A Bridge Over Troubled Water

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

Eugowra is a small country town in NSW. It’s a town where everyone knows everyone. When tragedy strikes one of its residents, it has a ripple effect. When a crisis strikes the town, it creates a swell of community spirit.

The town of 750 people was one of many communities in the state ravaged by flood waters. In Eugowra, 80 per cent of homes and businesses were damaged, and two residents lost their lives.

Disaster Recovery Coordinator for the Murray Darling Presbytery, Julie Fry, visited Eugowra to support devastated residents.

“I was there four days after the flood, and I was meeting people that were still in shock. These people had experienced a huge adrenalin rush, which heightens all emotions good, bad or otherwise. The problem is that once that adrenalin leaves the body, they become as flat as tack,” Ms Fry said.

“Lots of people I spoke to at Eugowra thought they were going to die. You don’t go through that and just come out of it in two days. It’s a very traumatic thing.”

Eugowra is one of many flood-affected communities the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN) is currently operating across NSW. Other locations include Molong, Orange and Canowindra.

Established in 2009, the DRCN is an ecumenical network created to assist people in NSW who have been affected by disasters and major emergencies within their communities. While other services and groups will aid in caring for people’s physical and emotional needs, chaplaincy seeks to support people’s spirituality.

“When disasters strike, people are affected in every aspect of their lives, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. 

“Chaplains are about helping people with their welfare when they’ve been caught up in a disaster, it’s really about listening more than anything and creating a safe space for people to share their stories”

At the time of writing, government agencies were operating recovery centres in Eugowra, Orange, Parkes, Gunnedah, Cudal, Wagga Wagga, Narrabri, Moree, Narrandera, Deniliquin, Moama, Gunnedah, and Forbes.

Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the multi-agency hubs are designed to help flood-impacted individuals, families, farmers and business owners begin the clean-up, rebuilding and recovery process.

“We need the floodwaters to recede to understand the full extent of the damage, but it’s already clear that hundreds if not thousands of properties have been impacted by flooding across regional, rural and remote NSW clean-up or access emergency accommodation or mental health services,” she said.

“This is an incredibly challenging time, particularly for those who have experienced flood after flood, which is why we’re doing everything we can to provide face-to-face support in local communities.”

“As we transition from the emergency response into the recovery phase, it can be difficult for people to know where to start. These assistance points serve as the first port of call for people beginning their flood recovery journey.”

Ms Fry said one of the biggest issues Eugowra will now face is people leaving the town.

“People will move away while their house is being fixed, children will be moved away from school, businesses will relocate, and as a result, there will be a certain percentage of residents that will say enough is enough, and leave permanently,” she said.

“In my experience, depending on the community devastation, it usually takes around two years before people start looking forward to the future instead of looking back on the disaster. So far, Eugowra, as a little community, is doing remarkably well.”

To support the DRCN’s efforts, the Synod has relaunched its Moderator’s Disaster Fund. To donate or find out more, please visit here.

Jo Maloney

Photo Credit: Mat Reid

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