FRRR has been connecting rural Australia and philanthropy since 2000.
L-R: Sarah and Baillieu Myer AC, Gina and Tim Fairfax AC, Janet and John Calvert-Jones visiting some of the projects they supported through FRRR.
At that time, the Sidney Myer Fund was seeking a way to acknowledge the centenary of the arrival of their name-sake in Australia in a manner that would benefit country people, while the Government saw the Summit as a means to find ways that rural and regional Australia might address the decline, especially in the wake of one of the worst droughts in living memory.
One of the ideas that emerged was that philanthropy could play a strategic role in enhancing the assets – natural and human – in regional Australia’s economic and community development.
And so FRRR was incorporated and awarded charitable status in 1999, with the Sidney Myer Fund and Federal Government as members. Both of these entities nominate one Director to the Board. The Sidney Myer Fund gifted $1 million and, during the Summit, the Prime Minister, John Howard OM AC, pledged a $10.7 million grant to be awarded in 2000, with a further $3.8 million to be offered as an incentive to raise further capital. In addition, ANZ Trustees and The Pratt Foundation each donated $1 million.
The people who had been instrumental in the Foundation’s formation – the Honourable John Anderson, Baillieu Myer AC and Lady Marigold Southey became the inaugural Patrons, and some highly respected people from across philanthropy, Government and rural Australia joined the Board.
Early in its inaugural year, FRRR ran its first grant round, receiving more than 260 applications from across Australia. Among the projects funded in the first round were a number of feasibility studies for community foundations – a relatively new concept. Since then, focused support from FRRR and Philanthropy Australia has helped drive the movement forward.
The Foundation eventually set up its headquarters, appropriately, in the hometown of Sidney Myer’s first store – the regional Victorian city of Bendigo. It continues to operate from there and to follow the principles and ideals first set down at the Regional Australia Summit.
FRRR remains Australia’s only national philanthropic Foundation dedicated to rural and regional Australia.
FRRR is responsive to emerging and evolving community needs and the programs we offer reflect this. Sometimes programs run their course and are closed or put into hiatus – another need emerges, a donor partner moves on to funding something else or the issue or challenge the program was addressing is resolved.
“Over a long life I have been involved in many community activities. None have given me more pleasure than FRRR. I have been lucky to have been involved right from the start and am proud of FRRR’s achievements.
FRRR is needed to put life back into Australia’s regions. They are suffering as every year more and more people keep drifting to the capital cities.
FRRR’s great achievement has been to survive and grow. FRRR has also given many Australians living in rural and remote communities new hope, encouragement and significant projects within their communities.”
Baillieu Myer AC