Two years ago, a selfless entrepreneur worked around the clock to secure a home and land package for three young children fostered by their aunt and family after the loss of their mother in a tragedy that shocked Australia.
In April 2021, the badly burned body of 27-year-old Kelly Wilkinson was found by neighbors in the backyard of her home in Arundel on the Gold Coast.
Her former partner, former US Marine Brian Earl Johnston, 35, had allegedly doused her with gasoline and she was found two blocks away on a front lawn in a “semi-conscious state.” He was later charged with her murder.
Ms Wilkinson’s three children, aged between two and nine, were at home at the time of the alleged attack.
As the grieving children moved in with Kelly’s sister Danielle Carroll, her husband Rhys and their five cousins, construction entrepreneur Tamika Smith launched a call to the community to help build a new home to accommodate the family of 10.
On Tuesday night, Kelly’s children and family will move into their new fully furnished seven-bedroom home on the outskirts of the Gold Coast.
Kelly Wilkinson’s children and their cousins (pictured during construction) can finally move into their new home
Kelly Wilkinson, mother of three (pictured), was allegedly doused with gasoline and burned to death by her ex-husband
Until now, they’ve lived together in a cramped four-bedroom house where sleeping arrangements spilled into living areas.
“Sometimes we end up with five in our bed,” Ms Carroll told A Current Affair ahead of the opening on Tuesday.
Their new home was built by an army of local workers and volunteers in a project spearheaded by Metricon Homes and My Bella Casa founder Tamika Smith, who is the stepsister of Ms. Carroll’s husband.
Just days after Kelly’s death, Ms Smith launched the I Stand With Kelly campaign calling on the Queensland construction industry to help build a new home for the family.
After receiving hundreds of calls, texts and emails in 48 hours, a generous Good Samaritan who wished to remain anonymous offered her the ground she needed.
“We need this family and our community to know that this is more than just a house,” Ms. Smith said at the time.
‘This house is a pillar of what we are capable of when we come together. And as an industry, we will not bury our heads in the sand when it is time to stand up.’
Kelly’s husband, former US Marine Brian Earl Johnston, is accused of her murder. They are photographed on their wedding day.
Danielle Carroll and her husband Rhys (pictured in 2021) fostered her sister’s three children after Kelly’s death
The first foundations were laid 18 months later, and the house took less than a year to build, despite the enormous challenges facing the construction industry.
It’s been over two years of blood, sweat and tears for Ms Smith, who ran the project as a charitable effort and coordinated all donors and volunteers amid the worst housing and building insolvency crisis in Australia’s history.
The house was built by the Metricon house for free.
Ms. Smith hopes the life-changing project will give the family a fresh start and new hope.
“You can’t help but look at these kids and know that they deserve all the love in the world from everyone they know, and that’s a testament to how many people have certainly stood up without hesitation to say, ‘we’re in,'” she said. The Gold Coast Newsletter.
‘If you look at the impact of a safe home, we’re giving these kids hope, we’re giving these kids longevity in their future and their children’s future in having a stable home.
‘And with this house, it’s not just ‘here’s a house.’ You really hope to change the belief system in children who have had so much trauma.’
The family will move into their Gold Coast home less than a year after the first foundation (pictured) was laid in August 2022
The project was spearheaded by the founder of My Bella Casa, construction entrepreneur Tamika Smith (pictured)
Mrs. Carroll and her husband have launched the Kelly Wilkinson Foundation in memory of Kelly to support victims of domestic violence.
Ms Smith is committed to continuing her mission to create permanent change for future generations in the dire housing situation facing many vulnerable Australian families, while calling on governments to do more.
“This family, like so many others, deserves more, and this is our community standing up to say that we don’t agree with this and that people deserve much more than to be political statistic!” she said Tuesday.
‘Long-term housing for vulnerable members of our community is what I have dedicated my life to.
‘People deserve more than short-term strategies and this is what we must do and be more to help these children.’
Johnston remains in custody and has yet to plead guilty.
The death of mother of three Kelly Wilkinson (pictured) shocked the nation in 2021
He appeared at Brisbane High Court earlier this month for a brief hearing, hearing that Johnston recently hired a new legal team and that defense lawyer Kim Bryson had yet to see the brief of evidence against her client.
Crown prosecutor Philip McCarthy KC told the court that he expected the trial against Johnston to “take more than three weeks”.
He told the court that the Crown will allege that Mr Johnston had a “history of domestic violence… which would include sexual violence towards” Ms Wilkinson during the trial.
Judge Callaghan said the earliest available date for the trial would be early February next year.
He adjourned the matter until 9/11 to allow Ms. Bryson to speak with her client about her defense case.
The matter was also placed on the pre-trial discussion list on November 17, where both the defense and the prosecution are expected to make various requests on how best to proceed with the trial.
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The children have spent the last year watching their new home transform from a concrete slab to a seven-bedroom house.