The 2022 Northern River floods devastated the Lismore community. But out of this tragedy also came great stories of community and resilience. It is these stories that the Strong Together project celebrates.

The project is part of the resilience stage of the Baptist Associations disaster recovery work in Lismore. Reflecting on how the project came about, Steve Hales, Emergency Relief and Recovery Coordinator for the Lismore Area, says that the church wanted to do what it could to support it’s community in and beyond the crisis stage.

“Along with many others in the community, immediately after the floods Lismore Baptist Church did what we could to respond to the crisis – offering hot food, water and other essentials in the midst of the clean up, hosting a food-bank and offering things like care-packs and white-good vouchers,” reflects Steve, “However, as the community moved from ‘crisis’ to ‘recovery’ we began to ask how we might best make a contribution to the community at this stage. It was into this context that we became aware of the values underlying narrative therapy – inviting people to tell their stories in a way that is honest about the struggle but that also helps them see the skills, strength and community they’ve been able to draw on to survive.”

Sarita, a Narrative Therapist, met with eighteen survivors from the Northern Rivers community, including those directly impacted as well as first responders. Most participants had connected with the church through the Foodbank and other crisis work, and some were those impacted from within the church.

“Narrative practice seeks to honour people as the experts in their own lives,” explains Sarita, “it also acknowledges that our lives are multi-storied – there are stories of pain, grief and darkness and there are also stories of hope and strength.”

In close consultation with those who shared their stories, they were compiled into a book for the Lismore community. The Strong Together book documents and honours the stories of people who were impacted by and/or involved in helping during and after the floods. It acknowledges the pain, trauma and grief, as well as honours the many ways the community came together and used their skills and strength to get through an awful time.

The book’s completion represents phase one of the project. The next phase is that the book itself is a resource that goes out to the community as a community-based way to approach the resilience journey. The book is designed to be by locals, developed for locals, to be used by locals to build on community resiliency.

One participant describes Lismore after the floods like this.

“There is a sense of community in Lismore. Yeah, we might have all the differences in the world, but if we’ve got a bond, we will face this together.

At the moment, Lismore is in a dormant time, in a time of indecision and waiting. People don’t know what to do, and are wondering, do we re-build? Do we move on? They are waiting for what’s going to happen, to find out who is going to do what. They need people to stand by them.

So I think we’ve got to keep the door wide open. I feel we’ve got to be in it for the long haul… Let’s hold hands together and get through it.”

Strong Together had its official book launch on Saturday, 4 May. Lismore Baptist Church hosted the event at the Lismore City Bowling Club, right near the river itself. Approximately 65 people attended, including people from Lismore Baptist Church, participants in the project, their friends and family, other people impacted by the floods, and people from local businesses, services and churches.

Janelle Saffin, the state MP, joined and gave some reflections. Luke Vassella, a well-loved local musician whose music reflects the heart and soul of Lismore, performed a song he wrote about the community and people supporting each other through the floods.

“It was a great atmosphere, a very positive community feel,” says Sarita “people were very grateful to receive a book and keen to give a copy to others who were impacted”.

Marbuen Diaz, Team Leader for Church Witness & Intercultural Lead at the Baptist Association, explains how this project aligns with the Baptist Association’s values and disaster recovery framework.

“Grounded in the missiological truth that God is already at work in the Lismore community, this strengths-based approach fundamentally builds on the dignity and value that is amongst a people made in the image of God,” explains Marbuen, “in embodying this approach, the Baptist Association and the local Baptist churches witness to the reality and reign of our Lord Jesus – in word, sign and deed.”


If you wish to make a donation, you are welcome to give to future disaster relief work through the Baptist Association or a charity of your choosing.

Disaster Relief Fund (Baptist Churches NSW & ACT)
When it asks for Additional Information, please indicate ‘Strong Together’.


If you would like a copy of the book, you can download it here:


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