Back to School vouchers available to help families in fire-affected communities

Bushfire recovery Media releases: 6 March 2020

Bendigo, 6 March 2020: The breadth and impact of the bushfires experienced across Australia over spring and summer mean that many children living in rural, regional and remote communities will not have what they need to start second term.

FRRR's Back to School program has helped more than 165,000 disadvantaged students.

Since 2005, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal’s (FRRR) Back to School program has helped more than 165,000 disadvantaged students by giving them a $50 gift voucher that can be redeemed for school necessities, such as uniforms, shoes, school bags and stationery.

Thanks to the generosity of our donor partners, in the wake of the bushfire crisis, many more students will get the helping hand they need.

FRRR will run a special round of its Back to School program to provide $50 vouchers to children and families in need in rural communities within local government areas with a bushfire disaster declaration, from September 2019 to January / February 2020. The vouchers can be redeemed at Target stores or select local stationery and uniform retailers in local communities.

FRRR CEO, Natalie Egleton says that the organisation ensures the vouchers get to those who need it.

“FRRR partners with Community Foundations and local community organisations, who can discretely ensure support reaches people, without them having to apply for it.

“We expect to distribute up to 15,500 vouchers to fire-affected families. To work swiftly, FRRR will seek to work with Foundations and organisations with whom we’ve partnered previously, as well as seek applications from other backbone organisations in communities where we’ve previously not distributed vouchers,” explains Ms Egleton.

Community Foundations and local community organisations can apply for vouchers via the FRRR website. Vouchers will be distributed in May 2020.

“Fifty dollars may not seem like much, but we know that this does make a difference, helping to offset the cost of school books, stationery, shoes, winter clothes and even equipment that enables students to participate fully in extracurricular activities, such as steel-capped boots for work experience or sleeping bags, so they join in school camps,” says Ms Egleton.

FRRR waives its administration fee on the Back to School program.

The Back to School Bushfire Response program is just one of the ways that FRRR is assisting fire-affected communities to get back on their feet. Working to support needs in the medium to long-term, that is 12-18 months following the bushfires, grants from FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund will be available to support community leaders to implement what they need in their community. That could be support for fatigued volunteer leaders, repairing vital community infrastructure or ensuring psychological support is available when it is most needed, for example. Grants could also be used to prepare for future disasters. Additionally, FRRR will be offering a special grant stream through its flexible Strengthening Rural Communities program for communities that identify more immediate needs and for donors wishing for their funds to be used in full in the medium-term recovery period.