Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Community Foundations and local organisations encouraged to apply

FRRR is asking Community Foundations and local organisations in places impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires to assist with the distribution of vouchers to families in need of support as part of its long-running Back to School (BTS) program.

FRRR seeks Back to School partners in bushfire-affected areas

FRRR is currently seeking local partners to help distribute more than $500,000 in $50 gift vouchers into areas affected by the Black Summer bushfires. Families will be able to redeem the vouchers for school essentials, such as school uniforms, shoes, school bags and stationery.

The aim of the BTS program is to help students by providing the key items they need, which may have been lost during the bushfires, so that they can focus on their education and keep learning.

As part of the BTS program, FRRR partners with community groups and Community Foundations who can discretely distribute the vouchers to local families in need. This means parents don’t have to apply for the vouchers but still receive support.

More than 5,400 students have already been given a helping hand this year, with vouchers valued at more than $250,000 having been distributed to families in places affected by the Black Summer bushfires, thanks to the generosity of donors from across Australia.

Jeanice Henderson, BTS Program Coordinator, said that while $50 dollars may not seem much, in FRRR’s experience, it makes a practical difference, especially for those who may have lost everything during the fires.

“For families and students impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires, recovery is already a difficult journey. These vouchers will mean they have a helping hand when it comes to covering the costs of things like books, stationery, or winter uniforms and shoes,” Ms Henderson explained.

“We are grateful to the Community Foundations and local organisations that have partnered with us so far as part of the BTS program. These organisations know the challenges that locals face when it comes to disaster recovery and can reach those families and students most in need of support.

“We hope other local organisations, which we know are already doing amazing work to support families like these in their communities, will come on board to help distribute our BTS vouchers,” Ms Henderson said.

Community Foundations and local not-for-profit community organisations can apply for vouchers via the Back to School page.

Applications close Wednesday, 31 March 2021. Grants will be announced, and vouchers distributed, in late May 2021, ahead of Term 3.

Visit here for more information on FRRR’s Back to School program and other grant programs to support communities before, during, and after a natural disaster or drought, and build communities’ climate resilience.

FRRR and community groups help young people impacted by bushfires

More than 5,400 students and families in places affected by the Black Summer bushfires are being given a helping hand at the start the new school year, thanks to the generosity of donors from across Australia.

FRRR and community groups help young people impacted by bushfires

Funded through FRRR’s Back to School (BTS) program, students will be able to redeem the $50 gift vouchers for essential school items such as uniforms, school bags or stationery. So far this year, vouchers valued at more than $250,000 have been distributed to families impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires.

FRRR partners with local community groups and Community Foundations who discretely distribute the vouchers to families in need. This means parents don’t have to apply for them but still get the support they need.

The vouchers are funded by FRRR and its donor partners, which include News Corp, Australia Post, Fire Fight Australia concert, Portland House Foundation, UNICEF Australia, J & M Nolan Family Trust, Bertalli Family Foundation, June Canavan Foundation, and Origin Energy Foundation, as well as individual donors.

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

“As families continue to navigate their recovery journey after the bushfires, they are also dealing with the additional challenges caused by the pandemic.

“These vouchers are a small way of helping students and families to have one less thing to worry about – whether they cover the cost of a pair of school shoes, a couple of school jumpers, or even a sleeping bag that a child can use for school camp,” Ms Egleton explained.

Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) is one of the Community Foundations helping to distribute the vouchers in their region. NRCF Executive Officer, Emily Berry, said that the vouchers are for purchasing items that students may have lost in the fires and have never been able to replace due to financial difficulties.

“We hope these vouchers support inclusion for the students, helping them fit into their school environment and go on to realise their potential, instead of feeling different, or excluded because they are unable to purchase school essentials,” Ms Berry said.

As part of the BTS program, a further 30 Community Foundations and locally-based community groups are helping to distribute 7,000 BTS vouchers to students and families in rural regions not affected by the 2019-20 bushfires.

In total, more than $590,000 has been distributed in vouchers to students and families across Australia through the BTS program this year.

“Last year was tough for everyone, especially for those living in the bush. Fifty dollars may not seem much, but for these families it can help to alleviate the pressure they face at the start of a new school year,” Ms Egleton said.

From our previous experience in supporting disaster-affected communities, we know that young people have been significantly affected by the fires, and it can take families a long time to get back on their feet again. FRRR is conducting another dedicated round of the Back to School program, which will provide vouchers in time for winter uniform and shoes. Applications are open now.

