Building back resilience after the Kimberley Floods

  • Group of people seated outdoors in a circle talking
  • Woman talking to man whilst seated out doors with tree branch overhead.

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie and associated flooding swept through the west Kimberley a year ago, bringing destruction and devastation. The journey of recovery following the record rainfall received in January of 2023 has been one of both hardship and triumph.

The West Kimberley faced challenges not seen or experienced in many years and in particular Fitzroy Crossing, 11 Aboriginal communities, Camballin Township and pastoral station were significantly impacted. Despite being in the face of adversity, the resilient spirit of the West Kimberley has shined through.

Because of the resilience of the community and the support throughout recovery, there have been significant positive developments in the last 12 months that are worth looking back on:

  • The establishment of the local Fitzroy Valley Flood Hub, providing information and assistance to those affected by the floods, including outreach services to Aboriginal communities throughout the Fitzroy Valley as well as Kupungarri and Camballin.
  • Repair works in Kupungarri allowing families to return to their homes.
  • A strengthened youth program to support young people in Derby and Fitzroy Crossing.
  • Temporary housing rollout in communities.
  • A focus on social and emotional well-being with community-led decision making and place-based solutions.
  • Numerous DRFA financial assistance recovery grants available.
  • Successful reconstruction of the Fitzroy Crossing bridge.
  • Road repairs reconnecting local communities and resealing of Bungardi and Yurabi roads.
  • Disaster Relief Australia has played a vital role in assisting with the clean-up of research facilities and staff accommodation for the Australian Wildlife Conservations at Mornington Wilderness Camp, as well as for Biridu Community and residents on Yurabi Road in Fitzroy.

Addressing the social and emotional well-being issues highlighted by the flood remains a priority. Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) oversees a wellbeing support service for the Fitzroy Valley, offering on country activities, art groups, training, practical support, or just being someone to have a yarn with. The service is for anyone experiencing challenges in their life, as well as anyone affected by the Kimberley Floods. The support service acts as an outreach service, where team members can meet anywhere that is comfortable or feels safe for the client, as well as having safe space at Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre in Fitzroy Crossing. This is the first time the Fitzroy Valley has had a place-based wellbeing service that is community-led and underpinned by an Indigenous framework of health, mental health, and wellbeing.  

Looking ahead, we remain optimistic about the future and are dedicated to the 'build back better' philosophy. The key priorities for the West Kimberley communities include the reconstruction of permanent housing, ongoing enhancement of social and emotional wellbeing within communities, re-establishment of the economic structure through the promotion of local employment and the rebuilding of resilience through the renewal of critical infrastructure like bridges, roads, airports and evacuation centre/multipurpose centre.

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