I can’t really begin to explain the level of devastation our local communities have experienced by these floods, or just how wide reaching the devastation is. I’ve never really experienced a climate catastrophe before, but everyone switches to this place of operating on adrenaline, just pure fight or flight. Everyone begins to make quick, snap decisions – some of which were life-saving (like the Koori Mail starting a go-fund-me and recovery centre in Lismore only hours after the floods, or Resilient Byron setting up a recovery centre at Mullumbimby’s Civic Hall within 24 hours). But other moments feel like we’re all running around in circles trying to help. It was truly chaos – I think in times like this there has to be a level of chaos.
The chaos was compounded in that first week by all communications networks being down – zero internet and very little cell service, as well as all highways in and out of our region were cut off – which meant no food and no fuel. People began to panic-buy and the supermarket shelves were absolutely bare.
Up until a few weeks ago I’d always thought of my community as existing within our little town of Byron Bay – but what I see now is our community is spread across the whole region, from Woodburn where friends’ houses and businesses have been decimated across to Lismore and Coraki where clean-ups feels almost futile and along the coast toward the Qld border where some members of our team have lost everything they own. And not only is everyone spread across the region in terms of where we live, we also rely on the same access to the outside world via that main highway in and out. We are all just as vulnerable when it comes to food and fuel shortages – it’s just that some families are much more vulnerable than others, which is why coming together as one big community in the face of such loss has been so very crucial.
In the first week after the floods everyone snapped into gear almost immediately – the first priorities were checking on friends, family and our team to see if everyone was able to evacuate. Those who were evacuated by SES and civilian boats still speak about it with a level of trauma, they’re still processing. Everyone had someone to go and help in that first week, and if they didn’t they went to the houses of strangers to offer their help. Then everyone’s focus went a little wider to the communities further afield and the devastation seemed even more unfathomable. Everyone was trying to mobilise.
But mobilising is not something that can always be easily or quickly done. Often it’s hard to know how to start, what to do or who to call…? Thankfully, a few years ago after the climate strikes my friends and I started a little ‘club’ called the Radical Hope Club – we were meeting every few weeks to discuss climate resiliency in our community, social justice and other social topics that moved us. Over the past year we had begun to wonder ‘what is our purpose?’ and to be honest, feeling a little foolish, without any big projects coming to fruition. However, when the floods struck we were able to mobilise incredibly quickly. We already had a group text between a bunch of very activated and connected women and immediately we jumped to action. We were able to call on our local connections to have food put aside at supermarkets so we could do big cook ups for flood affected families and volunteers. We helped connect the dots with dozens of displaced families who needed emergency housing. We organised buses of cleaning teams to hit the most devastated areas and coordinated donation drop off points. We met with local council members about short term housing solutions and fundraising. Each of us leaning into our own strengths and sharing our networks to make each connection stronger. It was quite an amazing thing to be a part of. There have been many groups of friends doing similar things, countless people achieving incredible things in their own networks – ours was just one of many. I felt very proud to be part of a community with a big heart and a strong, connected core.
And all the while, our team members at Spell have had one foot in the office, keeping the business operating – whilst still outstretched, helping family and friends, donating their time and expertise to flood relief. Im in awe of my team. They are unstoppable. A huge thank you to everyone one of them who helped turn around our Spell Renew launch so quickly so we could give 100% of profits to Flood Relief.
I also wanted to extend a huge thank you to our Spell community during this time. In that first week when the whole town went offline we really went into radio silence and our community was very patient, and then when they started contacting us it was to check if our team and community were ok, and to ask if there was anything they could do to help. It has filled my heart with so much gratitude that we are surrounded by such a strong, generous, and compassionate community. Thank you to you all!
Our Northern Rivers community will take decades to recover from these floods – and this fact, viewed through the lens of a Climate Emergency make it feel even more overwhelming. But never before have I felt the power of community and good will so strong and alive – and this gives me a lot of hope. On Tuesday we launched our latest Spell Renew collection (made with deadstock which means fewer carbon emissions and a much more responsible step toward circularity in fashion) and we pledged 100% of the profits to Flood Relief. Through this initiative we will be donating $98,000 to the local Bundjalung not-for-profit Bunjum Aboriginal Co-operative who are providing short and long-term flood relief for their communities.
Every cent of our donation will go toward flood relief:
- Short term housing and crisis support
- Healing Trauma and well-being counselling
- Clothing, food and phone access
- Supporting children’s return to a learning environment
- Helping Elders and community’s most vulnerable to access services resources
- Rebuilding infrastructure of cultural significance
- Restoring farming land
- Support Women’s and Men’s groups by maintaining services
We know there were many of you who missed out on shopping this limited-edition capsule, but don’t worry – we have some very exciting RAFFLES coming later this week if you would like to contribute to the next phase of our #spellFloodRelief efforts.