Journalist Peter Fitzsimons with Australian Defence Force 2017 Invictus Games competitor and ex-Trinity Student, Nathan Parker, Former Mayor, Jenny Dowell and World Vision chief advocate, Tim Costello at the Let's Talk evening in Lismore.
Journalist Peter Fitzsimons with Australian Defence Force 2017 Invictus Games competitor and ex-Trinity Student, Nathan Parker, Former Mayor, Jenny Dowell and World Vision chief advocate, Tim Costello at the Let's Talk evening in Lismore. Sophie Moeller

After the floods: Desperation, resilience in a strong community

IN NATHAN Parker's darkest moments, after the amputation of his left hand, there was always "someone there to open up to", which helped him to "bounce back as well as I have".

Through his work with World Vision, Tim Costello has seen the worst humans can endure and inflict upon each other but "it is through the sharing of pain" that people understand "they matter".

Jenny Dowell says she is glad she was diagnosed with cancer days before she was elected Mayor of Lismore, "as it gave me more empathy".

These were just a few of the powerful messages shared by the speakers who came to the "Let's Talk" evening in front of over 200 people at Trinity Sports Centre in Lismore last night.

Prominent republican, Peter FitzSimon, was also on stage and regaled the audience with war time stories of endurance and resilience while facilitating the discussion.

He spoke of the bygone era of his youth when he lived in a "really strong community" growing up in Peats Ridge and acknowledged "Lismore has been through a very tough time and many people are feeling on the edge of desperation with the abyss closing in on them".

 

To begin the evening, Sam Green from Northern Rivers Suicide Prevention and Awareness Group (NRSPAG) told the audience that, according to 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics, data suicide rates were the highest they had been in 10 years, with more than 65,000 attempts nationally each year.

In light of Lismore's recent hardship, the group joined forces with The Winsome Soup Kitchen, Our Kids and the Lord Taverners Northern NSW to bring the prominent speakers together to raise money for people in our area and to highlight the importance of making connections with individuals in the community to build resilience.

Mr Parker, who is an ex-student of Trinity, is about to compete in the 2017 Invictus Games as part of The Australian Defence Force.

He spoke about his "strong point of realisation" having lost his left hand in a bus accident in 2015 when he had to make a choice to let go of "why" he had been injured and "take my control back" to get on with his rehabilitation.

With the help of ADFA he is excited about finding a career path through the completion of his Bachelor of Technical Aviation.

He said he was "lucky to have had great support and if I can help one person maybe that is why I had to go through the accident".

Mr Costello told of how sharing his "unresolved guilt and pain", as a result of witnessing the "tragic and fragile nature of human existence" in places such as Rwanda, where a million people were killed by machetes in eight weeks, confirmed to him "there is love".

It was a "paradox", he said; there was often more evidence of story telling, laughter and dance in places torn apart by "rape and beheading and crucifixion" than in a civilised country such as Australia "fractured by suicide".

"Without relationships and accountability for one another, communities do not prosper," Mr Costello said.

Jenny Dowell made the decision she would not miss a day of work having just been diagnosed with breast cancer four days before she was elected mayor of Lismore.

"I just told myself to get on with it and that become my mantra," she said.

"I can honestly say now I am glad I had cancer. I know that sounds odd, but I am a better person for it... and I don't sweat the small stuff."

It was acknowledged the main lesson from the Lismore flood was: "It is not all about me but our relationships".



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