Families in bushfire-affected communities receive help getting Back to School

Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Media releases: 30 June 2020

30 June 2020: Nearly 4,000 students impacted by the 2019/20 bushfires have been given a helping hand with replacements for the essential school items they lost during summer’s bushfires. The support has come from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and its donor partners, which include News Corp, Australia Post, Fire Fight Australia concert, Portland House Foundation, UNICEF Australia and Origin Energy Foundation.

FRRR ran a special round of its Back to School program, which provides $50 gift vouchers to students in rural communities and is normally run annually to support the start of the school year. To ensure support discretely reaches people truly in need, FRRR partners with community groups and Community Foundations who distribute vouchers, without parents having to apply for them.

Back to School vouchers can be redeemed for necessities, such as school uniforms, shoes, school bags and stationery, ensuring students have what they need to continue to engage with their education.

Through this special round of Back to School, FRRR awarded 3,956 vouchers totalling $197,800 to nine community groups in bushfire affected regions of Victoria and NSW. There was $965,000 available to communities through this program, but it appears COVID-19 affected demand for the vouchers, perhaps because schools weren’t operating normally.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, says for these students and their families, getting back to school is an important part of the recovery journey.

“For students in bushfire affected areas, it’s been a very disrupted start to the 2020 school year, with COVID-19 meaning many have been learning from home since early March. It’s only now, as they are heading back to face-to-face schooling, that many are realising just what items they are missing and need to replace so that they are ready to learn and fully engage in their education.

“Fifty dollars may not seem much, but for these families it can mean that they can buy the books, shoes, uniform items, even equipment that will allow them to participate fully in extracurricular activities, such as steel-capped boots for work experience or sleeping bags, so they can join in school camps. It’s just one small way FRRR can help to alleviate the pressure still faced by these students and their families,” said Ms Egleton.

Vouchers were awarded to support the following Local Government Areas:

  • Bega Valley , NSW
  • Clarence Valley, NSW
  • Eurobodalla, NSW
  • Greater Hume Shire, NSW
  • Kyogle, NSW
  • Lithgow, NSW
  • Mid-Coast, NSW
  • Richmond Valley, NSW
  • Snowy Valleys, NSW
  • Tenterfield, NSW
  • Towong, NSW and VIC
  • Alpine, VIC
  • East Gippsland, VIC
  • Wellington, VIC

Kate Weiss, Fundraising and Marketing Support Officer from the Community Foundation for Albury Wodonga says their organisation is working directly with school principals and welfare officers in their region devastated by the 2019/2020 bushfires, including schools in the Greater Hume Shire, Towong Shire and parts of the Snowy Valleys Council.

“These vouchers will have an enormous impact on the students in the bushfire affected communities. Some families lost homes and everything in them. Receiving a voucher will mean they can purchase the clothing and equipment they really need.”

FRRR will make another distribution of Back to School vouchers for bushfire-affected students to support them at the start of the 2021 school year, recognising needs will continue to evolve over the course of the year.

FRRR’s focus is on medium to long-term recovery of disaster-affected communities. These grants mean that to date, FRRR has awarded nearly $1M in bushfire recovery support, with further grants to be announced in the next couple of weeks.