In early 2022, Australians watched on in horror as extreme weather in Lismore caused two history-making floods that devastated the town and its surrounding communities.
Amid the destruction that left thousands of people displaced, Open Minds’ northern New South Wales (NSW) team worked steadfastly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our clients in the region and expanded critical mental health services to meet community need.
In August 2022 they were nominated the lead agency for the Lismore Head to Health Hub, and increased access to the service by adjusting opening hours. The team has also recently recruited four staff specifically to assist with flood recovery activity such as connecting people in temporary accommodation pods to services and community.
Open Minds’ General Manager of Integrated Mental Health Services NSW, Rik Barker safely led his team through this unprecedented time, including the loss of their Lismore office space for an extended period.
There were times when the team took the term ‘flexible working’ to new heights, as they operated out of cars or purely off phones as they had lost both physical space and equipment to work from.
The team’s perseverance through these extremely challenging circumstances was ultimately recognised at the 2022 Multicap Group Staff Excellence Awards as winners of the Open Minds Service Delivery Team Award. Rik was also the recipient of the Multicap Group Leadership Award.
Reflecting on the past twelve months, Rik couldn’t be prouder of his team and their clients.
“The team has stood strong, connected and shone through one of the worst times for the people in the area,” said Rik. “If you want to know what ‘community’ means, just look at them and everything they’ve achieved together in the past 12 months.
“We have important work to do and know we’re needed now, more than ever, by the people we support. It has been a privilege and honour to support our community through this time, and we are committed to providing accessible mental health support in the region,” said Rik.
The floods caused significant trauma not only for the residents of Lismore but for many people who stepped in to help the town, and these long-lasting effects are seen through those utilising Open Minds’ services in the region.
The Open Minds team will support the community at the different community activities and commemorations this week, one year after the floods.
Open Minds provides support in northern New South Wales through programs and services such as Community Living Supports (CLS) NSW, the Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI), Head to Health Hub Lismore and NDIS supports.
For more information about Open Minds’ services in northern New South Wales, please visit our website.