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NSW flood victims struggling to recover two months after disaster

Two months after the devastating floods in New South Wales, Neera Schwartz is still picking up the pieces.

In March she was left homeless after her property in a Wilberforce caravan park along the Hawkesbury River was inundated.

"My life has been majorly impacted, because I lost everything," Ms Schwartz said. "My caravan was completely covered by the water.

"I was feeling in shock when it first happened, I'd never experienced a flood before."

Narelle Schwartz left homeless floods ABCImage: ABC Radio Sydney: Dayvis Heyne

After a month in temporary accommodation she managed to secure a home through a community housing provider.

"We've got a house in South Windsor," Ms Schwartz said. "Now with a stable home, we're getting a lot better."

Like many others, Ms Schwartz has been relying on the assistance of charities to get by. "They've been giving us food hampers and toiletries," she said.


Many people lost everything in the NSW floods

Image: ABC News: Brendan Esposito

A helping hand

For thousands of people living in the Hawkesbury region and on the Mid North Coast, the journey to recovery is just beginning.

Anne Crestani of disaster recovery support service Step By Step said it was one of the "most complex recovery environments" the service had faced.

"It's going to take a long time for people to get to a point of some sort of normal," she said.

"In some areas it has been the quadruple whammy — droughts, bushfires, COVID and floods … it's really been compounded impacts of multiple traumatic events."

Anne Crestani's organisation Step by Step has been supporting flood victims

Image: ABC Radio Sydney: Dayvis Heyne

Ms Crestani said there was "compassion fatigue" in the community but it was crucial for the public to keep donating to help flood victims get back on their feet.

"I think the most important thing that people need to know is that they haven't been forgotten," she said.

Online donation platform GIVIT said flood-hit residents were in need of essential items and home appliances like fridges and washing machines.

"For a lot of these people, absolutely everything has to be replaced," NSW GIVIT manager Scott Barrett said.

"A lot of it's never going to be replaceable, because they've lost their Year 12 photos or their kid's Christening dress.

"So the damage physically has been huge, but the emotional scars are pretty deep as well."

Linda Strickland's organisation Hawkesbury Helping Hands has been assisting impacted SydneysidersImage: ABC Radio Sydney: Dayvis Heyne

Flood relief charity Hawkesbury Helping Hands (HHH) has provided food hampers and vouchers to thousands of people over the past two months.

Founder Linda Strickland said hundreds of people continued to queue up for help at the charity's centre in South Windsor every week.

"The recovery process here has been very slow," she said.

"Our biggest purpose is to make sure that people have food on the table, cleaning products and toiletries."


Flood impacts in South Windsor, New South WalesImage: ABC News: Brendan Esposito

Starting from scratch

David Murphy spent 18 months renovating his Pitt Town Bottoms property located along the Hawkesbury River before the floods hit.

"It was going to be our forever home," he said.

"On Saturday morning, we had to evacuate and by Saturday evening, the house was totally underwater, except for the peak of the roof.

"The house is a total loss.

"I'm normally a guy with a lot of direction and very positively driven, but this did pull me down a lot."

The Murphy family's home was destroyed by floodwatersImage: Supplied: David Murphy


Mr Murphy and his family have begun the process of rebuilding their lives.

"We've got to start from scratch now — buying knives, forks, pots, pans … it's very overwhelming," he said.

"Sometimes we get knocked over and we have to get back up and keep moving forward."

This story originally appeared at and was published by ABC Radio Sydney.

You can help people impacted by the floods by donating to the ABC NSW Flood Appeal which runs from 24 May to 7 June, or GIVIT's Severe Storms and Flooding Appeal outside these dates.

Banner image credit: Will Eades Photography


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