It’s a strange reality we have here in the Northern Rivers. Eight weeks after one of Australia’s largest floods, Lismore is still limping around trying to normalise the not normal.
Some residents are “back in” their homes. Indulging in their new normal. No walls, no doors, and only one PowerPoint in the power box. A slightly better option than a tent as winter creeps around the corner.
If they are one of the “lucky ones”, they will have more than one room to live in.
For most though, it’s a tight squeeze. What was once their kid’s bedroom? Has now become their lounge room, dining room, and bedroom. And this will remain so for the unforeseen future. With a shortage of materials, tradies, and finances, choosing minimal spending to get you back home, is the difficult decision so many Lismore families must now make.
Returning home doesn’t mean a return to normal. A return to home simply means a roof over your head, a door that locks, and some solace away from living with others.
The generosity of friends and family who have opened their arms over the past 8 weeks has been greatly appreciated. However, as Dorothy said after her home was pushed off its stumps “There’s no place like home”
Not knowing what to say when you see the floods handy work, has been replaced with
“I love what you have done with the place” It seems easier than a “what the fuck!!
Dark humour has become the new street talk. It seems a natural direction to help buffer us from the enormous task ahead.
The muddy hue remains on the leaves and trunks of the trees. The gardens are now full of sewage, mud, and petrol. They seem frozen in time with minimal growth after 2 months of constant rain.
And now and then the wind will carry that unmistakable flood smell up your nose.
As for the local business sector, progress has been painfully slow. Wading through state and federal assistance is a mind field. Constantly second-guessing the right decision for your non-existent business is confusing. It feels like planning for the future with a blindfold on.
Remaining positive, and excited for the future can sometimes feel impossible. I know I feel guarded. I want to get back to business. I look forward to seeing my clients again. But there is a level of caution. What if we all rebuild and it happens again? It will flood. Lismore is a flood town. But 14.3 metres is a level that we just can’t tackle until more flood mitigation has been implemented.
My beautiful studio in the CBD still doesn’t have a ceiling and is still without power. It is however mud free and starting to feel like she is almost ready to accept all her new and shiny fittings.
Collectively Lismore needs to heal. If we aren’t all there at the finish line, is the effort going to be worth it? A town without infrastructure is a town without sustainable business. A town without livable homes is a town without its people.
There is still so much work to do. Every day, trucks, and tradies dart in and out of the CBD, waving their magic to get us back to business. We still don’t have a shopping center, not a single bank, no libraries, or restaurants. It will be a long journey. It will be years before we feel that we have our feet back on the ground. But I’m here for it!!!!