordinated via Facebook groups, google sheets, mobile operations centres, centralised community hall hubs, starlink internet hubs and UHF radios to reach those needing help in the toughest terrain.
And there are still many many people unaccounted for.
The people of the Northern Rivers have come together to organise ground, water and air rescue operations.
A growing interconnected network of community volunteers, many of whom have high-level professional and disaster skills, have contributed an extraordinary amount to the emergency response and recovery process.
What has been achieved includes:
- Several hundred on-ground supply drops and evacuations – many through difficult terrain, including high-risk, decon trekking missions to residents cut off by landslips, broken bridges and sections of road that have altogether disappeared.
- Around 400 evacuations, air drops, medical access and rescues from air – using at least 15 privately-funded private helicopters and air assets
- Tens of thousands of rescues by tinnies and 4WD
- Coordination of:
- Thousands of people doing street and house clean-up (“Mud armies”)
- Ongoing information-rich welfare checks (in towns and isolated communities including remote indigenous communities)
- Scouring social media groups for help requests and triaging them
- Taking and responding to distress calls when SES and 000 couldn’t respond
- Coordinating supplies, volunteers and food for evacuation centres and isolated communities
The community-led emergency and recovery operation has been active from day one and is now fine tuning the systems it has set up in 10 days.
The community effort has been nothing short of unbelievable and a true testament to what an agile and immediate community response looks like.
We admire and are deeply grateful for all the work that local emergency services and state and federal government resources have achieved.
The local SES crews are our friends and family members and volunteers working incredibly hard alongside us.
And we welcome the hundreds of ADF, Police and other agency crews coming from all around Australia to help our desperate communities.
Various community coordinators have been working on ensuring streamlined, coordinated and harmonious intelligence sharing and response efforts.
This has included many conversations and connections in different regions, moving towards building a key interface with heads of all relevant government and agency heads.
We are grateful for the open connections that these senior personnel are actively offering to us.
Finally, we acknowledge all those working tirelessly and passionately, from all backgrounds and layers of society.
It’s been a massive flood event and so many of us are living with trauma and stories that will take days, weeks, months and years to recover and rebuild.