After Disaster Project Summary 

Janet Swain 

 Trailer, After Disaster project

 Signs of the Weather song


In the weeks after the floods in the Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia in early 2022 people were still in shock, reeling from the  devastation. We had all watched with open mouths, as the water just kept on rising, silently, relentlessly. 

Some people had lost…. Everything 

And There were so many stories – landslides that trapped people in mud, heroic rescue missions, the rivers were roads and the  road became rivers – I watched on the first morning after as a makeshift pulley sent loaves of freshly baked bread across  the ruined bridge at Main Arm. 16 year old Elvis ferried people across the river in his tiny boat. 

What to do with it all? Where do we put it all? How do we make sense of such unexpected disaster? Fear, grief, loss, all mixed  in with a community’s determination to face the devastation, to survive and rebuild. 

People, forever, have responded to their world through stories and songs. Every folk song is, in some way, a true story, passed  down through generations- warnings, advice, technical information, gossip  

But we don’t often ask the kids how it is for them. 

And so this project was born – funded by Create NSW ReConnecting Communities – four local songwriters – Emily Lubitz,  Harry James Angus, Ash Grunwald, and I – went into two schools that were affected by the floods – The Pocket School, and  especially Main Arm School which was completely flooded and had to relocate – and we asked the kids from Kindergarten to  grade 6 for their stories – many of them had experienced the full force of the floods that came through the area not once,  but twice. 

 Their perspectives and stories were so rich, so poignant, so funny and honest and heartbreaking. And powerfully optimistic.  

Kids notice stuff. And we wove their words into nine songs. Emily’s beautiful song –  

‘A caravan on a lamp post, my mum was on the news, the cameras came to see what all this rain could do’ or ‘we put  our favourite things into a backpack, we had to leave the cat’.  

or Harry’s song  

‘we are the leaders of the future, all of you grownups better shape up, or get out of our way’ 

and Ash’s powerful blues song with a huge chorus – imagine 200 kids singing back to their parents and their community  ‘Do you need clean water, do you need some food, do you need shelter or just someone to tell your story to – there’s a  reason why the human race survived – people are good, when you need ‘em!’  

At the concert there was barely a dry eye in the house as the children sang back to their mums and dads how it had  been for them. 

Our superpower IS our imagination – our ability to tell our stories, write our songs, join together and sing, play, make  art, write books. To imagine and create our future on this beautiful planet.