Dr Natalie Edmiston

A survey of Northern Rivers residents conducted by five fourth-year medical students from the University of Western Sydney has highlighted the value of creating art and accessing arts activities to promote mental wellbeing.

The benefits of arts activities for health and wellbeing are well documented. The aim of this local study was to gauge the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns, and the subsequent loss of access to arts activities on mental health and wellbeing.

The research topic was developed by University Centre for Rural Health (Lismore) Research Lead Dr Natalie Edmiston, with the assistance of Dr Andrew Binns and Dr Tien Khoo. Students Ruban Sivakumar, Rory Sinclair, Jeyvin Nandakumaran, Tushar Vashisht and Sanju Sonnadara created the online survey especially for people living in Northern NSW.

After the Rain You Tube

Who pays for paradise after the rain?
After the rain - The Angels, November 1978

On 23 June 2022 NorDocs held its first face to face meeting in almost three years. “FloodDocs Recovery Day” was a chance for the North Coast medical community to come together to share their stories, the highs and the lows, of the recent devastating floods.

The towns along the Richmond and Wilson Rivers, having suffered through two years of COVID-19, were just starting to emerge from the pandemic when the record breaking flood of 28 February 2022 hit. It destroyed homes and businesses in North, South, East and Central Lismore as well as the downstream hamlets of Coraki and Woodburn. Five lives were lost.  

Should I stay or should I go now

Should I stay or should I go now

If I go there will be trouble

If I stay it will be double

So you gotta let me know

Should I stay or should I go

 

While Council searches for solutions, an experts’ report says Lismore needs to build a ‘new heart’. Robin Osborne looks at early suggestions for the flood-struck city’s future.

 The quandary is not new, ranging from the collective to the personal. Should We Stay or Should We Go, asked best-selling author Lionel Shriver in the title of a recent novel, while punk band The Clash wondered the same in 1981.

Like many others, for various reasons, they posed a question whose answers are frustratingly elusive.

Lismore, devastated by flooding, is facing the same dilemma – should it go, by folding its tents and moving uphill, or stay, like King Canute, the champion of stayers, and try to win the battle against nature by increasingly clever engineering and building solutions.

Flooding in Lismore

‘This is about flood-proofing these towns’ – NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole

In March 2022, the NSW Government commissioned an independent expert inquiry into the preparation for, causes of, response to and recovery from the 2022 catastrophic flood event across the state of NSW. The Inquiry is being led by Professor Mary O’Kane AC and (former NSW Police Commissioner) Michael (Mick) Fuller APM.

The team is consulting directly with impacted communities in the Northern Rivers, with plans for virtual meetings in the Hawkesbury-Nepean and Clarence River regions in mid-June. It is not the only body looking into the disaster. 

At the 31 May sitting of the NSW Upper House’s Select Committee on the Response to Major Flooding across New South Wales in Lismore several Northern Rivers mayors and MPs attacked the performance of Resilience NSW in the aftermath of the February flood, with the lead agency for disaster management being called ‘institutionally incapable of doing the job’.

Colin Beard photographed by Rob Crosby, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW

Rock legend the late Jimi Hendrix photographed by Colin Beard at the Monterey Pop Festival in California in 1967. Signed print number 3/25 was listed for sale on eBay this year for $A1,432.00

Photographer Colin Beard photographed by Rob Crosby, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW.

Rob Crosby, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW communications coordinator, came across Colin Beard in the disaster recovery centre in Lismore a few days after the regional city and much of the surrounding area was inundated by floodwaters.

Like thousands of evacuees in the Northern Rivers, Colin, who is 83, had plenty of stories to tell, not least about courage and kindness of those who had rescued him from his flooded home downriver in Coraki and taken him into their home and hearts.

‘I realised the water was starting to come up and thought ‘I better get out of here,’ but I couldn’t find my cat Sweetie,’ Colin told Rob.