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Byron Shire
February 22, 2024

First-hand flood accounts on film

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Local flood film Out of the Mud is a feature-length documentary featuring first-hand accounts from local Northern Rivers residents following the catastrophic floods of 2022.

The film’s makers are seeking support for its release which they hope will happen over the next couple of months.

Bangalow resident and filmmaker Olivia Katz says Out of the Mud has captured stories of harrowing rescues, heartbreak, and incomprehensible loss, balanced by evidence of these communities’ astounding strength, generosity, resourcefulness, humility and kindness amidst the continuing chaos of this disaster.

We are in crisis

Katz says there are just so many people still suffering. ‘We are in crisis. The heart of this project is to bring more awareness and more support to the region. People living here mostly know what’s happening – the water has receded – but some people are living in gutted houses with one power point, no water or no hot water and no access to a kitchen and proper bathroom facilities.’

While most of the filming is done, there are production costs associated with the completion of the film, including editing, sound and distribution with an estimation of at least $45,000 to get the project over the line.

Katz says that it’s was difficult to navigate the interviews. ‘While a lot of people were relieved and very willing to share their stories, there were a number of people I came across who wanted to share but were very afraid to, afraid that it would then jeopardise their chances of eventually receiving support –whether it is from insurance or grants or what not.

Indigenous communities

‘Some of the Indigenous community were anxious about sharing how their homes looked after the floods for fear their kids would actually be taken from them if they did. Some expressed that they had not even registered for grants or with any of the hubs for fear the Department of Communities and Justice would come and then take their kids.

‘This is absolutely horrendous given the extent of this damage and the lack of support for even those who have reached out for it. 

Katz says there are many, many communities and contingents of people very much falling through the cracks for support right now. ‘Basic needs are NOT being met, access to food, access to safe housing, access to enough financial support in order to be able to keep themselves afloat after losing so much.

‘I was speaking to who is the sole caretaker of her grandchild. Her windows are smashed, her doors don’t work, she had sewage running through under her house until last week. Some situations are complex. There are landlords that aren’t fixing things, and insurance companies to deal with.

‘There are just so many people who are stuck through no fault of their own.

The disaster took everything 

‘Disaster just took everything out in one fell swoop and God forbid if you were suffering before the floods, because at this point, you’re probably really suffering now.

Katz says she wants to be clear that the people she has spoken to are not helpless victims. ‘They’ve been victimised by a horrific natural disaster and then victimised by a system which has not supported them to get back on their feet. The community organisations, the volunteers, Resilient Lismore, the Koori Mail, all these hubs have just done the most outstanding job and lifting people back up and giving them access to basic supplies and resources – but, the scope of the disaster is just so big, it’s so much bigger than any of these self-funded, community-funded organisations can manage.

Waiting, hoping, praying

‘People are just waiting, hoping, praying that the government is going to come to the table and say, “we’re going to help”. There’s just been all these promises made and all this money thrown at the disaster.

‘If I weren’t here and spending so much time with these folks in these areas, it would be hard to believe the conditions that people are actually living in like. The reality is incomprehensible.’

Dedicated to survivors

Katz says the film is dedicated to the survivors, rescuers, the helpers, and the givers, who continue to show up, day after day, to help one another.

‘What will ultimately come out of the mud is an unfinished story. The fate of the Northern Rivers is yet to be decided, and while its future looks murky at the moment, it is without a doubt that positive things can come from this disaster; from Out of the Mud,’ she says. 

To support the film, visit: www.gofundme.com/f/the-heart-atlas.

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