There’s not much Ange Avery doesn’t know about the River Murray.
A lifetime spent studying its ecosystems beside her late father Jim Watkins has prepared Ange well for what lies ahead, as the Riverland braces for inundation.
Manager of Centacare’s Riverland Domestic Violence Service based at Berri, Ange has been sharing her knowledge with others less familiar with the river’s wild ways.
“I was born in Waikerie and raised at Cadell, where Dad was a chief prison officer,’’ she said.
“He was always a river man, he loved it, and he passed that passion on to us.
“He was quite a live-off-the-land kind of fella and very much an educator who wanted us to be aware of, and understand, the river system from a young age.
“That knowledge, it’s in our family blood now.
“Right up to his death a few years ago, Dad kept warning us about what’s coming and what to expect when the peak arrives.’’
As Berri and the extended region experiences daily flows not seen for 50 years, Ange reflects on the 1974 flood.
“The flood was over the Morgan causeway and Dad drove us there for a look. I was three years old, holding his hand, and my older twin sisters were seven.
“I remember saying to Dad I was scared, as the water appeared to go forever.”
Therein lies the irony of a flood set to wreak havoc on hundreds of low-lying homes and businesses, said Ange.
“The flip side of the devastation is its utter beauty. You are seeing something that is a good flush out, something that does a lot of damage, but it is also absolutely spectacular.
“The birdlife is amazing and you just can’t believe what you’re seeing.”
From a work perspective, Ange is managing what the flood will mean for at-risk women in unsafe homes, especially those living in isolated shacks set to be swallowed by the slowly rising water.
Centacare will provide 24/7 crisis accommodation onsite at Berri for women and children fleeing domestic violence in flood-stricken communities.
“It’s not like a bushfire where it whips through so quick no one has time to blink, so we have had time to plan and prepare which is to our advantage, as awful as it could possibly be,’’ she said.
To contact the Riverland Domestic Violence Service, phone (08) 8215 6380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org