‘Hollow words’: Prince William tells Australian flood survivors they haven’t been forgotten

‘Hollow words’: Prince William tells Australian flood survivors they haven’t been forgotten


Prince William has praised Australia’s emergency service workers and communities for the “brilliant job” they have done coping with the “truly horrendous” flooding that had devastated parts of NSW and Queensland.

The Duke of Cambridge, third in line to the throne, heard first-hand about the aftermath of the flooding which devastated the region during a call with several emergency services and community leaders from northern NSW on Thursday (AEST). (edited)

Prince William talks with community leaders and emergency services workers from flood hit NSW communities on Thursday. Credit:Kensington Palace

On the video call, William acknowledged it was “hollow words” to sit in the comfort of his palace on the other side of the world, but he said he was committed to helping the communities raise and maintain awareness. He reassured them that he didn’t want them to feel forgotten.

Record rainfall in late February and March led to the declaration of a national emergency across the two states, leaving 22 dead on the east coast and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes.

Among areas the hardest hit was Lismore where the catastrophe brought floods to a record 14.37 metres, two metres above the 1954 and 1974 levels. Many of the areas in the firing line are still reeling from the flood crisis of early March, including the Northern Rivers communities of Coraki, Woodburn and Murwillumbah.

Woodburn State Emergency Services (SES) Unit Commander Ashley Slapp, who conducted more than 150 rescue missions in late February alone, said told the duke his team was “phenomenally good”.

“They worked while their own houses were going underwater,” Slapp said.

“I asked them to stop on day four or five and said to them they needed a rest day, and their answer was ‘I can’t stop, I’ll think about what I’ve lost’. So they kept going for the full eight days themselves.”

William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, toured regional Victoria and Queensland a decade ago after floods devastated the east coast in early 2011. The couple were to visit towns ravaged by bush fires in 2020 but cancelled the trip because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also heard from Jeanette Wilkins, the principal of St Joseph’s Primary School Woodburn, who told him the community had lost its school and “everything in it” and the mental health of the community had taken a major blow.

“We’re two months down the track and nothing has changed, those 34 families are still displaced so there’s no certainty for those children,” she said.

“For us, the most important thing was to make contact with our families and our children, and as fast as possible to set up a school somewhere just to get the children back to some form of normality and start dealing with their trauma.”

Also on the call was Chris Binge, an Indigenous leader from Cabbage Tree Island where 200 residents were forced to relocate due to the flooding, and Ben Brown, a business owner who worked with his staff to support other local business owners and provide meals to emergency responders and volunteers.

After hearing their testimonies, William said: “It’s hollow words from sat here in the United Kingdom but thank you and well done for everything you did.”

“You’ve all painted a picture of the scale of these floods, truly horrendous and really quite startling.

“Whether it’s your business, your school, your community or in the emergency services, you’re all doing a brilliant job of being those figureheads and those leaders which your community sadly needs right now.

“But, on top of that, make sure you look after yourselves.”

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