Vouchers were awarded to support the following Local Government Areas:

Bushfire Recovery stream
Alpine (S)Lismore (C)
Bega Valley (A)Richmond Valley (A)
Central Coast (C) (NSW)Snowy Monaro Regional (A)
Clarence Valley (A)Snowy Valleys (A)
East Gippsland (S)Towong (S)
Greater Hume Shire (A)Wingecarribee (A)
Kyogle (A)Yorke Peninsula (DC)
General stream
Albury (C)Cleve (DC)Mid Murray (DC)Streaky Bay (DC)
Alexandrina (DC)Cloncurry (S)Mid-Coast (A)Sunshine Coast (R)
Alice Springs (T)Cowra (A)Moorabool (S)Tatiara (DC)
Ballarat (C)Elliston (DC)Mount Gambier (C)Toowoomba (R)
Ballina (A)Federation (A)Mount Isa (C)Tumby Bay (DC)
Barkly (R)Franklin Harbour (DC)Naracoorte and Lucindale (DC)Tweed (A)
Barossa (DC)Golden Plains (S)Northern Grampians (S)Victor Harbor (C)
Bass Coast (S)Grant (DC)Peterborough (DC)Victoria Daly (R)
Baw Baw (S)Hepburn (S)Port Augusta (C)Wagga Wagga (C)
Benalla (RC)Hinchinbrook (S)Port Lincoln (C)Wangaratta (RC)
Boulia (S)Indigo (S)Port Pirie City and Dists (M)Wattle Range (DC)
Broken Hill (C)Kimba (DC)Pyrenees, VicWhyalla (C)
Buloke (S)Kingston (DC) (SA)Richmond (S)Wodonga (C)
Byron (A)Kyogle (A)Robe (DC)Wudinna (DC)
Campaspe (S)Latrobe (C) (Vic.)Roper Gulf (R)Yankalilla (DC)
Ceduna (DC)Light (RegC)South Gippsland (S)Yorke Peninsula (DC)
Central Darling (A)Lower Eyre Peninsula (DC)Strathbogie (S)

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.

schoolbag

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

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.

Bendigo, 6 March 2020: The breadth and impact of the bushfires experienced across Australia over spring and summer mean that many children living in rural, regional and remote communities will not have what they need to start second term.

FRRR's Back to School program has helped more than 165,000 disadvantaged students.

Since 2005, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal’s (FRRR) Back to School program has helped more than 165,000 disadvantaged students by giving them a $50 gift voucher that can be redeemed for school necessities, such as uniforms, shoes, school bags and stationery.

Thanks to the generosity of our donor partners, in the wake of the bushfire crisis, many more students will get the helping hand they need.

FRRR will run a special round of its Back to School program to provide $50 vouchers to children and families in need in rural communities within local government areas with a bushfire disaster declaration, from September 2019 to January / February 2020. The vouchers can be redeemed at Target stores or select local stationery and uniform retailers in local communities.

FRRR CEO, Natalie Egleton says that the organisation ensures the vouchers get to those who need it.

“FRRR partners with Community Foundations and local community organisations, who can discretely ensure support reaches people, without them having to apply for it.

“We expect to distribute up to 15,500 vouchers to fire-affected families. To work swiftly, FRRR will seek to work with Foundations and organisations with whom we’ve partnered previously, as well as seek applications from other backbone organisations in communities where we’ve previously not distributed vouchers,” explains Ms Egleton.

Community Foundations and local community organisations can apply for vouchers via the FRRR website. Vouchers will be distributed in May 2020.

“Fifty dollars may not seem like much, but we know that this does make a difference, helping to offset the cost of school books, stationery, shoes, winter clothes and even equipment that enables students to participate fully in extracurricular activities, such as steel-capped boots for work experience or sleeping bags, so they join in school camps,” says Ms Egleton.

FRRR waives its administration fee on the Back to School program.

The Back to School Bushfire Response program is just one of the ways that FRRR is assisting fire-affected communities to get back on their feet. Working to support needs in the medium to long-term, that is 12-18 months following the bushfires, grants from FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund will be available to support community leaders to implement what they need in their community. That could be support for fatigued volunteer leaders, repairing vital community infrastructure or ensuring psychological support is available when it is most needed, for example. Grants could also be used to prepare for future disasters. Additionally, FRRR will be offering a special grant stream through its flexible Strengthening Rural Communities program for communities that identify more immediate needs and for donors wishing for their funds to be used in full in the medium-term recovery period.

Bendigo, 7 February 2018: More than $565,000 is being distributed via this year’s FRRR Back to School program, helping rural children and their families to access quality educational experiences. In total, more than 11,000 country children will receive support.

