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Lismore floods brought community together, bishop says one year later

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Bishop Greg Homeming, Pastor John Wilson, Aunty Thelma James, Governor-General David Hurley, Captain Philip Sutcliffe and Pastor Rebekka Battista. Photo: Supplied

Lismore Bishop Gregory Homeming OCD has spoken of the overwhelming effect of the catastrophic floods in his diocese at a reflection and healing service on the first anniversary of the tragedy.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, Opposition Leader Christopher Minns and Governor-General David Hurley were present at the event held at Mortimer Oval on 28 February, led by the Salvation Army and supported by Catholic, Baptist and Pentecostal faith leaders.

A separate private service was also held in honour of the many volunteers in tinnie boats, kayaks and canoes who spontaneously joined State Emergency Services to find and rescue people trapped on rooftops or in their homes and businesses.

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Bishop Homeming said that when the flood waters first broke into the town everyone in Lismore “woke up pained.”

“The devastation was so severe that our hearts were struggling to know what to do. I think every one of us here wanted to do everything but nobody knew what to do,” he said.

The answer for him as a bishop was to ask the question, “Where is God in the midst of all this?”

“I think that, if anything else, has helped me get through the last year. Because as I looked for God and opened my eyes, I began to see God.”

The bishop spoke of a true community heart which has emerged in working together during the floods and in its aftermath.

“As we began to do the small things we could do, the community’s heart became evident …Community groups are now doing things together,” he said.

“The Catholic Church is doing things, not on its own, but like all the other community groups we’ve recognised that we can’t do it all by ourselves. God is bringing us together.

“Whether you believe in God or not it doesn’t matter. You can’t do things without each other.

“What God has taught me at least, because I believe in God, is never again can we do things alone.”

Five people died in Lismore’s flooding event in which the Wilsons River surged to a record high of 14.4 metres, breaking the town’s levee.

In the hardest-hit parts of North and South Lismore one year on there are still people still living in tents and caravans. Others are still being accommodated by family or friends, the Catholic Leader reported.

Bishop Homeming’s flood appeal attracted funds from across Australia and overseas with part of it allocated to a partnership between the diocese and community organisation Resilience Lismore to create the Two Room Project.

“It allows people to have two rooms of their property habitable, insulated and wherever possible with utilities connected so that people can have some semblance of living under their own roof instead of in tents or caravans,” said diocesan spokesperson Joe Pereira.

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