CEO Message & Our Team

Natalie Egleton, FRRR CEO

I am delighted to present FRRR’s 2021/22 Annual Review – a year that was once again challenging. Like the communities we partner with and support, FRRR is geared to adapt and evolve through disruption, and the 2021/22 financial year certainly delivered more disruption, and much hardship for many.

We witnessed immense generosity, agility and strength in remote, rural and regional communities as they continued to grapple with the effects of bushfires, floods, cyclones and the pandemic. I extend my deep appreciation and admiration to the community leaders who work so hard to sustain their communities.

Philanthropy has stepped up in force to back them too and I thank the incredible network of partners and supporters who share our vision for a vibrant, revitalised and resilient remote, rural and regional Australia, and who continue to put their trust in FRRR. This year, we welcomed several new partners and renewed some long-standing relationships. We value each one of them but I especially want to call out the Gardiner Dairy Foundation and ANZ Banking Group, as this year we celebrated 20 years of partnership with each organisation.

With the support of our partners, we awarded 991 grants, valued at $19.8 million, to groups in 526 unique locations. Thank you again for choosing to partner with FRRR.

Many of the funded initiatives work at the intersections of people, place and disaster resilience and climate solutions. This has reinforced that our strategic focus areas are aligned to the ways communities work to address some of the most pressing and promising ideas for them and the nation.

Deepening our partnerships with First Nations communities was a highlight of the year. I appreciated the invitation to participate in the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples’ convenings and the many challenging yet generous conversations about how we can do more and better to support self-determination. There were also opportunities for our team to spend time on Country with partner organisations, which have built understanding, trust and friendships.

The reprieve from the most extreme COVID restrictions meant that communities were able to reconnect. It’s been great to see communities celebrating their culture and spirit and for our team, including myself, to spend time back in community, in person. It’s this vibrancy – despite the ongoing hits and knocks – that bolsters our commitment to delivering effective programs that have real lasting impacts.

I’m fortunate to work with an outstanding Board, Chaired by Tim Fairfax AC. I thank Tim for his support and championing of FRRR and remote and rural communities. I also thank Anne Grindrod, our Deputy Chair, for her wisdom and guidance, and both Fred Grimwade and Andrew McKenzie JP as successive Chairs of the Finance & Audit Committee, which has stewarded FRRR’s investments and financial and risk performance so well. I particularly want to acknowledge Ian Allen OAM and Fred Grimwade who retired this year. They provided invaluable, generous advice for many years, and I appreciated their support. The Board initiated a Director renewal process during the year with the appointments of James Flintoft and Georgie Somerset, both of whom bring great skills and expertise which will add to the strength of the FRRR board. Further renewal and diversification is planned for the coming year.

Looking ahead, our strategic goals include partnerships to scale and accelerate community-led disaster, drought, and climate resilience solutions; expanding our not-for-profit and youth capacity building support; launching a WA Advisory Board; developing a refreshed impact framework; innovating our grant-making processes; and growing the corpus to sure-up future funding needs and maximise the leverage factor that our corpus fund provides. A new office is also in the works, which will provide a more contemporary space for FRRR’s now-hybrid workforce. Bendigo will of course remain our head office.

Natalie Egleton
On Dja Dja Wurrung Country

Our wonderful team

Each grant involves not only diligent assessment by our team, but often also time on the phone, helping applicants craft their proposals, answering questions and generally guiding them in how to put forward a solid application. This year, our team – most of whom are based in Victoria and NSW – did much of this while working from home, managing patchy internet connections, home-learning and the day-to-day challenges of COVID.

It is in this context that the quality of engagement, relationships, granting opportunities and partnerships led by the team is most impressive.

Thanks to several new programs, our team grew to 30.5 FTE, made up of 15 full time staff and 23 part-time staff. During successive lockdowns, we focused on team morale and wellbeing and took advantage of every opportunity we could for informal catchups online. Our one face-to-face gathering was invaluable for reenergising and reconnecting. While we have now returned to the office in a hybrid working model, I want to formally record my gratitude and appreciation to them, and to their families, for their amazing efforts not only in doing their work so well, but in supporting one another through what was an extremely challenging 12 months.

I am personally grateful for the support of my leadership team. They have really stepped up in difficult circumstances and collaborated well, sharing their knowledge and learning to problem-solve, while maintaining cultural awareness and thinking strategically. I thank them for supporting each other and their teams, and for their support of me, as together we navigate both legacy and emerging challenges and opportunities.

FRRR’s leadership team – Karen Fazzani, Deb Samuels, Jill Karena, James Depasquale, Natalie Egleton, Nina O’Brien and Sarah Matthee, who is not pictured.