Natural disasters may create some of the worst of times for those affected, but they can also bring out the very best in people.
It’s something the team at customer owned bank Summerland Bank have seen more than ever this year. Like many of their neighbouring businesses, they lost their Lismore branch and head office to the flooding in early 2022.
“Summerland Bank and our local community were impacted on a pretty devastating level by the flooding,” says Amelia Grant, who is a lending specialist for Summerland Bank based at the Ballina branch.
“Our head office in the Lismore CBD, along with a few other buildings, unfortunately suffered a pretty incomprehensible amount of damage. So there’ll be a long road to recovery.”
While they were trying to find their own feet, Summerland quickly found ways to support the local community. They developed a disaster relief package to help customers facing difficulty in meeting loan repayments or needing access to additional funds. Summerland also managed to set up a community banking hub at Southern Cross University in Lismore, which will remain in place until the Lismore CBD branch can reopen.
“It may have moved, but our community banking hub is still local, so that for our community who have lost everything, they can still go in and see a friendly face,” says Amelia.
And if there’s someone who absolutely understands what it’s like to lose everything, it’s Amelia herself. Their home in South Lismore was completely flooded, and they not only lost most of their belongings, but also their cars, and some of the animals on their property. Depending on the timing of repairs, they hope to be able to move back home in the coming months.
Through everything, Amelia says she’s been impressed by the resilience and strength of those in the community, and the Summerland customers.
“It has brought out the most amazing side of people that you wouldn’t even think of. Everyone’s incredible,” she says.
“It’s also been nice to be able to empathise with customers on that level and a relief for them when they come into the branch that I know what they’re going through.”