Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal
Spirit of charity shines bright in a tough year to help rural communities adapt and evolve
A unique Australian charity significantly increased its year-on-year grantmaking, giving remote, rural and regional communities across the country a much-needed funding boost as they adapted to the impacts of natural disasters and COVID-19.
FRRR (the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal) supports small not-for-profit organisations across rural Australia through a mix of grant funding and capacity building activities. Their aim is to ensure local grassroots groups have the tools and support they need to implement projects that strengthen and sustain the vitality of their communities, and their organisations.
Last financial year, FRRR awarded nearly $20 million through 917 grants, an increase of around a third on the prior year. A significant portion ($4.1 million) went toward 203 recovery projects in communities impacted by the Black Summer bushfires, who were also grappling with economic and social fallout of COVID-19.
For the last 20 years, FRRR has created collaborative partnerships with Government, philanthropy, business and private funders to provide support to local organisations to fill the gaps, and address inequities in services in these areas and, critically, to strengthen community resilience.
Despite it being a tough year, everyday Australians and the philanthropic sector in particular continued to give, enabling FRRR to reach some of the smallest and most remote communities.
FRRR CEO Natalie Egleton said that while many grants to community groups are project-based, last year, in response to community needs, the organisation adapted its approach to also support more operational costs.
“The places we support are really small communities – sometimes just tens or hundreds of people – and so very few volunteers carry a lot of the load. Between the impacts of bushfires, drought, floods and COVID-19 restrictions, traditional fundraising was simply not possible. We were able to step in and support projects in more than 540 different postcodes across the country.
“With these communities being so resourceful, most projects don’t actually need all that much funding. In fact, our median grant was only around $13,000. While that figure has increased over time, we still award many grants that are just a few thousand dollars.
“It’s surprising just how big an impact can be created with relatively little, especially when people come together and given collaboratively, as they have this year,” Ms Egleton said.
“While it’s been a tough 12 months, thanks to the support of our corporate and philanthropic partners, and hundreds of individual donors, we are proud to have been able to sustain and indeed strengthen many rural communitites,” Ms Egleton concluded.
FRRR’s FY2020/21 Annual Review is available at www.frrr.org.au/AR21.
Nestled in the heart of the Bundaleer Forest lies a quiet haven where local South Australian families can visit to reconnect with nature, and each other. Just eight kilometres from Jamestown, the picnic area of the Bundaleer Forest and the idyllic Maple Walk have been a local favourite for years. And yet, something was missing.
Until 2018, families would have to drive more than 200km to visit the nearest nature play park. These types of parks provide an opportunity for children to ignite their imagination, and enjoy learning and developing key skills while being surrounded by nature.
After the devastating bushfires that tore through the Bundaleer Forest in 2013, it became clear that the community needed a new tourist destination to drive business into the area.
After three years of work by the Northern Forests Community Initiatives Group, The Bundaleer Forest Community Areas Association (BFCAA) was formed. Their mission is to protect, preserve, promote and enhance the recreational, environmental, cultural, historical and educational values of the community areas of the Bundaleer Forest – and delivering the nature play area was just one of their initiatives.
The local community applied for the FRRR Small Grants for Rural Communities program, which provided $5,000 in funding for the nature play area, thanks to support from The Yulgilbar Foundation. Over 12 months, the community banded together to design and build the new park, with enormous input from the BFCAA volunteers, and Lion Club volunteers.
The finished nature play area is full of things to do, with a basket swing, picnic table & story time area, goblin & fairy house, mud kitchen, stepping logs, giant xylophone, swinging bars, tight rope and climbing rope. The facility has encouraged local schools, kindergartens and other groups to visit locally, and enjoy the benefits of having such a fun and engaging play area right on their doorstep.
Each of the nature play structures has a specific goal for promoting the development of strength, creativity, and providing a sensory experience. Children can experience being in nature and enjoying the fresh air, while developing their balance, body awareness, concentration and gross motor skills.
“Anyone who sits quietly and observes children playing in the Bundaleer nature play space will fully understand the impact of this project. While it is impossible to measure, there is a phenomenal impact on many levels of children development through nature play. It’s where children’s imaginations can come to life, and world where fairies and dragons are more real than make believe. It’s where children cooperate to make music together on the giant instrument, and learn to take turns on the swing and hold the hand of a younger chid as they learn to balance on the stepping logs.”Mel Kitschke
Bundaleer Forest Community Areas Association