Brian Donaghy is President of the Society’s Tweed Byron region, which takes in the northern tip of NSW, to Byron Bay. His wife Marie is president of the Mary MacKillop conference, Murwillumbah. The couple live at a small property on the outskirts of Murwillumbah.
In April the worst floods in 63 years ripped through the region, leaving a trail of battered homes and people with nowhere to go.
Brian will be in Adelaide for the October congress. More than six weeks after the flood, he and Marie spoke of people still living in less than ideal circumstances.
‘The Seventh Day Adventist Church has provided a number of people with tents, because there is no accommodation,’ Marie said.
Compounding the problem, as many as 18 caravans in the area got washed away, leaving low income people stranded, and the proprietors of several unaffected caravan parks along the coast have raised their prices.
‘Some of them are charging as much as $500 a week for a caravan,’ Brian added.
In the meantime, Vinnies at Murwillumbah is one of the few charities people can turn to.
‘There is a community centre. But their funding is limited,’ Marie said.
‘Most of the time when people go there, they send them around to us.’
It helps that an appointment is not needed to speak to members of the Society’s Murwillumbah conference.
‘Anyone can come in and see us. If people want a clothing voucher we give them one. We also give other assistance like food, help with electricity and telephone bills, and petrol, if need be.’
Aside from regular flooding and a lack of affordable accommodation for low income people, unemployment is another problem in far north NSW.
‘We live in an area where there is very little employment,’ Brian points out.
‘We have seasonal employment, with the cutting of cane. But there are very few jobs for the people. And that makes it very hard.’