Disaster Relief Australia will launch flood recovery Operation Riordan on 13th August 2022 to help Northern Rivers residents recover from catastrophic flooding. The operation will focus on home and property repairs aiming to get the community safe, secure, and warm.
In February 2022, Southern Queensland and the Northern Rivers region of NSW were overwhelmed by one of the worst floods in modern Australian history. Communities watched hopelessly in disbelief as their livelihoods washed away.
In response, veteran-led Disaster Relief Australia conducted its largest disaster response activity since the inception of the organisation 5 years ago. 714 volunteers responded to 526 requests for help from early March to May 8th.
As DRA paused operations to restock and repair, another catastrophic flood hit the NSW Northern Rivers region. Residents who were already having trouble recovering reeled as the city was inundated once more, wrecking all attempts to resume some normalcy.
Almost 3000 residential and commercial structures throughout the city, including nearly every residence in North and South Lismore, were submerged above floor level. The majority of these houses were stripped of all interior walls, insulation, ceilings, carpets, and cabinetry, which were then dumped onto the street in heaps nearly as high as the flood levels.
Five months after the February flood, more than 1000 Lismore individuals are still without a home and staying in temporary housing. Only 20% of businesses are currently open. Residents are camping on their properties or staying with relatives and friends. Some have returned to their mould-infested, uninhabitable homes, while others are couch surfing or living in tents or cars.
For Disaster Relief Australia CEO Geoff Evans, it’s personal. “Lismore is my hometown and many of my family and friends who still live there were impacted by the recent floods. I experienced many floods in my youth, but nothing so severe as the floods that occurred in February and March of this year. These floods were unprecedented, entering many homes that had never flooded before. Coming so soon after the 2017 floods, the impact on the community has been dramatic.
Lismore is a resilient community. People are already picking up the pieces and putting their lives back together. For many though, they have been unable to take that important first step in their long journey to recovery. I am proud to be launching Operation Riordan, named for NSW-born army nurse Ellen Agnes Meline Riordan.”
Disaster Relief Australia will be working with local community disaster recovery organisation, Resilient Lismore, to ensure the recovery efforts are integrated with local knowledge and systems. Elly Bird, Director of Resilient Lismore, said, “Resilient Lismore is really pleased to be working with DRA on their return to the Northern Rivers. There is still so, so much work to do in Lismore and in surrounding communities and we know that their expertise in disaster relief will be a big assistance in our community.
We will be working with DRA to close out some of the big jobs that we haven’t been able to manage with our own volunteers and we will also be inviting some of their teams to help us with our two rooms project which is focused on restoring safe, secure and warm housing for people who need it.”
Wayne O’Brien joined DRA in 2021 as bushfires raged through his local Perth Hills. Now manager of the Western Australian Disaster Relief Team, Wayne is finding himself on the other side of the country leading the operation as Theatre Commander.
“With assistance from community-run organisation Resilient Lismore, we will assist locals and businesses in getting back on their feet. We hope to make a big impact and bring real help to the region. We’re always looking for motivated volunteers to bolster our numbers and are urging Australians everywhere to work alongside DRA members experienced in disaster recovery work. You can sign up on our website in minutes and our mobilisation team can get you on the ground with us in days.”
A base of operations will be located at the Southern Cross Football Centre in East Lismore and will run from 13th August to 11 September 2022. Funding permitting, the operation could continue until 26 September.