Grants help put local people in charge of recovery

Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Media releases: 30 June 2020

30 June 2020: Thanks to support from our donor partners, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has awarded two more grants to support communities in their recovery from the 2019/20 Summer bushfires.

Byron Bay

The Orara Valley Progress Association and the Blue Mountains Community Resource Network (BMCRN) each received a $25,000 grant for projects that will help their communities to rebuild and recover from the bushfires.

The Orara Valley Progress Association will use the $25,000 grant, funded by R.M.Williams, to engage a Community Recovery Officer to lead the establishment of Community Hubs in Glenreagh and Nana Glen, on the NSW central coast. Both communities were devastated by the Liberation Trail fire in November last year, and then adversely affected by flooding in February.

For those who have lost their homes and/or sustained significant damage from fire and floods, the Community Recovery Officer will be a direct a point of contact and will assist community members to navigate support from various charitable organisations.

The Community Hubs will serve as a central place for community information, as well as offer a safe place in times of need. This paid role will greatly alleviate the workload of community volunteers, many of whom are at breaking point.

The Community Recovery Officer will also work alongside the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area’s (LGA) Community Recovery Officer to coordinate the delivery of workshops to better prepare the Orara Valley communities for future disasters, and address environmental and wildlife needs.

For BMCRN, the $25,000 grant, funded by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, will be used to support the costs of a casual Project Coordinator to deliver a series of disaster preparedness and resilience events ahead of the 2020/21 fire season.

BMCRN acts as a peak organisation for the community services sector across the Blue Mountains, providing leadership and strengthening ties across the incredibly varied and dynamic sector.

Like many fire-affected places, Blue Mountains communities are currently experiencing interwoven layers of community-level trauma, following three megafires in the area over the summer 2019/20. This comes on top of bushfires in recent years, including the 2013 bushfires. Consequently, people are on high alert about the potential impacts of future fire events.

This project will provide a visible, achievable goal for the community to both enhance recovery and preparedness, and enhance community connection, which is especially important in a recovery context exacerbated by COVID-19.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR says the Foundation strongly believes that supporting communities to take charge locally is key to their recovery.

“From our 15 years’ experience supporting communities affected by natural disasters, we’ve learnt that every community is different, and those that are locally based are best placed to know what the community needs.

“One of the strong messages we have heard time and again is that people don’t want outsiders coming in and telling them what, how or when they need to do things. These grants mean that these Orara Valley and Blue Mountains can each appoint a locally-based person who will become the key point of contact to support local recovery, now, and into the future.

“We also know that being prepared is critical as disasters become more frequent and severe,” says Ms Egleton. “Communities that are active and engaged, and understand the emergency management system, are better equipped at the time of a disaster. So too are those that have strong social capital. These two positions will play a key role in that respect too.”