In January and April 2023 I went out to Forbes and Eugowra, NSW, Australia to document the ongoing struggles and stories of the people who had endured the floods in November 2022. Here are their stories.
Josh and Ellissa Pigott were woken by a knock at the door at 2.30am. The creek next to their new home in Eugowra, NSW was rising. They took animals to higher ground and returned to lift their belongings. Only an hour later the water was in their home at mid-calf level and rising rapidly. They decided to abandon their home and went to a nearby friend’s place, which theoretically never floods, to wait it out. But at 9am flash flooding came down from the hills. They jumped in a vehicle to get out but minutes later it was up to the windscreen. The whole town went under.
I found Margaret Jones taping a shower curtain to her front screen as she still has no front door for her cottage in Eugowra, NSW. Her family have rallied round with a daughter, granddaughters, nephews and grandsons helping with construction and supplying white goods.
When the flood swept through Margaret, 70, was too old to swim to higher ground or get on the roof. Instead, a fallen door wedged against the bedroom wall and created a kind of ladder for her to get up and stay near the ceiling. Water came up to her chest. Things floated past in the cottage that proved useful to staying alive. A wooden crutch helped keep her up the makeshift ladder and a car sun visor kept her warm.
“I could see out the window. I saw people’s belongings, like eskies, floating past and clumps of canola hay, as big as a car trailer, with dogs on top of them. I was very calm and matter of fact during it all.”
Six hours later she was rescued by helicopter.
This is Tatti King’s home in Eugowra, NSW which went under in the floods of November 2022. There is diesel on the walls to be cleaned and the house is slowly drying out. This is her fourth flood in 18 months as her other home at Ebenezer, NSW near the Hawkesbury River has flooded three times. “I feel like a walking zombie. There is nothing left in the tank. But what doesn’t break you makes you stronger.” On top of all that, Tatti is supporting traumatised clients through this disaster as she runs a local mental health and disability agency called Axcess Disability.
I spent the morning with Ron Pietsch, an old family friend, on his property near Forbes, NSW and we travelled around in his ute. He showed me where two levies protected the homestead from the October and November 2022 floods. However, eight kilometres of fencing needs to be fixed and cleaned before rust sets in to the wires. “It’s best to take each job bit by bit, day by day or you get overwhelmed. Easy does it.”
Josh and Sheena Dawson have a 10 month old baby and very limited funds with which to rebuild. For the last five months they’ve been living in their flood damaged brick home with no insulation, cupboards, flooring or kitchen. They’ve just moved into a Government supplied pod which is fully furnished. Many in Eugowra, NSW, have given up fighting the insurance companies – but not this young couple. After having their claim refused by Allianz they have taken it to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
Allianz claim they were flooded by the creek which is located at the far back of their property. Josh and Sheena say it did not enter their home, but storm water which came down from the hills many hours later did and thus they are covered. They’ll be relying on witness statements from neighbours to help their claim. They are fighting for the rights of everyday Australians everywhere that have been flooded and refused a payout.
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Monique Hohnberg Copyright 2023