Yearly Review 2022

“Though it hasn’t been in the best of circumstances, at least it’s allowed you to spend time with your family”, my friend Sue’s mum commented over lunch yesterday. We were reflecting on the significant amount of time I’ve spent in Lismore over the last eighteen months.

In the middle of 2021, I returned home for my sister Nancy’s funeral. I had initially planned to stay for a couple of weeks, but COVID-19 lockdowns in Sydney prompted me to extend my stay in my hometown. After several decades away, I unexpectedly found myself reconnecting with my family in a more profound way.

During my extended stay, I cherished the opportunity to deepen my connections with my family through meaningful conversations and shared experiences. It was the longest I had stayed in Lismore since my high school years, and it allowed me to get to know my family better than ever before. When I returned to Sydney in October, my brother-in-law Jack remarked, “I feel like we were really getting to know you again properly.”

This year, I made several short trips back to Lismore due to the catastrophic floods in February and March. The first flood was the worst in recorded history, and I vividly remember the phone conversations with my family that night. We exchanged practical information and tried to connect emergency services, but there was also a sense that it could be our last conversation due to the possibility of drowning.

Thankfully, my family was rescued by the “Tinny Army,” a group of people who used their boats to rescue those in need. They were trapped in their two-story homes, and the water level had risen to over one metre. My nephew’s house, with a young baby, was particularly challenging, with water reaching the eaves. In my niece’s house, she and her daughters took refuge in the roof cavity, while my sister Pat sat on the kitchen bench as her husband and grandson stood in chest-deep water.

Despite their rescue, I remained anxious for their safety, particularly when they were on the Ballina Street Bridge nearby. I remembered a story from my childhood where a bridge had collapsed during a flood, and I imagined the same fate for the Ballina Street Bridge. Fortunately, they made it through, and I was immensely grateful for their safety.

Pat, being rescued during the flood. This photograph made the front page of “The Australian”.
Surveying the damage. The floodwaters reached the top of the windows.

Though many of the media reports have concentrated on the economic costs of the flood (the need to clean out and rebuild homes and businesses) the psychological cost has been immense.

Though she seems to be coping much better now, throughout the year I’ve often seen Pat staring mid-range saying, “I can still see the water coming into the house”. “Every time there’s heavy rain, I wonder what’s in store”, my niece, Karran has often said, adding, “I can’t go through that again”.

As we enjoyed Christmas lunch this year, Karran reflected on the meals we had together at my niece’s house (on the hill in Lismore) where everyone took refuge.

Karran and I paid a visit earlier this year to the home where I grew up and met the current owners, Wayne and Noreen. We learned about their experiences during the flood and they kindly invited us in to take a look around. I shared with them memories of the first major flood I remembered. This year was so much worse, reaching the top of their windows, whereas 1974 never reached inside the house. It was a “grounding” moment in what has been a transformative year for me.

As of the end of 2022, numerous individuals in Lismore are still without homes. Some have resorted to living in their cars or staying with loved ones, while Karran’s place still has only one functioning power outlet. Though my nephew will receive a new kitchen this week, others in the area are still “camping” in their damaged homes or residing in caravans in their backyards.

I predict that while the Lismore CBD will likely appear satisfactory by this time next year, the city’s full physical and psychological recovery from the devastating flood earlier this year will take much longer.

The size of the flood, compared with previous records.

Typically, my “year in review” post (this being my twentieth) would encompass a plethora of anecdotes, spanning my experiences with travel, friendships, and work. However, to speak honestly, there is only one significant event that truly resonates this year: the Lismore floods, and the subsequent trials and tribulations faced by my family and thousands of others.

4 thoughts on “Yearly Review 2022

  1. While you did not experience the flood directly, it seems it had quite a profound impact on your psyche. You are now living in two worlds, Sydney and Lismore.

    “as the State Emergency Service was overwhelmed by the scale of the emergency.” Many would suggest that is a kind description. If not for the tinnies…

    We’ve listened to you on the digital wireless the last couple of days, 10.00 to 11.00 at least, though I did have to mention your name to R. I understand the flood and the impact a little more now. Lol, R turned you off today when you played a Midnight Oils song. Frankly, it was loud and raucous, so I don’t blame him. Perhaps we are too old to be the average ABC Radio listener demographic. We were about to go out anyway.

    A very happy 2023 to you and perhaps we can catch up in the new year when we visit Sydney.

  2. To be honest, I’m not a fan of this Midnight Oil track, preferring their older ones. But hey. Over the years I’ve had conversations with a number of listeners about the ABC playing “young people’s music”. And then I’ve mentioned Yoko Ono, Lou Reed etc who had tracks “on the edge” were likely older than them!! Peter Garrett is 69!! But no, I agree, not one of their best. Best wishes to you and R also, and hope to see in 2023.

    1. Many thanks. Though I write this primarily for myself (will be good to have when I get older and my memory is failing!!) it’s great to know others enjoy it too.

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