“Who was that?”, I asked a relative working on cleaning up our family homes. He had just taken a phone call from a charity asking for donations to assist survivors of the floods. “I told him we would LOVE a donation”, he joked.

Though the household clean-up continues, today has been a day for me of going through paperwork.

The hardest thing about helping older family members with things like insurance is they have so few electronic records, and all of their paper records washed away in the flood.

“I can barely read the number”, I told one government agency today when they asked for a reference number. “The numbers are so blurred, so I’ll have to guess”, I added.

Pretty much everyone I spoke to understood the gravity of the situation. There was only one moment of incredulity as I spoke to one government agency. “So the document is damaged?”, I was asked, to which I replied, “No it’s washed away.” She then told me it would take three weeks before we could replace the document. “But it would be faster if you went into the office in Lismore”, she added. “No, that’s washed away too”, I told her. By the way, I’ve discovered Services NSW will reopen for four hours on Saturday from 8.30-12.30, but otherwise remains closed.

One older family member has a MyGov account, so it was pretty straightforward applying for the government grant. Another has no such account, and so we effectively had to start from scratch.

On top of all that, it was necessary to regularly pass the phone to older family members who were able to confirm I could speak on their behalf.

“Do you have much of your mother’s paperwork”, I asked someone today. When he replied “no”, and that he had a mother in her 70s, I urged him to make contact with her and document things. “Without being too maudlin, there will be an occasion sometime soon when you’ll need to do some of this stuff”, I told him. 

There were many hours spent on the phone today. As family members listened in to the conversations they were frustrated. In contrast, I was fairly chill about it all. “I’m not very good at lifting furniture and smashing down walls, but I’m pretty good at paperwork”, I told one of my relatives when she thanked me for everything that’s been achieved.

On their behalf, I have applied for a range of government grants and discounts.

I’m still getting emails from friends and workmates asking, “what do you need”? The short answer I’ve told them is “nothing right now, but when people can return to their homes, I might reach out”.

Jack points to the watermark on the bathroom wall of the second story house.

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