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Commemorative Service, 2022 Lismore floods, Mortimer Park, Lismore


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Good evening.

Thank you for the warm invitation to Linda and me be here.

I want to begin by thanking Captain Philip Sutcliffe and The Salvation Army for hosting this evening's service and extending our sympathies to the families of those who lost loved ones in the floods. You are in the thoughts and prayers of all of us.

There are many strands to recovery.

One of the most important is the healing of minds that comes after a tragic event like the one experienced here 12 months ago.

The community heals as individuals, and then the community grows and heals together.

Each person at their own pace and, therefore, unevenly through a community.

The theme tonight, 'to reflect and to heal', is particularly apt.

'Reflections', of course, are deeply personal. Their purpose is to bring an understanding of the circumstances you have been through, your emotions and thoughts, and perhaps to map out your pathway to the future.

Some of these reflections will be painful, some will be upsetting and some, despite the scale of impact of the floods, will I hope instil hope in you for the future.

As for ‘healing’, there is no finite end; rather a disposition where we are able to see a light into the future, cope with what we have and try to move forward.

Can I say to each and every one of you: take time for yourself in this journey. The community will heal as you heal. And you will heal together.

It might sound odd, but I am an optimist for Australia; for two reasons.

First, I am a Christian. I believe in a Sovereign God, and I think we are in good hands.

Second, for what I see every day when I travel around Australia —  in more than three-and-a-half years as Governor-General, through bushfires, a pandemic, floods and drought, I have seen some of the best qualities of people you could hope to see in our country.

Although we go back to communities affected by the bushfires, although we go back to communities affected by the floods — we always come back to Lismore.

Why is that so? Because I see something really special and different in this community.

I see a community that has aspirations to make significant change to what the future will be here in the Northern Rivers.

I see a community that collectively put its hand up when it was under stress and got itself through. It is doing exactly the same now as it tries to recover.

You, to me, exhibit a level of compassion for each other that you don’t often see.

Linda and I keep an eye on the local news up here — what is happening, what the themes are, what people are saying — and we are drawn back here like a magnet.

Thank you for providing, in my job, a bright beacon. I know there is a great future for this community.

So, please, keep doing what you are doing.

As I said at the 'Boaties' event, I picked up a saying while visiting a cattle property north of Julia Creek about six months after the devastating January and February 2019 floods in the Gulf Country.

In discussion with a group of cattle station owners and managers, I made the comment that they had a lot of hard work ahead of them.

Their response was something that has stayed with me: “We are not afraid of hard work; just give us a good season.”

And I think that is what we see here.

You are not worried about hard work, just give us a good season — give us a go, and we'll show you what we can do.

Tonight, as you reflect on the last 12 months — your personal story, your community's story, your friends' stories — take heart that Australia looks to you and wants to support you.

Take heart that you are a strong and compassionate community that will work its way through.

Take heart that Lismore and the Northern Rivers region is going to be a prosperous growing community because you are going to take it there.

Thank you for what you do.

It is real privilege to be with you all tonight.