When floods swept through Australia’s Northern Rivers region, Naomi Moran realised her Koori Mail readers needed food, water and cleaning materials more than they needed the indigenous newspaper.
The national paper’s general manager, she took the decision to suspend publication to concentrate on community aid.
And she hasn’t stopped since, as the driving force behind a central flood support hub in the NSW city of Lismore.
Now the strong Bundjalung and Dunghutti woman has been honoured with the Shine Award for Spirit for her fearless leadership and immense effort in News Corp’s Weekly Times rural and regional communities initiative.
In comments for the paper, she tells how making the difficult decision to suspend publishing temporarily allowed her and her staff to throw their all into helping those who had lost everything.
“We have an amazing team and everyone has been on board since day dot,” she told the Weekly Times. “It started with a 3x3 blue marquee, a trestle table and a couple of fruit boxes of bread, with a sign saying ‘Donations Welcome’… and snowballed from there.”
Under her leadership and with the support of staff and community, the hub became a go-to headquarters for collecting and distributing food, supplies, tools, equipment and wellbeing support.
Indigenous communities were serviced first and foremost, and then the entire region, “and we are still doing that months later,” she says.
Donations and volunteers flowed in response to Koori Mail’s public appeals for help. Then as needs changed, the team reacted, adding cleaning supplies to food and water supplies, and then – realising people were under huge emotional and mental stress – they reached out to doctors, counsellors and nurses, who volunteered their time at the hub and are still doing so.
With the local soup kitchen wiped out, and rocketing demand for for fresh, hot cooked meals, they set up the ‘Koori Kitchen’, which still pumps put hundreds of meals a week.
“We are doing it the old way,” she says. “This isn’t about databases and tech. This is about deep listening, writing it down in a notebook and taking immediate action. Our role here is to listen deeply and take our knowledge from the community.”
Winners of the Shine Awards – which are supported by retailer Harvey Norman – receive a $2500 voucher, with overall winner Emily Riggs receiving an additional $5000. They were the subject of a 32-page inserted in the Weekly Times and The Australian.
Picture: Naomi Moran, courtesy The Weekly Times