Local BTS partners sought in bushfire-affected areas

Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Media releases: 6 October 2020

Community Foundations and local organisations encouraged to apply

6 October 2020: The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) is seeking local partners in bushfire-affected communities to assist with the distribution of a special bushfire recovery stream of its long-running Back to School program.


Thanks to generous support from donors, FRRR has more than $767,000 in $50 vouchers to distribute in areas affected by the Black Summer bushfires. These vouchers can be redeemed for school essentials, such as school uniforms, shoes, school bags and stationery, which may have been lost during the bushfires. The aim is to help students start the 2021 school year with the key items they need to be ready to learn.

To ensure support reaches people truly in need, FRRR partners with Community Foundations and locally-based community organisations that can distribute the vouchers discretely, without parents having to apply for them.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that one of the key reasons the program has been a success over the past 15 years has been the involvement of local organisations to help coordinate voucher distribution.

“Having run this program since 2005, we know that it’s critical for us to have local partners, on the ground in communities, who can coordinate the distribution of these vouchers through schools, welfare organisations and community support networks, so the funds really get to those in need,” Ms Egleton said.

“We already have many long-standing partnerships, but we are seeking to expand them so that we have a partner in each of the LGA’s impacted by the Black Summer bushfires to help coordinate voucher distribution on behalf of their Shire. We are encouraging Community Foundations and backbone community organisations in these bushfire-affected communities to apply.

“This year has been full of extreme disruptions for these students and families impacted by last summer’s bushfires. As they slowly go back to face-to-face schooling, these children will not only be re-engaging in their education, but also re-establishing social connections with friends, both of which are very important steps in the recovery process,” Ms Egleton explained.

While $50 dollars may not seem much, in FRRR’s experience, it makes a practical difference. For families in need, it can mean that they can buy the books, shoes, uniform items, and even equipment like steel-capped boots or sleeping bags, so students can participate fully in things like work experience or school camps. For students and families doing it tough, it means they can focus on their recovery, education and on building a strong support network, rather than on the stress of not having basic school items or missing out on extracurricular activities.

FRRR’s Back to School Bushfire Response stream is possible thanks to the support of a number of donors, including News Corp Australia, Australia Post, Fire Fight Australia Fund, Portland House Foundation, UNICEF Australia and Origin Energy Foundation.

Community Foundations and local not-for-profit community organisations can apply for vouchers via the FRRR website. Applications close Friday, 30 October 2020. Grants will be announced at the end of November 2020 and vouchers will be distributed in January 2021, ahead of Term 1. 

FRRR’s focus is on medium to long-term recovery of disaster-affected communities. FRRR has already awarded more than $2 million in support for Black Summer bushfire recovery, with further grants to be announced in early 2021.

Since 2005, FRRR’s Back to School program has helped nearly 170,000 disadvantaged students by giving them a $50 gift voucher that can be redeemed for school necessities, such as uniforms, shoes, school bags and stationery. FRRR waives its administration fee on the Back to School program, so that every dollar donated to the program goes directly to the vouchers. The Back to School Bushfire Response stream ran earlier this year, providing nearly 4,000 students impacted by the Black Summer bushfires with a $50 voucher to help with replacing school necessities