FRRR’s Back to School program provides $50 vouchers that are redeemable at either Target or select local retailers for items necessary to start the school year. They are distributed via community groups that understand their community’s needs and those who most need assistance. This way, families in need receive invaluable support, without having to apply for it.

FRRR’s CEO, Natalie Egleton, said that she is incredibly proud to be able to facilitate a program that helps to change the lives and enhance educational outcomes of school kids in rural Australia.

“The Back to School program means that students and their families in rural and regional Australia who are doing it tough have what they need to start the school year on a positive note. Simply having a uniform that fits, new stationery or a new lunch box for school, just like everyone else, can be the catalyst to get kids engaged again in their schooling. It means they fit in and don’t stand out for the wrong reasons, so they can get on with learning.

“FRRR’s Back to School program has a number of generous donors, including The Origin Foundation, Audi Foundation, Aurizon Community Giving Fund and Scenic World, a number of Community Foundations, as well as many private and individual donors. Without them, this program would not reach those people who really need it. We greatly appreciate their support, as the vouchers make a huge difference.”

Feedback from past recipients confirms that having the right equipment and school uniform gives children a vital confidence boost when they walk in the school gate at the start of the school year.

A Community Foundation in Western Australia that helped distribute previous Back to School vouchers to local schools said the program immensely improved student health and wellbeing. Having the “gear” like their peers enabled these young people to fit in and participate fully.

In another example, a student in Victoria who displayed a talent for cross country running used the voucher to replace his old shoes, which were barely holding together. He went on to perform a personal best in his event and moved up to the next level. The school remarked that this did wonders for his self-esteem which transferred into other curriculum areas.

Earlier this year, a number of FRRR Back to School vouchers funded by the Origin Foundation went to families experiencing financial difficulty, after years of consecutive natural disasters.


They have four children, two in High School and two in Primary School, and in the words of the local Neighbourhood Centre Coordinator who met them “It’s been tough … with four children their finances were stretched to the max.”
One family lives on a grazing property in Queensland.

Their property was severely affected by the 2013 flood, and for the past two years they have been only just coping with the prolonged drought. Then, earlier this year, they were hit by flooding rains, off the back of Cyclone Marcia.

As a result, the Neighbourhood Centre offered them a Back to School voucher for each of the children, to go toward school books and stationery.

This simple gesture was greeted with great relief.  The Centre Coordinator said “When ‘Mum’ came in to pick up the vouchers, her face glowed while shaking my hand and thanking me profusely. She wouldn’t let go.”

The mother said she really didn’t know how they were going to be able to send the children to school with all that they need to start the year.

“This gift will mean that we might even be able to afford some new clothes for them to wear instead of having to wear the used clothes they would have to pick up from the Op Shop.”

FRRRs $50 Back to School vouchers really do make a difference. If you would like to help a child, you can donate at frrr.org.au/giving.

Chris Hogan is the primary school principal at Deniliquin North Public School. Deni, as the locals refer to it, is a rural town in NSW, 725 km from Sydney with a population just less than 7,500. It is the heart of an agricultural region, largely producing rice and wool, and has suffered significant periods of drought over the last decade.

Chris was happy that Deni North could participate in the 2014 BTS program and distributed 29 vouchers to families in high need that attended his school. “A $50 voucher goes a long way to families that are struggling to put food on the table, let alone buy new school clothes and stationery,” he told us.

“It is a tough reality that kids who ‘standout’ often get picked on at school. All teachers do their best to stop this from happening and talk to students about the need to show empathy, but we can’t be everywhere all the time. Simply having a uniform that fits and shoes without holes can give kids the confidence to participate and learn at school, as well as stand up for themselves,” Chris explained.

Heartfelt thanks

The feedback from the parents who received the vouchers was overwhelmingly positive. It reflects that their needs vary considerably:

  • “Our family lost our home and all belongings due to a house fire. The $50 voucher helped us out greatly at this terrible time. We used it to help purchase school shoes and a sports uniform for our daughter. $50 may not seem like much to some people, but in times of need it can feel like $500. What a great program.”
  • “The voucher helped us to buy things for the kids because treatment for breast cancer is very expensive. Thank you so much, it is much appreciated.”
  • “The voucher was very helpful and timely for our family. It was used to buy a school uniform and shoes that we could not afford. It was very much appreciated.”
  • “Helped to buy skivvy’s for the winter uniform and pencils for the class room. Thank you FRRR and North School.”

The final line of Chris’ report to us was: “As you can clearly see, the $50 vouchers really do make a difference!”

Please donate!

You can help hundreds of other students and families just like these. Even $50 would make a big difference. Donations are tax deductible and 100% of the funds donated go toward this program.