On the sixth night of an unprecedented downpour that engulfed their home, Phyllis and Charlie Carmichael, both 80, slept inside their cars. Phyllis in a Prado inside the shed while Charlie comforted his distraught dog in a car parked outside. They had nowhere else to go to escape the rising waters.
A little after midnight, the rain stopped, but the next day the couple were evacuated by helicopter as their west NSW property, Rose Hill station, the worst affected in the state, was completely cut off by water.
Eight weeks after the floods, the Carmichaels are still assessing the damage on their family-run station, near Ivanhoe. They have operated pumps 24 hours a day just to get the water out of the homestead and shearer’s quarters. They lost hundreds of sheep and many buildings will need to be stripped or rebuilt.
Amid the heartbreak of losing so much, the family was buoyed by a visit from Frontier Services Patrol Minister Jorge Rebolledo and much-needed assistance from the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Broken Hill Patrol Minister Mr Rebolledo has been travelling across the region by plane and vehicle, visiting families affected by the floods.
Mr Rebolledo has been able to assist individual families on the road to recovery with approximately $80,000 that was provided by the Assembly’s National Disaster Fund.
He said rain and flooding across the region had caused major damage for families, with some properties still under water almost two months after the event.
“Travelling by plane you can really see the impact of the rainfall and flooding. In some places, you cannot actually make out the property – it is like a lake that sprouted from nowhere. It really was a stark reminder of the variety of weather that we have in the outback.”
Mrs Carmichael said the flooding at Rose Hill, which received 22 inches, would go down in history.
“No one has ever, ever heard of that sort of rainfall in the bush,” she said. Undeterred, the Carmichaels are determined to get the property back up and operating as soon as they can.
She was enormously grateful for the support they had received from Jorge and the funds from the Assembly which helped pay for new white goods and a costly diesel bill that has kept the pumps going.
“It helped us unbelievably – we’re both 80 and we’ve never been helped like this in our lives. I’m more than happy,” she said.
Mr Rebolledo said his experience of visiting the families had filled him with admiration for the people living and working in the bush.
“I think a lot of other people would just throw their hands in the air but these people are just really really resilient, unbelievably so. They keep their spirits up and are very thankful for all the help you can give them.”
Mr Rebolledo, in his role as Frontier Services Broken Hill Patrol Minister, spends his time visiting isolated families and remote communities across the region, providing a listening ear and practical support. Find out more about Patrol Ministry.