Flash floods unite community

11 May 2023

Flash floods unite community

As parts of Australia experienced incessant rain during October 2022, residents of affected areas in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania were forced to act immediately.

Andrew and Kelly Walker, area officers for north Victoria, spoke to us about how The Salvation Army activated teams to provide assistance to communities as they battled the extreme and continuous downpour. Andrew also holds the position of Corps Officer for Bendigo.

Centres provide flood assistance to impacted areas

It is estimated that 90 per cent of Rochester experienced an unprecedented amount of water in a relatively short time. “The floods in October 2022 were extreme,” stated Andrew.

Local Salvos corps and thrift shops in Rochester, Seymour, Maryborough, Bendigo, Shepparton/Mooroopna, Tatura and Echuca were affected. These corps were also involved in relief centres for those impacted by the floods, helping to provide assistance with meals, bedding, toiletries, clothing and financial grants to people affected. The Salvos Store in Shepparton was quick to offer assistance prior to officially being asked to do so.

Aerial view of flood affected properties that are underwater

During and after the immediate disaster has passed, emotional support is vital for those impacted. As Andrew explained, “Corps officers and local corps were amazing in meeting the needs of people who were in a state of shock, couldn’t get into their homes, or who had potentially lost valuable belongings. Often, they [corps officers and local corps] step into the gaps that other agencies don’t specialise in.”

Volunteers and community go above and beyond

When crisis strikes, it’s heart-warming to see the community stepping up to help, including those who were helping the Salvos for the first time. From community members who knew where we were set up, though to those who discovered us when passing by a hall we were serving meals from; many hands make light work and together, we got to serve the communities that needed it most.

Salvos staff were quick to lend a hand too, often after hours despite being affected by the floods themselves.

Kelly remembered seeing a young 14-year-old unload supplies from a rescue helicopter, to set up material aid in relief centres; this was the same person who has volunteered during Christmas time to prepare hampers. As she stated, “Despite the devastation, people of all ages were willing to lend a hand.”

Local community members were eager and willing to lend a hand with flood assistance. According to Kelly, those in Shepperton that lived around the football field where the meals and material aid were being helicoptered into, organised themselves into lines to load the van with supplies that had just arrived. Some even brought over food for everyone to eat just in case those helping had not eaten.

As Andrew recalled, “Some [people] found it important to help others rather than focusing on themselves.”Prioritising others when it mattered most showed just how dedicated local communities were to get everyone back on their feet.

The situation come Christmas time

Families impacted by the floods didn’t miss out on Christmas cheer. Rochester Corps gave out clothes and toys that were organised by local community members who made it their mission to ensure that no one went without. The Salvos teamed up with the local fire brigade to hand the toys out at a Christmas eve event run by the corps at a park.

The support from the community has been uplifting. As per the latest update from Andrew, relief centres in Rochester gave clothing to those in need. Residents affected were still living in hotels, putting up with family or friends, in caravans outside their own homes, or in the set-up space at Elmore for those affected.

Rochie community event

The Rochester Corps building had experienced damage, with many items yet to be replaced. Many of those in Seymour were being housed in Mickleham, with rebuilding after the event having started.

Echuca was slowly recovering, as was Shepparton and Mooroopna. The Shepparton thrift shop in Mooroopna, was moved to a pop-up location at the local Anglican church.

Swan Hill and Mildura were not as severely impacted, but many from Kerang – once the roads reopened – sought assistance in Swan Hill.

Walking alongside for the long journey ahead

Unfortunately, there remain residents who are still not back in their homes. Additionally, some businesses were forced to close due to the costs associated with setting back up. Kelly states, “There are still works being done on the local hospital that went under in Rochester, and some local residents have chosen not to return to the areas in which they lived. The cost-of-living increase has also not helped in the recovery process for the community. Most people are trying to get back to normal as much as they can, but this is quite difficult when they are still not back in their homes.”

The Salvos have been there for over 140 years, supporting individuals and families when crisis strikes. We provide assistance to support in disasters, such as floods, and serve communities through emergency response.

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