Even before the current plague, the trauma of fire and then flood was hurting people on the southern shore of Lake Conjola.
Holiday homes were burnt to charcoal by fires on a strip of land with an ocean of water on one side but nothing coming out of the taps on the other, exactly when every drop was needed.
Three people died and 89 homes were destroyed by three fires which converged on New Year's Eve. A month later, floods swept in.
The destruction is still stark. People drive past it. Kids see it on the way to school.
What isn't obvious is the mental devastation. Out of sight but strong in the minds of residents is the trauma of how they fought for their lives and homes.
The signs are subtle: mental health counsellors having quiet talks with people outdoors in the shade; once-strong men who can't quite face going out in public; people who cry for no apparent reason.
There is a quiet grieving by people who lost irreplaceable reminders of their lives. They lost bricks and mortar but they also lost the objects which were their treasury of memory.
Cecily and Roger Parris lost their home and that was bad enough but in it was Cecily's grandmother's cabinet for crystal and porcelain. Cecily's grandmother came to Australia in 1939, narrowly escaping the Nazi death camps. The cabinet was a wedding present.
She also lost her music scores, with the pencil notes written by her childhood teacher.
"These were the objects which represented our lives," she said.
For artist Penny Lovelock, the loss of a lifetime of sketchbooks was like a bereavement. "One moment, you are fine and then angry and then I started feeling sad and cried a lot," she said.
There is what psychologists call "survivor's guilt": Kim Harper's mother's house stands alone in a moonscape of charcoal.
"I'll just start to cry. I'll start talking to someone and they've lost everything. Our house is still here and they've lost everything," she said.
At the Community Centre where the unofficial recovery team set up, volunteers Shane Allen and leader - or coordinator, as he calls himself - Peter Dunn reflect on the generosity but also the mental pain.
"It's like a near-death experience - you think your're going to die and then you don't," Mr Allen said.
"You can see the ones who are down by the way they walk around in the street." The mental effect is "massive".
Major-general Dunn was the commissioner of the ACT Emergency Services Agency between 2003 and 2006. In retirement on Lake Conjola, he's galvanised a community facing a situation reminiscent of the disasters with which soldiers deal.
He and his new-found friend have had to deal with demons. "I've had counselling. Shane's had counselling," he said.
The community was cut off for days, with no power.
"There were terrified people. Water bombers screaming in over their heads. People were saying, 'this is armageddon'," Mr Dunn said.
I've seen men - tough Aussie characters - who are broken.- Shoalhaven mayor Amanda Findley
So it's no wonder, trauma and mental issues remained.
There is a misplaced but understandable guilt felt by those who were not as badly hit as others.
"Survivor's guilt comes from the fact that there are no neighbours," Mr Dunn said.
"Every morning you get up and look at the rubble and you say, 'how is it that I am in this house and they are not in theirs'?"
The disasters have brought people together but they have also exposed fault-lines, he said. "If there's an underlying family problem, it gets magnified. We've seen people destroyed in this," he said.
The fires have shaken up the political structures of the community.
Peter Dunn and Shane Allen's condemnation of politicians is blistering. As the two volunteers sit in the Community Hall on Lake Conjola, they allege a string of local council bureaucratic blocks they had to overcome to get things moving.
They learnt they had to rely on on-the-ground people power, albeit in a situation of catastrophic chaos which would have tested any local authority.
They learnt quickly: Facebook was the best way of communicating; don't let well-meaning people bring in any old thing - tell them what is needed; two new T-shirts are better than six old ones.
"You've lost everything. You are absolutely shattered. If I can give you a new T-shirt, you are uplifted. If somebody gets an old T-shirt, it's depressing," Mr Dunn said.
"The generosity was phenomenal," he said, but it needed channeling. "We would tell them what we needed off a list."
On it were things like kettles, gardening and cleaning equipment. Sometimes it came in unsuitable forms - like a drum of cleaning fluid which then had to be decanted.
Mr Dunn praised two groups: NBN - yes, NBN - and a host of religious groups. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh groups all helped.
NBN called. "We get a phone call. They said, 'do you have a connection? No? Right, we'll be there tomorrow'," Mr Dunn said. And they suddenly had broadband.
A Muslim charity, Merciful Group, asked how they could help. Mr Dunn felt a barbecue would be good therapy. "We needed to get people to talk," he said
The Muslim group asked how many they should cater for. Mr Dunn said 300. They replied: "We'll do it for 500." And they did - delicious Middle Eastern food for all. He said politicians wanted to speak at the event but they were blocked. Stopped. Silenced.
He exempts one politician from his criticism: Amanda Findley, the mayor of Shoalhaven City Council.
She, too, sees mental issues in the aftermath. There were 10 local children who were bused to the nearest public school in Milton. "Their bus stop looks like downtown Baghdad," the mayor said.
She has a friend who says he is "just not ready to face the outside world".
"I've seen men - tough Aussie characters - who are broken and it's hard to accept that this man who you thought was tough and unbreakable is suffering so much," she said.
"I feel powerless to relieve the pain. All you can offer is a sympathetic ear - and time."