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Seeds of hope sprout one year on from 2022 floods


Content team
3 March 2023
Students sitting in plaza at Lismore campus

Southern Cross University’s Northern Rivers campus looks starkly different to this time last year.

When the catastrophic 2022 floods hit the region in February and March, the University’s Lismore campus became the main evacuation centre for residents and a rallying point for many relief efforts.

But a year later, the high ground of the East Lismore campus has been seized in a way that has dramatically changed the campus.

Thousands of people now work and study on the 75-hectare campus, bringing a commercial and professional vibrancy as a result of relocations and new ventures associated with the floods.

More than 20 local organisations used the Lismore campus as their base in the aftermath of the floods, with a range of service providers remaining on-campus this year.

These include:

  • 30 consulting rooms for Primary Health Network mental health practitioners, general practitioners, and a pop-up pharmacy and pathology.
  • Trinity Christian College and The Living School establishing their schools on campus.
  • Richmond River High relocating to land on the University boundary.
  • TAFE NSW delivering programs from the Lismore campus.
  • Business NSW establishing the Northern Rivers Business Hub as it continues to support local enterprise.
  • A suite of more than 50 pod homes constructed as emergency housing on the University’s football fields.

February 28, the anniversary of the natural disaster, coincided with student Orientation for 2023, almost symbolically welcoming students back to campus face-to-face. Other key features of Southern Cross’s leadership in community recovery include:

  • Seven projects funded under the Vice Chancellor’s Flood Recovery Project Scheme; including developing a digital archive of the Richmond Catchment; discovering community values for river health; mapping the flood experiences and impacts on children and youth; collating a directory of service providers to support in recovery efforts; improving the GIS flood evaluation model; and measuring the mental health and wellbeing of flood-affected marginalised groups.
  • PhD candidate Marian Bailey named 2022 Student of the Year for her volunteer work at the on-campus evacuation centre and continued assistance over the following months to help those who were displaced.
  • Several Southern Cross staff and students awarded medals by Lismore City Council on 28 February 2023 as part of a function for more than 240 boaties who performed rescues during the flood events.
  • Stories of these civilian flood rescuers have been captured by Southern Cross University journalism lecturer Jeanti St Clair and photographer Raimond de Weerdt. Their exhibition, Rescue: Stories and Portraits of Civilian Rescuers from the February 2022 Flood, is currently on display at Lismore’s Serpentine Gallery.

One member of the ‘tinnie army’ was Southern Cross law lecturer Dr Aidan Ricketts. “The beauty of disaster is it brings out community spirit,” Dr Ricketts said. “There are all of the bad things but there’s also all of these amazing, inspirational experiences that you have along the way.”

Southern Cross University Vice President (Engagement) Ben Roche said it was imperative to acknowledge the experiences of the community during and following the floods.

“The values that you should lean into as you move through your study are precisely the values that this University demonstrated 12 months ago when this city and this region was so deeply challenged by the disaster of the 2022 floods,” Mr Roche said.

“We are ambitious. We are bold. We care for our people, we care for our planet, and we care for our communities. We build trust through action, and we do what's right. It is the demonstration of these values that make us a remarkable university.”