September 2, 2023

Providing temporary housing to remote community impacted by flooding

Bungardi is a small community that sits on the outskirts of Fitzroy Crossing and on the banks of the Fitzroy River, in the middle of northern Western Australia. In January 2023, the Fitzroy River flooded rising 16 metres in a matter of days, destroying bridges, roads and other infrastructure. But for Bungardi, it inundated all but one of the homes that make up the community, causing social dislocation for many residents that had to move away to find shelter.

The WA Government needed a short-term housing and living solution for the community while the work of rebuilding the original homes was undertaken, and while new roads and infrastructure could be built to allow the community to function. Humanihut presented the perfect solution in the form of a modified Basecamp complete with housing huts for individuals and families, a kitchen block complete with ovens, cooktops, microwaves and fridges, and three bathroom blocks with showers and toilets, complete with self-sufficient powered and water supply.

Humanihut was born out of a desire to provide shelter, comfort, cleanliness, security, and dignity for people in crisis. The community of Bungardi were in need, and Humanihut was able to help.

But it’s the words of the people who experienced the flooding and now leading the community’s recovery – sisters and elders Aunty Diane Brooking and Aunty Judith Brooking and advocate Colleen Garner - that really show how important having a temporary housing solution can be.

As elder Aunty Diane told it, the community had less than a day’s notice that the River was on the rise. In the afternoon they could see it was rising on the banks more than it normally would at that time of year. By the following morning the River was in full flood, with several homes already experiencing water through houses at ground level. At the flood’s peak, the only house not inundated was the community’s only home built on stilts.

As the flood receded, the damage started to become apparent. Only one of the homes in the community remained partially habitable, and several families took up temporary residence there. But it was not a long-term solution.

“Many people went to Broome, or to family in Fitzroy Crossing, but we’re used to such a quiet way of living, the big town is just not right for us for too long. Town was a bit too noisy and we are used to the peace and quiet out here,” Aunty Diane said.

The recovery effort couldn’t begin in earnest until the water had properly receded and access for vehicles had been restored, and this was not until late March 2023.

“Everything had been water damaged. All the houses. All the roads. Everything that had been in the open the day of the floods was pretty much destroyed,” she said.

And it was becoming apparent the need to get the Bungardi community home was becoming more urgent.

“As a tight-knit family-based community, we were missing each other and many that needed to move away were missing the people and lifestyle we have here. We know repairing or rebuilding everything with be a slow process, so having somewhere to comfortably house members of our community as they return, or even to visit, is very important,” advocate Colleen Garner said.

The Humanihut Basecamp was offered to the community, and they accepted. They assisted in customising certain elements to fit their unique needs and also advised on the best location for the camp within the town.

“The people from Humanihut came and listened to what the community wanted and needed and then came back to discuss possible solutions and locations. Two of the locations suggested had some issues, but the location we ultimately decided upon was chosen unanimously by the community itself as it was close to the main remaining house in town and was positioned in such a way that made it easy and safe for the community to congregate,” Mrs Garner said

The elders spoke of the anticipation of moving in and being able to welcome the community back to Bungardi.

“The huts are set up to meet family needs – if they have kids, there’s enough beds for all of them. If they are single or a couple, there’s room. The kids will most likely enjoy using the air conditioning during the day, but I think most of us will just have the doors and windows open at night as we’ve not bothered with air conditioning for the last thirty years!” Aunty Judith joked.

“I’m just pleased that families will be able to come back and stay somewhere safely,” she said.

The community took over residence of the Humanihut Basecamp in May 2023, and it will be in place for as long as it is required by the people of Bungardi.

Got a question?

Speak to one of the Humanihut Team today

Contact us
More Case Studies
Share this resource