What It’s Like Living Through One of the Worst Floods on Record

Northern New South Wales after the deluge

Fleur Brown
Human Parts
Published in
11 min readMar 5, 2022
Mullumbimby, Australia, March 2022. All photos courtesy of the author.

On the sidewalk in front of the local music shop in the town of Mullumbimby, Australia, two women in short overalls and T-shirts wipe down ukuleles and violins and place them carefully atop their canvas cases to dry. A parade of a hundred or more instruments — drums, tambourines, cellos, xylophones — line the sidewalk and back alley taking advantage of today’s robustly sunny weather.

Flood volunteers, like many of the cleanup workers in the local stores, they stop occasionally to talk to locals who maneuver their way around the instruments with great care. As important as clearing out the moisture and the mould, hearing is healing. Everyone has a story — their own or someone else’s.

Someone’s 70-year-old neighbor nearly drowned, clinging alone and terrified on the roof of her house for hours when the storm first hit and the town lost power and phone service.

Some families are sleeping on concrete floors, refusing to leave their homes. Hundreds of other newly homeless adults and children are sleeping on donated and makeshift mattresses in the local community hall. Nobody has been able to reach others stranded in a damaged road — by either phone or vehicle.

A woman in the coin laundry lost her home and her wallet and is using the laundry to clean her few remaining clothes at the invitation of the owner. She urgently needs underwear.

The laundry only had water about a foot and a half up the wall. I look around at the wall to floor industrial size washers and dryers and worry about the electrics, but they only lost two machines and the rest are humming with life as locals try to rejuvenate their remaining wardrobe. Many homes have lost power — and those that do have it, it’s often not safe to use.

Neighbors helping neighbors in Northern NSW

Wi-Fi, mobile phones, and all payments platforms are also down here; in every store and petrol station from here through to the main town of Byron Bay, it’s cash only. For any stores…



Fleur Brown
Human Parts

Human, going through a poetry phase.