Good to hear from a (nearly) local. I'm on the MidNorth Coast, NSW, Australia, only a day's drive South from you.
Since the fires of Summer 2019, when our community, and many
others, were cut off by the failure of the civilian comms, I have
been researching these LoRa systems for resilient comms.
The first that caught my eye was Scott Powell's well-developed Ripple ecosystem https://www.instructables.com/member/sqij/ I've assembled a few versions of those and they work well. Drawback with Ripple is that it is not open source, and the 'Commander' app is payware (one per network). Also Scott is the only developer. That said, he does seem to be committed to it - I guess the payware $ help keep him focused ;)
Then I assembled a few Disaster.Radio and they too worked well.
It was a quite active OS project, but pandemic seems to have
distracted the devs (understandable!) Good to see energy coming
back in to it.
Meshtastic was my next, and that's very active, with a number of devs and wide range of options. https://meshtastic.org/
I've assembled a number of these little gadgets, they all work as
advertised, and no need for a geek, if they are properly powered,
enclosed and solidly mounted. Provision for external controls,
esp. reset is still needed though, as the tiny buttons are not
easily reached. There are some quite remote deployments being
mentioned, at least one repeater perched on a Scottish mountain
My mainstay to date has been the LilyGo T-Beam, recently added a
T-Echo, and there are a couple of WisBlock RAK4600 sets in the
mail. Others have been the Heltec and several earlier LilyGo
https://www.project-owl.com/ducklink looks very promising. I've begun exploring that with a couple of T-Beams for the job.
I agree with CodeBus, order a few T-Beams to get your feet wet,
join the lists and watch a few Git repos. You can reflash them to
other projexts to taste them
D.R, Meshtastic and Project Owl have the means to connect to
other messaging services.
BTW: There's a Meshtastic plugin for https://www.civtak.org/
Every community fire-ute needs one - Not to mention the Rural Fire
Greg Hall 0265504481 0428850144 VK2GTH -