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REFLECTIONS ON RESIDENTIAL REBUILDING AFTER THE VICTORIAN BLACK SATURDAY BUSHFIRES

Abstract
By : Greg Ireton, Iftekhar Ahmed, Esther Charlesworth

 
After the catastrophic 2009 bushfires in the state of Victoria, Australia, the State Government provided information and advice, short-term and temporary accommodation as well as financial assistance to bushfire-affected communities. A tension developed between quickly rebuilding housing and re-establishing known social and economic networks versus a slower and more deliberative process that focuses on long-term community outcomes. Whilst there was a widespread assumption that quick rebuilding would be beneficial, resulting in immediate pressure to do so, it became evident that many people were not prepared to, or even did not want to rebuild. Thus it became important to provide time and support for people to consider their options away from the immediate pressures to rebuild that are often inherent in post-disaster recovery processes. This became known as “holding the space” and included the introduction of interim supports such as building temporary villages and other supports which enable people to achieve appropriate interim accommodation without having to rebuild immediately. However, even two years after the bushfires a significant proportion of people remained undecided whether they wanted to rebuild or not. The post-bushfire experience pointed to a number of lessons including the importance of appropriate timing of post-disaster activities, careful targeting of financial assistance, need for developing better and lower cost interim housing options and pre-impact planning. Given the complex nature of rebuilding following a disaster, design professionals should focus not just on the final house, but also look at housing options that blur the distinction between temporary and permanent. Their designs should be quick to build, offer a good quality of life, be affordable for most and be flexible in design for future use.
Keywords: Bushfire, Rebuilding, Temporary Villages, Victoria.

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