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Temporary housing relief as Kimberley families face first wet season since floods

David Prestipino -

With summer on the horizon, things are finally looking up for families in towns and remote communities across the vast Kimberley ravaged by January's once-in-a-year flood.

Businesses have re-opened and trading, tourism operators are fielding renewed interest from visitors ahead of summer holidays and, critically, many families displaced after the devastating floods finally have stability after temporary accommodation was installed.

Nearly 40 homes and 40 businesses were destroyed across the region, with another 121 dwellings suffering damage, as ex-tropical cyclone Ellie crossed into WA from the Northern Territory on December 28, 2022.

Major flooding then occurred along the Fitzroy River, reaching record levels and damaging major roads and associated infrastructure in towns and remote indigenous communities along the Fitzroy River, with some isolated communities relocating to safer areas.

The response from agencies and joint state-federal approach helped restore urgent Infrastructure and provide temporary housing, with the Kimberley Flood Recovery team achieving a key housing milestone ahead of schedule as the wet season arrived.

WA's Department of Communities identified 145 state-owned or managed community housing assets across the Fitzroy Valley that were damaged by the floods, with 83 of them now safe, secure and habitable for residents to return.

Elders in the the Bungardi community, just outside Fitzroy Crossing and another of the towns flooded in January, told National Indigenous Times they were impressed with the job agencies were doing to aid the town's rebuild and revitalisation.

Up to 44 temporary demountable accommodation units recently arrived in Fitzroy Crossing, ready for installation on country in Bungardi, Darlngunaya, Loanbun, Buruwa, Galeru Gorge, Karnparmi and Yurabi communities.

"We're committed to supporting families whose homes require major refurbishment or rebuild, with flood resilient temporary accommodation," a Communities spokesperson said.

Local contractors working on housing and refurbishment programs were rebuilding them smarter, using flood-resilient materials and treating wall cavities to help reduce mould.

Approximately 23 homes were raised to the new standard of one metre above the 1-in-100-year flood level, which hit a record 15.81m at its peak in early January.

"We've also increased flood resilience for community members staying in Humanihut accommodation in at either Bungardi and or Tarunda," a Communities spokesperson said.

BHP has donated 40 transportable accommodation modules to the WA government to support long-term recovery efforts .

"Each BHP module is configured with three bedrooms and adjoining ensuites and will be used as a component of a larger family-friendly accommodation unit," a company spokesperson said.

The donation supports the government's efforts to ensure flood-impacted families from the Fitzroy Valley can continue to live on country and remain connected with community while damaged homes are repaired and rebuilt.

Access roads to communities are also being repaired and upgraded to enable heavy haulage to support delivery and installation.

One abandoned asbestos-riddled donga that was not a state asset or on land managed by an Aboriginal corporation was also secured by communities after being alerted by NIT, ensuring it was no longer a danger to some local teenagers, who were vandalising it.

"The donga referred to is not-government owned and it is located on land managed by an Aboriginal corporation," a Department of Communities spokesperson said.

"Notwithstanding this, as part of current repairs being undertaken by the government, the donga has been secured and Communities is currently engaging other government agencies, the Shire and other community leaders to secure the asset."

WA Community Services Minister Sabine Winton said the rollout of the temporary accommodation across Fitzroy Crossing and neighbouring communities would allow families peace of mind during the first wet season since the floods.

"Communities will have a more permanent temporary place to call home while their flood affected homes are refurbished or rebuilt," she said.

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