Brethren Work around the clock to help save Nathalia
On 28th February 2012 more than six inches of rain fell east of Nathalia followed by a further four inches the following day. The volume of water exceeded anything ever seen in this area before as it worked its way westwards across flat farmland towards the Murray River. The town of Numurkah had succumbed to the mighty tide and Nathalia was the next town in its path.
The State Emergency Services ordered an evacuation. The aged and the very young were moved to Shepparton but the residents of Nathalia, including the Plymouth Brethren community, (established in 1888), chose to stay and defend. They had three days to prepare.
The Brethren, shoulder-to-shoulder with other Nathalia residents, started the sand-bag filling operation in a coordinated way, introducing innovative, home-made bag-filling hoppers which sped up the process ten-fold.
Included in the effort was Brethren students from the local Glenvale Campus.
The Shire yard was to be closed at 8:00pm each night but when the authorities saw how the Brethren had dedicated themselves to working through the night in teams to ensure that the supply of filled sandbags was never interrupted, they changed the arrangements and the supply of sand was increased. Brethren community members joined in the human chains passing sandbags to create the levees and made available their forklifts and trucks, while the woman folk joined in helping out in the Community Hall kitchen, preparing and providing food in shifts through the night, night after night for weary SES, CFA, Victoria Police and Nathalia residents.
On Sunday afternoon the Brethren attended a Church service and were no sooner finished when a Brethren community member’s mobile rang – it was Ross Hamilton, SES Divisional Commander asking for a team of sandbaggers to please resume as stocks were running low. During that evening Ross Hamilton came out into the Shire yard and called all the Brethren sandbaggers together, which included boys and girls and said that he wanted to thank them personally for their incredible, selfless and reliable efforts in filling tens of thousands of sandbags at all times of the day or night – without which the town was sure to have been lost. He said he had been SES Commander at the previous Kerang floods and that the Brethren’s efforts there had been exactly the same.