Romsey Ecotherapy Park

Community stories: 25 September 2023

The Romsey Ecotherapy Park Inc (REP) group persevered for 14 years to deliver a very special place in nature for local community members and visitors to the Macedon Ranges region in Victoria. Their multi-stage project transformed a derelict historic school site into a unique park that is enhancing health and wellness in nature for all ages and abilities. It was finally completed in November 2022.

REP Committee member, Jenny Stillman, said the park is proving popular already. “There are almost always people of all ages using the Park (including engaging with its inspired-by-nature art installations). Earlier this year, Macedon Ranges Shire Council focused its youth initiative program activities at the Park. A celebratory “Party in the Park” community event held in February 2023 was incredibly well attended. All of the artists involved in the project were present and spoke about their work. In addition, the potential for the Park’s future use was showcased with music performance and story-telling included in the event’s program.”

FRRR joined REP’s journey in July 2020, partnering with them to support their ‘Art in the Park’ fundraising campaign, through a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account. This allowed all those who donated to the project to receive a tax-deduction for their gift.

In total, REP raised around $108,000 through their partnership with FRRR, which was used to fund the art installations during the Stage 2 (Sensory Therapeutic Space) construction phase.

Ms Stillman said that the engagement and overall partnership with FRRR was outstanding.

“Thank you for all of your support and wise counsel. It has certainly been great for our project and our community group. The FRRR not-for-profit fundraising account has been incredibly important to REP’s capacity to launch and run a successful fundraising campaign. We have strongly recommended FRRR partnerships to other groups embarking on significant projects!”

Ms Stillman went on to explain that a hugely significant flow-on effect was the subsequent funding from Regional Development Victoria to cover the Park’s Stage 3 works, which resulted in the completion of Romsey Ecotherapy Park.

“We believe this commitment (in addition to RDV’s significant Stage 2 funding commitment) was partly facilitated by the success of REP’s ‘Art in the Park’ campaign, which RDV was very aware of.”

While they are justifiably proud of the achievements, Ms Stillman said that the Romsey Ecotherapy Park Inc committee members are, understandably, tired. The impact of a 14 year (total) project on these volunteers cannot be underestimated. There has been much learnt about resilience, determination, compromise and partnerships, while staying committed to their vision.

REP generously shared some of their key learnings, in the spirit of helping other community groups embarking on a major project:

  1. Identify the need for your project and back it up by referencing stakeholder (e.g. Council) documents.
  2. Be prepared to take risks (“No guts, no glory”) especially to promote a project that has a demonstrated “need” and which you genuinely believe in.
  3. Communication is critical. Speak to anyone and everyone you need to for information gathering and support (financial and otherwise).
  4. Partnerships with other local organisations are important, even if only to get volunteer help from them at fundraising events.
  5. Be prepared to acquire new skills if needed (e.g. marketing, graphic design, word smithing etc).
  6. Be prepared to play the “long game” (hopefully not as long as ours was – 14 years!). Persistence, determination and resilience were essential in this project.

Could your community group use fundraising support? To learn more about FRRR’s Fundraising Accounts for not-for-profits and community foundations, get in touch with Jo Kemp, our Philanthropic Services Manager.