Emergency housing solutions wheeled out for bushfire victims

Hot, dry and windy conditions from September 2023 led to extreme fire danger across northern and southern Queensland and the ignition of multiple fast-moving bushfires that left a burn scar of more than 750,000 hectares.

In Tara, a rural township in the Western Downs region, these fires burned through more than 11,000 hectares, and 350 people were evacuated.

The fires destroyed 37 primary residences, 21 secondary residences, 19 sheds, and nine other structures.

As part of the immediate disaster response, the Queensland Government’s Department of Housing activated its Temporary Emergency Accommodation Plan to ensure severely affected Tara residents would keep a roof over their head.

In early November 2023 a convoy of 23 caravans rolled into Tara to provide temporary accommodation for vulnerable locals at risk of prolonged homelessness and distress.

Tara Showgrounds morphed into a central emergency hub for the town’s displaced residents, offering a secure and private place to recover, and access to on-site amenities including bathrooms and laundry facilities.

One of the Tara residents supported at the hub was Clair, whose caravan – her home – was engulfed by flames.

Clair was putting the finishing touches on her caravan ahead of a trip around Australia, but the fires turned those plans on their head.

Following the bushfires Clair relocated to Tara Showgrounds and was able to use the emergency accommodation as a base to get back on her feet.

She applied for a Structural Assistance Grant through the state government’s Department of Communities, and with the money was able to buy a new caravan to replace her previous one destroyed in the fire.

The income-tested grant provides up to $50,000 to uninsured, disaster impacted Queensland owner-occupiers to help repair or replace their damaged dwelling to a safe and habitable condition.

"The Community Recovery team were great," Clair said. "It might be a long path ahead but I know I’ve got the right support."

Although emergency accommodation is no longer active at Tara Showgrounds, affected residents continue to receive assistance through the local Community Recovery Hub to source alternative housing arrangements.

Some residents have moved to a longer-term residential solution, the Tara Recovery Accommodation Park.

This park has been transformed into a housing hub for 15 locals still affected by the bushfires, offering transportable and modular homes, and sites for caravans.

Disaster hit Queenslanders in need of emergency housing assistance can call the Queensland Community Recovery Hotline around the clock on 1800 173 349.