When floods hit, they leave more than just physical damage in their wake. For Rekindling the Spirit, an organisation deeply rooted in its community, the challenge was not just about rebuilding structures but also managing a sudden increase in demand for their services.
Rekindling the Spirit is the indigenous health service in Lismore. It provides a wide range of services, including allied health, counselling, youth support, social and wellbeing support, psychology and general practice.
Following the 2022 Lismore floods, many of the staff and their families were directly affected. Unfortunately, the health service’s technology systems, office space and other facilities were lost. Many of the clients of Rekindling the Spirit felt more comfortable seeking information from them rather than through the more generally available recovery sources. Amazingly, not only did they handle this pressure and continued to work tirelessly, but they also focused on establishing a stronger foundation for the future.
I am one of the co-designers and an active member of the DisasterWISE network. I have been working with Rekindling the Spirit since April 2022. My vast experience in the disaster recovery scene helped me to support the Rekindling the Spirit team and put together their grant application for the Aboriginal-owned Assets Program.
It was refreshing to see a grant program designed to understand the realities that community groups face on the ground in disaster-affected areas. The approach recognised that most community groups don’t have access to, or the funds to engage, the technical skills needed to develop high-quality and detailed applications for infrastructure and building projects. Regional NSW provided an independent engineering firm to help with the scoping, design, costing, and the project and risk management.
This kind of support can make a huge difference. It’s about giving community groups the tools they need to develop quality grant applications. It goes a long way to ensuring greater accuracy of costing and project management, which reduces project-related risks and optimises outcomes, which the governments seek to achieve.
So, it was a joyous day on the 24th of November, 2023, when it was announced that Rekindling the Spirit had been successful in applying for grants of $6.9 million from the Aboriginal-owned Assets Program.
This funding, part of the 2022 Community Local Infrastructure Recovery Package jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments, focuses on helping Aboriginal-led organisations like Rekindling the Spirit get back on their feet and provide long-term community resilience.
Tara Moriarty, the Minister for Regional NSW, put it well when she said that this program was unique and aimed at providing targeted help for rebuilding community infrastructure. It’s about understanding what these communities really need and then delivering it in a way that makes sense for them.
Rekindling the Spirit’s story is more than just a tale of recovery; it’s about community strength and smart support coming together. It shows that we can turn tough situations around when we tailor assistance to fit actual needs and work collaboratively. This is a significant step forward for Rekindling the Spirit. Well done to everyone who’s had a hand in setting up a support system that genuinely helps. Stories like these remind us of the resilience and spirit of communities, especially in the face of adversity.