Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry led a heart-warming service today, casting flowers into the Tweed River in a symbolic gesture of hope and healing as the region marked the first anniversary of the 2022 flood.
Cr Cherry was joined by Federal Member for Richmond Justine Elliot, Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, Deputy Mayor Meredith Dennis, Councillors Reece Byrnes and Nola Firth as well as representatives from the Australian Red Cross, SES, Tweed Byron Police District, Northern NSW Local Health District and local residents, as they reflected on the devastating events of 28 February 2022.
Speaking from the heart, an emotional Cr Cherry paid tribute to the river as the lifeblood of the Tweed, marking a minute’s silence before leading a procession down to the river to cast flowers off the historic Skinner Lowes Wharf in Murwillumbah.
“Looking at this peaceful river today it’s hard to imagine what was building up 12 months ago,” Cr Cherry said.
“But then as now, we did it together: the shock, the losses, the destruction, and the helping one another through. This river gives the Tweed life and the beautiful green scenery you see all around. It sustains our forests and farms, our villages and towns, from Wollumbin to the sea.
“But we know that as much as the river gives, it can also take, and it has never taken as much as it has in the past year, and we are still recovering.
“Today is an incredibly personal moment– it is about acknowledging all that we went through, but also all that we are still going through. For many, the experience of 28 February and what followed is still raw. It’s too early to start thinking about healing, while they are still dealing with damage to their houses, struggling to find suitable long-term alternative accommodation, trying to access insurance payments and dealing with feelings of loss.
“To those who aren’t here today for those reasons, I have you in my thoughts and my heart. I hope that one day, you will make your own peace with this river and your experiences of 12 months ago. I understand that healing is an intensely personal thing, and we all have our own journey to take.”
Cr Cherry said the ceremony was another step in the journey towards recovery, with the flowers used carefully selected by a local florist as symbols of hope across cultures.
The ceremony followed an earlier community breakfast hosted by Business Kingscliff President, Cr James Owen, which drew a strong crowd, while a variety of additional community activities will be held across the week to mark the anniversary.
One of the events, DROPS, hosted by the Australian Red Cross together with Council, invites residents affected by the flood to drop into the Murwillumbah Civic Centre Auditorium to share their experiences through contributing to an artwork.
Australian Red Cross spokesperson Penny Harrison said the Disaster Recovery of Personal Stories (DROPS) initiative was just one of the ways the Red Cross was supporting local communities to take time to reflect on how far they’ve come in their recovery journey over the past 12 months.
“The DROPS initiative is about providing a safe place for Tweed community members to reflect on the past 12 months, by expressing their feelings and thoughts on a paper ‘drop’ which is then posted on a display board within the Murwillumbah Council Auditorium,” Ms Harrison said.
“Over the past 12 months, the Australian Red Cross has helped many communities on the journey to recovery, firstly through the disbursement of financial grants, and secondly through ongoing recovery programs on the ground.
“Much of the work we’re doing now simply wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of our donors right across the nation who contributed to both the Australian Red Cross Flood Appeal and the Australia Unites telethon which raised an incredible $55.6 million.
"To help demonstrate how these vital funds have provided both immediate and ongoing recovery work with communities including programs designed to build resilience, today Australian Red Cross has released a 12-month Flood Report which can be found at redcross.org.au.”
Other activities on the go include events hosted by Chinderah Donations Hub and Hub 2484 today, while the Pottsville Community Resilience team is hosting a community barbecue and working bee at St Mark’s Anglican Church community garden on Saturday 4 March.