Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Slow recovery ahead in disaster areas

Written by Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson

Many communities have been heavily impacted by Tropical Cyclone Debbie and the aftermath of the flooding which continues throughout the east of Queensland and the NSW far north coast.

Thousands of people have been evacuated and many do not have liveable houses to return to.

Others are still to return and discover the condition of their homes and businesses.

For others it is a heart-wrenching time of cleaning up and throwing out ruined carpet, fittings, furniture and sodden precious items of deep sentimental and historical value.

In Lismore some businesses may not be able to start again, particularly those haven’t been able to afford the cost of flood insurance. Many have relied on a levee which has held since the early 1970s, but the levee was breached by the excessive height of this flooding.

There are areas of Queensland and NSW which are still just becoming accessible, and communications are not yet restored. This isolation has been very stressful for the residents and their loved ones.

The Church (Congregations, Synods, Presbyteries), with the rest of the community, is assessing damage to its own property and its capacity to respond to local needs. (There might be a link here to the example of Lismore UC in Insights).

Peer Support (using trained ministers to come beside and support ministers and congregations in disaster-affected areas) will be implemented in the Central Queensland, Northern Queensland and the Far North Coast (NSW) Presbyteries.

The National Disaster Recovery Officer, Rev. Dr. Stephen Robinson is working to support the early stages of recovery, and assist in formation of applications to the National Disaster Relief Fund.

There are likely to be some temporary recovery positions established with the sole purpose of addressing the needs of the people affected in these communities.

The NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN) is an ecumenical ministry organised by the Uniting Church Synod which works with the NSW Government’s Disaster Welfare Services in these circumstances.

DRCN chaplains have been ministering in Lismore and Murwillumbah. They are receiving lots of referrals from the SES, RFS NSW Mental Health Services and Lismore City Council. Chaplains are currently caring for shop owners and workers in the devastated CBDs and locals visiting recovery centres. They are cooperating with Red Cross and Anglicare volunteers in outreach to support those who are most affected by this event.

As the national focus moves from one disaster zone to another with each event, it is common for disaster-affected people to fear that they will be forgotten, now they are no longer in the news.

It is important to continue to support them with our prayer, messages and financial support through appeals.

If you can donate please give to the Assembly's National Disaster Relief Fund or to the Queensland Synod Disaster Relief Appeal.