Lismore campus to house temporary accommodation for flood-affected residents

Published 17 May 2022
Aerial picture of Lismore after 2022 floods

Temporary accommodation will be constructed adjacent to Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus to house flood-affected residents. In an agreement with the NSW Government, a soccer pitch and car park will be used to accommodate modular homes known as ‘pods’.

The University has been central to the flood recovery effort, with the Lismore campus now home to two flood-affected schools, local Police headquarters as well as many health and community services.

From mucking out flooded homes, to coordinating volunteers and donations, many students and staff went above and beyond for their community.

They started collecting people off roofs, out of boats, helicopters. We would have every 15 to 30 minutes Blackhawk helicopters landing on the Morrie Ryan rugby oval dropping people off.

The campus was in complete blackout and there was very very patchy mobile connectivity. So we had little sense of what was happening.

We had up to a thousand people here it's just it was this multifaceted approach to the response that involved not only looking after evacuees and housing their primary needs of you know food, water and power, balancing that off the response and what we needed to help to provide to the ADF, the police and the ambulance. You were sort of trying to wear multiple hats at one time.

And we very quickly agreed that our response to the questions would be yes and then we'd work out what that meant afterwards. For the university, so it was just an enormous task to get that mobilized and get that happening and then all the logistics around that so you know Salvation Army was doing a thousand meals a day um then doing breakfasts and lunch so just the logistics around that all of the donations that came into the university.

We've had an outpouring of different regions come here and donate their products and goods for us to distribute out to the community, some are even flood affected that have been given so many donations themselves which is really really inspiring.

As a kid I grew up in uh I was born in Weewa and the floods drove us out in 74 I think it was and my family were affected by floods when I was a child so it holds strong to me so yeah. People don't want to sit on their hands and don't want to be doing nothing and they will do anything to help, they don't care if it's scrubbing down mud or if it's doing deliveries or if it's just picking up boxes and throwing things around I've really seen that genuine community spirit.

I just trawled Facebook for addresses that were popping up that needed help. When you first walk in you can't ignore the smell, that's the first thing that you notice and then it kind of just clicks in that this is someone's life this is their reality we started there with a team of students and then we just didn't stop. The adrenaline takes over and you just go and go you don't even think twice about it.

Yeah it's quite shocking it's um just seeing people with the whole world's possessions destroyed on the sidewalk so it's quite confronting but we're yeah we're just trying our best to do what we can to help them even if it's just a chat to reassure them or you know we've ripped up floorboards pulled up linos, separated garbage, yeah everyone's sort of working together and you know just pitching in because everyone just wants to help the community and help people get on with their lives.

All the people who've been volunteering day in and day out have just been truly amazing and the amount of donations coming in is also quite unreal I mean I actually over the last couple of weeks I've found the whole thing quite emotional in so many ways how people come together how people you know support each other even under really difficult circumstances and also how resilient our staff have been.

You know we've turned over pretty much every single square metre of space that we have on the Lismore campus to become a springboard for the recovery of Lismore and the region the fact that we've got we've got a police station on campus we've got three schools we've got a business recovery hub, the public recovery hub, we've got a health precinct standing up health and medical services that are currently unavailable in the town because pretty much every medical centre in Lismore has been wiped out.We've got professional services operating out of the campus um so that people can have their court hearings so people can see their children you know and get some sense of movement and productivity again. All of that has happened because the University said yes first and foremost.

Like the rest of the CBD and north and south Lismore my business was literally up to the ceiling. Business NSW, in partnership with SCU is setting up this business hub. We have hot desks, we will be running Q&A sessions for insurance, for commercial tenancies, for the landlords for the tenants. There's a lot of very traumatized people in town but really the focus here is to actually get businesses up and running as soon as we can and to find out what businesses need to be able to do that. I don't know where we would do this if the University wasn't here.

So we had a total of eight classrooms on the third floor that did not have water in them. The rest of the entire two campuses were inundated.

It's wonderful to be here at Southern Cross University in wonderful facilities working with wonderful staff from the university to keep the education journey happening and alive for our students. Oh I think we all had a sense of relief just to know that we do have a place to be able to come together and still learn. It's really great to just even see everyone and be around people that are going through things and we can really lean on each other.

The University campus is just one of nine locations selected to house 800 temporary homes.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the NSW Government is focussed on delivering flexible support to meet the needs of all residents impacted by the unprecedented flooding.

“We’re committed to assisting around 25,000 households through our $350 million housing response including rental support, Disaster Relief Grants and the Back Home program,” Mr Toole said.

“In the first instance we want to be able to get as many people as possible safely back into their own homes but we know for many people this is simply not an option.

“The announcement of a further eight additional sites, providing temporary housing for people, is part of our commitment to keeping communities together as they navigate their ongoing recovery, with more in the pipeline.”

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the NSW Government is working hard to deliver a range of housing solutions across the Northern Rivers region.

“The types of temporary accommodation now in production include caravans, Minderoo pods, self-contained studio homes and one, two or three bedroom modular homes, ensuring that a range of family sizes can be accommodated,” Ms Cooke said.

“Housing remains one of the most pressing needs for people in flood-affected communities and is why we’re using all of the resources at our disposal to get people the help they need now and in the months to come.

“Each site was identified in partnership with local councils and I’d like to particularly recognise Southern Cross University, who have been a fantastic partner for us, hosting our recovery centre, the recent flood inquiry public meeting and now a temporary accommodation site.”

Soccer field land for temporary housing

Some of the University land that will be used for temporary housing.

Once site establishment work and the connection of utilities is complete, each site will be handed over to a community housing provider, who will allocate and manage the ‘pods’. Minister for Lands and Water Kevin Anderson said it is important that Crown Lands plays a part in the accommodation solution.

“We have put pen to paper on leasing arrangements that will enable Crown Land to play a significant role in supporting the residents of the Northern Rivers region, while they recover from this unprecedented flooding event,” Mr Anderson said.

The NSW Government is also working on longer-term housing solutions for flood-affected communities, such as the funding of social and Aboriginal housing.

The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation has been created and tasked with coordinating planning, rebuilding and construction work of essential services, infrastructure and housing beyond the immediate response and recovery phase.

Flood-affected community members seeking housing support are urged to contact Service NSW on 13 77 88, visit nsw.gov.au/floods or speak to Recovery Centre staff.

Media contact: Media and content team content@scu.edu.au