Voice of the real Australia is a regular newsletter of ACM, which has reporters in every state and territory. register here to receive it by e-mail, or here to pass it on to a friend. Today was written by Voice of Real Australia host Tom Melville.
When I visited the Northern Rivers a few weeks ago – nearly two months after record flooding – many roads were still washed out. We were driving in absolute darkness, our GPS was not up to date with the dozens of road closures. We would follow directions on a road for a while, then a bright yellow closed sign would materialize in the darkness.
It was a mad dash through unlit secondary roads dodging car swallowed potholes on the edge of one of Australia’s most destructive natural disasters.
But despite all the stories of devastation and despair you hear from the flooded area – and nervousness – our destination, The Eltham Hotel, was a vision of light and energy. Live music echoed from the beer garden as people poured into the road from inside. It was a small island where the troubles of a moment could not penetrate.
A few weeks earlier, the pub was a veritable island. The River Wilsons curves around the Eltham Hotel and houses just twenty or thirty yards along the road were flooded while the hotel itself was spared. So people flock to this one, one of the only pubs in the area where you can forget you’re in a flood zone.
I was in Northern Rivers working on a special multimedia series, Disaster Country, which we’re launching soon. Journalist John Hanscombe writes excellent features and award-winning Newcastle Herald photographer Marina Neil captured the moving images. There will also be a two-part Voice of Real Australia podcast to listen to.
For Disaster Country, we traveled the East Coast talking to victims of fires and floods, trying to understand how we live in a world more prone to more intense and frequent weather events.
“Australia is getting hard to live with because of these disasters,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a tour of the Northern Rivers in March.
Some reviewers saw this as another worthy but ultimately meaningless TV statement of ScoMo in typical non-action mode. Others have heard a rare acknowledgment of the impact of climate change from Australia’s last prime minister for dragging their feet down the tricky road to net zero.
For those still mired in the mud and disaster of a floodplain with no time for luxuries like political analysis, Mr Morrison’s comment probably struck them as nothing more than a statement of the obvious. screaming.
For our Disaster Country special, we wanted to hear from people who know how difficult it is to live with Australia’s changing climate. Their personal stories and the insights they share – about the realities of natural disasters and the resilience of their communities – are inspiring.
Look out for more to come soon on Disaster Country. In the meantime, stay safe and thanks for reading.