Why is no one talking about THIS cyclone?

Cyclone Lam: communities struggle to recover from the biggest cyclone ever to hit this region.

7,000 people are still waiting on emergency assistance.

Two-thirds of their housing destroyed.

A community left terrified as they begin to rebuild.

7000 people needing help.

A State of Emergency in place.

It’s a disaster like never before seen in this region – and yet the majority of Australians aren’t aware of the extent of this destruction, because sadly the majority of Australia has only heard of one major cyclone that hit last week.

Category 5 Cyclone Marcia hit Queensland at the same time as Category 4 Cyclone Lam was wiping out many areas of the Northern Territory.

While we all know the extent to Cyclone Marcia’s devastation Cyclone Lam too has left communities in Arnhem Land reeling – with a long road to recovery.

Has enough been done?

The area was hit with a ferocity never before seen, homes were destroyed, power lost for many for more than 48 hours – lives shattered.

Luckily for the communities no lives were lost and yet there are concerns that should another cyclone hit the area that was vastly unprepared next time they will not be so lucky.

The community of Galiwinku sustained the most damage, with six houses destroyed, another 10 almost gone, 80 with moderate to major roof damage and 50 with minor roof damage.

Cyclone Lam was a category 4 cyclone.

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles visited the area over the weekend saying the devastation was “heartbreaking”.

“Galiwinku residents, I’m glad you’re safe, thank you for your tenacity and your efforts in times of hardship throughout the cyclone,” he said.

Many schools re-open today but those in Maningrida, Milingimbi and Galiwinku will not be able to reopen until March 2.

Locals line up for help.

On Saturday the Federal and Northern Territory governments jointly announced that assistance would be provided in the local government areas of East Arnhem and West Arnhem.


Affected individuals and families can access immediate relief payments of up to $495 per adult and $250 per child, with a maximum of up to $1245 per family.

But as the clean-up efforts begin many in these communities feel this isn’t enough.

They are critical of the fact that in some communities like Milingimbi an ABC journalist arrived a full day before emergency services did.

They are critical of the preparation – or lack thereof that preceded the cyclone.

Mental health worker Charlie Yebarrarr telling the ABC that for many people in the community this was the first cyclone they experienced.

“The damage is really bad and it’s the first one a cyclone had gone through here,” he said.

“Trauma is a main issue. People are not coping with their trauma.”

People are not coping with the trauma.

The ABC reports that non-Indigenous residents said the community was not prepared.

“There were no official communications leading up to it,” Grace Tongatua said.

“There was no real time to get ready. I didn’t feel it was well organised.”

But also there is criticism of the fact that for most of Australia there was just one cyclone to speak of last week.

Cyclone Lam was but a blip on the radar.

The feeling has been encapsulated in an opinion piece in The NT News writer Corey Sinclair asks:

“Why don’t Australians care about the lives of Aboriginal people?

This was clearly reflected in the inconsistent reporting by the majority of mainstream media outlets from around Australia, which relegated the impact on the Top End’s Aboriginal communities to a footnote in the narrative – if not ignored it entirely.

A similar thing happened in the reporting of Cyclone Marcia, with Queensland’s Aboriginal communities of Cherbourg and Worabinda seemingly forgotten by media.”

The residents of Elcho Island, and those of the communities of Galiwinku, Milingimbi, Gapuwiyak, and Ramingining face a long road ahead to recovery.

We can help.