New research shows unmet need remains two years on from floods

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New research shows unmet need remains two years on from floods

Over two years on from the catastrophic floods that changed our lives forever, new research year by the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) shows there is considerable unmet need among flood-affected communities in the Northern Rivers. Earlier this year NRCF conducted its Annual Flood Impact Survey, which was completed by 200 community organisations in the Northern Rivers. The results provide a valuable snapshot of community recovery and reveal the ongoing challenges affecting community organisations.


“Our survey findings highlight both ongoing challenges and the incredible spirit of our community. The dedication of staff and volunteers, despite wellbeing challenges and funding shortages, is a testament to the power of communities in leading their own recoveries.”

Mr Henderson said.


“We need to make sure that no one is left behind in the wake of disaster. Our communities have shown incredible resilience, and while challenges remain, the determination and spirit of volunteers and community members people are driving recovery and progress. However, the growing strain of the cost-of-living crisis is compounding the economic impact of the floods, making our support more crucial than ever.”


The Survey results reveal the following key findings:

Community recovery remains slow
There was a small increase in the overall community recovery rating from 4.8 in 2023 to 5.5 in 2024. The overall organisational recovery rating was ever smaller, increasing from 6.4 to 6.7. Qualitative insights suggest that some communities are recovering faster than others.

Support from the wider community is tapering off
Following any disaster communities naturally feel compelled to volunteer time and money to support community recovery, but the survey results suggest that as people’s lives return to normal and the visible impacts of the floods are less obvious, people are less inclined to support charitable causes. The survey results revealed that the housing and cost-of-living crisis were key factors impacting community generosity.

Workloads have increased, while funding has decreased
Many assume that as time progresses, the community’s need for support will reduce and less funding is required. However, the results of the survey showed that the workloads of community organisations are higher than ever two years on from the floods, despite funding becoming increasingly scarce. 37% of respondents said that severity, complexity and number of client caseloads were still affecting their organisation two years after the flood.

Organisations’ fears of a funding cliff are now a reality
62% respondents said their organisation was affected by a lack of funding. Of greatest concern was the significant increase in organisations who said they received no funding from major funding sources the past 12 months, which increased from 8% in 2023 to 20% in 2024.

The mental health of staff and volunteers remains a serious concern
Half of all respondents said that mental health and wellness of staff and volunteers was still affecting their organisation two years on from the floods. The inability to meet high demand for their service was a key factor affecting the mental health and wellness of staff and volunteers.

Since the days following the floods NRCF has provided vital support to organisations delivering recovery and resilience support to flood-affected communities. This includes distributing almost $1 million in rapid response grants in the weeks following the disaster, and a further $1 million in small grants through the Community Resilience Grants Program in partnership with the NSW Reconstruction Authority.


Mr Henderson concluded,

“The 2022 Northern Rivers floods were unprecedented in Australia’s history. While efforts have been made to adapt, many responses have followed traditional patterns. To prevent these impacts from becoming long-term, intergenerational disadvantages, we believe more resources and agency need to be placed in the hands of the community to lead its own recovery and regeneration.”


The annual Flood Impact Survey is made possible with the generous support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, who have supported its continued implementation over a three-year period. The results will provide critical information to ensure that funds are directed to where they are needed most.  To read more or download a copy of the findings, click here.

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