I always thought the government would step in when there was a disaster but there was nothing. It was all people from the community helping each other out.
My name is Eydie Smith. I’m a wedding planner from the Northern Rivers. I moved up here about five years ago after university. I love living in Mullumbimby – there’s such a beautiful community here.
When the flood waters hit in March we’d had a weekend of persistent rain. There hadn’t been any flood warnings, but everyone in town was a bit wary.
Over the course of the night the rain kept falling. I got up a few times to check the water levels. At 5am I got woken by a call from my neighbour and when I walked into the front room I could see the street was a river. The water was already over the bonnet of my car.
Our house is raised up on stilts, but the front room already had water on the floor. By the time I’d reached my bedroom it was already flooding. Our street had flooded once before, but water had never gone into people’s houses.
I was just in shock. I just kept thinking about my car, and whether I had the right insurance to cover flood damage. My head was all over the shop. We tried to contact SES for help but they were overloaded.
To get to the evacuation centre we had to wade through the rushing flood water. I’m 5’2” and the water was over my waist. I still can’t believe we did that – you just go into a weird state of adrenaline.
We were in the evacuation centre for 24 hours. You’d think there would be someone in command organising safety patrols to check people were okay. But there was no one to ask for help and no government support – someone had just opened up the RSL. At one point the water started lapping at the stairs to the hall – there was a moment we thought it would flood the centre too.
The next day the flood waters went down and my friends picked me up. Over the next few days we drove around to other towns checking on people, dropping off donations and helping people clear their houses out. I was still traumatised – I had so much adrenaline running through me.
I always thought the government would step in when there was a disaster but there was nothing. It was all people from the community helping each other out. I saw oil spills and cattle lying all bloated by the side of the road a week later. My story isn’t even that harrowing compared to what some people went through. Some communities were still cut off six days after the floods.
Many towns in the Northern Rivers are planned around flooding but no one had seen anything like what we experienced this year. It’s definitely driven by climate change. My family went through the bushfires on the south coast a few years ago.
If climate change continues to get worse we’re going to have nowhere safe to live and our communities will be devastated. The government has a responsibility to put measures in place to make sure all Australians are safe and protected from climate change.
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