The Koori Mail, Australia’s only First Nations print newspaper, will miss one of its fortnightly issues this month for the first time in 30 years of operation due to flood damage.

The newspaper is based in Lismore and on Monday the two-storey office was destroyed by record-breaking flooding. 

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completed shattered and heartbroken,” general manger Naomi Moran told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“The amount of damage to the Koori Mail office building — we could not have imagined it would be to this extent.”

Moran said the evacuation notice was issued on Sunday it was based on the lower levels of floods that Lismore had experienced before.

“We had a plan, we knew where everything needed to go on our first floor,” she said.

“When we got the second notice that it was going to … reach the major flood levels … we elevated to the highest point that we could on the first floor in the amount of time we had. We had one hour.”

After the flood waters began to recede staff and volunteers were able to enter the office on Thursday morning.

The team managed to get all the computers and hard drives up to the top of the building where they were safe, but the furniture, documents, merchandise, archives and the art collection were flooded.

“Everything has been completely destroyed,” Moran said.

“The most heartbreaking thing to see is all of our archives from day one that we’ve kept as part of our legacy have all gone underwater.”

The newspaper is wholly owned by five First Nations collectives around the northern NSW region and is staffed by First Nations people. It has a loyal audience around the country, some of whom have been reading the paper since it began in May 1991.

Moran said the damage was a significant loss for the paper’s readership and the wider First Nations community so the staff’s first priority was to offer support to those people.

“The Koori Mail has a responsibility to look after our own. Our immediate approach to the devastation is: let’s look after our community members first,” she said

The paper set up a GoFundMe page and posted bank transfer details on Tuesday with a $100,000 goal to help First Nations families in the region who had lost homes or possessions.

It raised $110,000 in 48 hours. 

Moran said there would be a leftover allocation for First Nations people who may not have lost possessions but needed support with transport or to access healthcare or essential items while the region was largely cut off.

“There are low supplies of just about everything at the moment, food, nappies, toiletries, hygiene products, that money will go towards some packaged relief for anybody who needs it.”

The money would be distributed between the five collectives that own the newspaper to help get supplies to people in each region.

Moran anticipated it would take a week to remove the debris and clean the site before they could plan to rebuild. But she has assured the newspaper would return thanks to community support.

“For us to continue to be the voice for our people we need people to hear our voices right now,” she said.

“What we have to share is that we’ve been hit hard and it’s devastating but we absolutely will recover.”

Image: Twitter / @koorimailnews