The Dja Dja Wurrung Cultural Heritage (CH) team assisted with flood recovery in Rochester last week, after their proposal to help was immediately supported by DJAARA senior management.
After reaching out to the Rochester Community House to see what was needed, the team popped on their hi-vis, took plenty of water and headed to Rochester to help in any way they could.
Other than eight homes, the entire town was flooded. Homes, schools, business – everything! Everything waterlogged and covered with mud was beginning to really smell.
The community just needed people power – and quickly. The CH team saw an opportunity where they could help.
As they drove towards the township, the insane level of destruction became clear. The entire town had been decimated with flood waters from the Campaspe River.
What greeted them – beyond the devastation, mud and debris – were locals who thanked them for being there and other volunteers wanting to help. The sun shone on this perfect spring day, as though it was trying to mask the horror the Rochester community has endured.
The team was directed to St Joseph’s Primary School, less than 400 metres from the river, where staff and some students were leading the recovery. CH team members helped move items that had been saved to the gymnasium for sorting.
They could easily see the different departments and what they had been able to save: sporting equipment, science equipment and specimens, arts, and administrative records.
After tucking into a delicious hamburger cooked by the locals, the CH team headed off to help at the local hospital. Sadly, the hospital hadn’t stood a chance against the rising waters: the main hospital, nursing home, medical centre and all admin and reception areas were damaged. Water still sat in puddles in operating theatres; mud coated everything, and furniture sat on wet floors.
With a crash course in removing sodden carpet, they sprang into action with other enthusiastic volunteers, using nothing more than blunt blades, two shovels and brute force to remove the carpet.
It was hard yakka, but no one backed away; small volunteer teams worked on hands and knees in multiple corridors to get the job done. Everyone was all wet, dirty, and smelly, but on they pushed.
The team wrestled the rolls of heavy wet carpet like it was an Olympic sport. Getting slapped in the face with wet carpet, ice skating on carpet glue and dragging kilos of wet carpet to the dumpster didn’t deter the team as they ripped up carpet like there was a prize underneath.
The drive back to Bendigo was quiet as the team reflected on what they had seen and been a part of. The stories that locals had shared were both heartbreaking and inspiring. Thoughts lingered on the devastation, the community spirit, strangers helping strangers, and the smiles and thanks from those who had lost so much. This is a beautiful and resilient community on Country.
Written by Kim Campbell, Cultural Heritage Project Officer