Lismore Flood Stories

Every year in my hometown (Lismore) there’s at least one or two occasions when the Wilson’s River floods.

The earliest “big flood” I recall was in March 1974 (when I was aged eight). For close to a week, our house was surrounded by flood water.

Flood Record 1974 in Lismore
Street signs around the town are a reminder of how bad things got back then.
The flood markers of South Lismore, not far from where my sisters both live.
The flood markers of South Lismore, not far from where my sisters both live.

There have been a number of other “big floods” since then, with the most recent occuring in 2017.

Skimmo’s Corner (near where both my sisters live) in the 2017 flood.

People in Lismore are currently being reminded of the 2017 flood, thanks to an installation work at “The Quad” in the centre of town, called Lismore Flood Stories. https://www.lismorefloodstories.net/

The guided walk (with audio accompaniment) can be as long or as short as you want it to be. You put on a raincoat, gumboots, and a pair of headphones. As you walk around, you listen to the real life stories of people’s experiences of the 2017 flood.

I listened to the story of Emily. A single mum with a young child, she tells her memories of the water coming up, hearing the smashing sounds of floating furniture, and of losing the precious books her son had received at birth. Her memories took me back to my own childhood memories.

“Why would you want to tell these stories?”, I somewhat rhetorically asked the installation’s curator, Jeanti St Clair. I’ve known Jeanti for maybe 25 years, through our work at ABC Radio together. I was telling her that my family has many decades of memories of Lismore floods, and the attitude of some older people would question why you would want to remember such terrible events. Jeanti explained that for many people it was a “relief” to tell their stories.

I recorded a radio interview with Jeanti which will go to air this weekend. But here it is now.