Indigenous soldiers from Cape York and the Torres Strait deployed to New South Wales and southern Queensland flood cleanup efforts have been met with heartbreaking scenes where entire communities have been wiped out.

The contingent from 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, are from Aurukun, Weipa, Kowanyama and Cairns, as well as from Badu, Sabai and Thursday Islands in the Torres Strait.

They are part of Operation Flood Assist and have been tasked with shovelling, clearing roads and footpaths, moving debris and sandbagging.

Speaking from flood-ravaged Lismore on Thursday, Torres Strait Islander Private Simeon Namok said it was sad to see how many families had lost their homes.

“The local people are really happy we are here. We are talking to them all the time – we go door to door, to see what we can go to help in other ways,” he said.

“When we arrived at Cabbage Tree Island the CEO from there welcomed us to country.

“Only one home there out of 27 survived, it was very sad. He welcomed us then started crying – I gave him a hug and told him everything was going to be alright.”

PTE Namok said he and his comrades would be on deployment for at least another week.

“I joined the army to help others, and to be a leader in the community,” he said.

The soldiers originally arrived in Brisbane and worked hard cleaning up at many sites hit hard by the floods, before moving south.

The headquarters of 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, is located at Porton Barracks in Cairns, but the unit maintains a presence through its assigned area of operations, which includes Cape York and the Torres Strait.