The floods inform us the river is sick. We must always hearken to Indigenous information to assist Nation heal | Oliver Costello


Our household, neighborhood and Nation have been severely impacted by the intense rain and floods round Lismore in February and March 2022.

Luckily, our place at Rosebank was solely topic to minor injury from stormwater runoff in the course of the torrential downpours. However I’m upset about the way in which Nation has and is being handled each regionally and globally.

Lots of the previous folks sorted and knew tips on how to stay on Nation in a wholesome method. Now, I concern we are going to simply blame the rain. We’ve a giant alternative to study, and I hope we do for our personal sake. We have to honour the previous folks’s methods and assist restore Nation.

When Rosebank was flooded on Sunday 27 February, we went all the way down to Coopers Creek within the afternoon when the rain stopped so we may see the flooding. It had burst the banks and was intensive.

That night heavy rain returned and got here in regular for a couple of hours. I went to mattress at about 10pm. I used to be mendacity in mattress listening to the rain. I grew up with tin roofs and heavy rains so I like the sounds and the abundance it symbolises. I used to be drifting, enthusiastic about therapeutic Nation – as I usually do – and waterscaping the backyard to raised harness the rain.

Instantly, round 11pm, the rain depth elevated. I felt the power shift and a deep, hole feeling stuffed inside my stomach.

An enormous restoration effort adopted the evacuations. There was an incredible neighborhood response however it seems that companies concerned have been very under-resourced and never properly ready for such an excessive occasion. With the growing impacts of local weather change, these flood occasions may simply change into our new regular.

Storms with heavy rains and floods are highly effective components and have formed these landscapes for millennia. They’re vital ecosystem features which act to recharge and clear out catchments however they’re dangerous if folks clear land, carve up the earth and drain the wetlands, which is what occurs to many of the affected areas.

There may be rising recognition of the position Indigenous folks can play in coping with excessive occasions and mitigating impacts on their communities, together with cultural and environmental values.

Indigenous communities show nice resilience and have longstanding connections to their Nation. They maintain conventional information and proceed customary practices that may help in planning, response, restoration and resilience to local weather change and excessive occasions.

For hundreds of thousands of years, water has flowed throughout this place we name Bundjalung Jagun, shaping the panorama and instructing us Lore. There are various conventional tales that train about the way in which the ancestors formed the Nation. We even have tales about how folks cared for Nation by defending areas and species in locations or seasonally or how species moved or have been shifted round to keep up kinship and abundance. I imagine the 2017 and 2022 floods, and the 2019 and 2022 bushfires, are vital tales that our previous folks would have created tales about and informed them for 1000’s of years.

Many individuals don’t belief the river because it bursts its banks and flows throughout the floodplains inundating houses and livelihoods. However I belief the river extra at this time than the day earlier than. I imagine our rivers all the time inform the reality and we should belief in them and look after them.

The river was as soon as wholesome and the locals knew it properly. The reality is that individuals are each the issue and the answer, not the river. The one solution to study is from the river, like our previous folks did after they sat on its excessive banks of crimson and inexperienced. Now it’s so sick, it’s exhausting, if not not possible, to know the plentiful magnificence it as soon as held. As a substitute of being celebrated because it was as soon as, it’s cursed and handled as a drain.

We have to heal the river so it could actually train us good methods to stay with it and all that she brings. Therapeutic the river will assist heal folks too. Hopefully we are going to all study and share these connections. We have to belief the river extra now than ever earlier than. The river and the climate are telling us the Nation is unhealthy, not simply right here however globally as a result of temperatures, rainfall and different indicators are altering extra quickly and to larger extremes.

The local weather is clearly altering. It’s as a result of most individuals have forgotten the Lores of the sky, land and water. Bundjalung Jagun was as soon as a really wholesome place for our previous folks and those earlier than them. Our ancestors have lived in abundance right here since time started.

To revive the rivers, we have to begin with the tales bringing information holders collectively to share the information of Nation to determine vital locations and values of significance. We have to begin a journey and we have to hold strolling, speaking and flowing collectively.

  • Oliver Costello is a Bundjalung man who has lived most of his life within the higher catchment of the Wilsons River and tributaries

  • That is an edited excerpt from his private submission to the NSW flood inquiry report

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