Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Koreng Country

It is a narrative that we so hear often in many remote, rural, and regional communities across the country. Severe weather that can cause drought, flooding, fires, and frost decimating crops and livestock in areas that survive on the agriculture industry. Major events like drought can affect farming regions for years and in doing so cause the residents of these towns extreme stress and anxiety.

In the town Jerramungup in Western Australia, they too are familiar with this narrative. For the past four years, this farming community has endured particularly dry seasonal conditions. With little rainfall and severe wind events, frosty winters and at least four fires, the soil conditions have been left bare and exposed, meaning farmers have struggled to earn an income. To add to the stressors, due to their deteriorating financial situation, many producers were forced to sell off a large majority of their sheep and cattle flocks.

These cumulative disasters seriously affect the mental health of those trying to maintain an income through farming. This current situation has caused many families to leave the town, causing higher rates of social isolation.

With this knowledge, the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group (FBG) took it upon themselves to create an event where residents could come together and “take a night off”. Since their inception in 2002, the FBG has been active facilitators of natural resource management projects including, strategic control of priority weeds, biodiversity conservation, on-farm trials, and sustainable agriculture climate adaptation. They have often held informative and educational events, but after the success of the 2019 Dancing in the Dirt Gala Ball, they knew it was important for the community to make sure it went ahead again in 2020.

With a $5,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant jointly funded by the Bertalli Family Foundation and FRRR, the FBG was able to cover the fees for the live entertainment. The 300 guests in attendance were treated to a night of music from a live band and a much-needed laugh from a comedian.

The FBG was pleased to report the complete success of the night. It was able to bring the adults of the town together for a night of fun and connection. It was so popular they needed to hire an extra bus to transport the guests safely to and from the event. When asked what they would do differently next time, they said they would have more people working to accommodate the popularity of the event.

Dancing in the Dirt achieved everything we had hoped – and more. Our little town was buzzing with excitement in the lead up to the event, it took our minds off the past few difficult seasons and gave our town a fresh focus and outlook on the season to come.”

Jessica Bailey, FBG Administration Officer

Tommeginne Country

A group of young women from Tasmania’s north coast have taken ownership of their stories, thanks to a Strengthening Rural Communities grant.

For 27 years, Big HART Inc has found innovative ways to respond to disadvantage on the north-west coast of Tasmania. Young women are a particularly challenged cohort, but a program run by Big HART helps them build confidence and skills to succeed and steer their course away from negative social outcomes, at the same time as learning new digital skills.

Radio Diaries pairs young, disadvantaged women with professional audio artists to create compelling podcast pieces exploring the lives of young women, like themselves, growing up in a disadvantaged community.

A $10,000 grant, funded by the Bertalli Family Foundation, supported the development and presentation of the podcasts, including delivery of the workshops and mentoring. The participants, aged between 11 and 15 and at risk of disengaging from school, were identified by local schools, Rural Health Tasmania and youth services. Interest in the project and numbers for the audio skills workshops exceeded expectations.

What emerged was a compelling body of work. Radio Diaries was showcased at a celebratory community dinner, attended by 70 community members, to mark International Women’s Day in March 2020 including Government representatives. This included Trinity’s story, (watch – Facebook video with animation), which has since been showcased at an online audio conference presented by a leading podcast agency, and picked up by the ABC (listen).

“One of the key benefits of this event was that a number of young women who may ordinarily struggle with systemic challenges were able to feel heard. They were able to share their stories with a room full of community, friends, family, political and business representatives, and feel that they were being taken seriously.”

-Sam Hawker, National Producer, Big HART Inc

Through Radio Diaries, these young women became the storytellers and drivers of changing perceptions around their capabilities. They were given the chance to engage with others in the community and be trained up as citizen journalists, equipping them with new digital abilities, and bringing them a step closer to being prepared for the jobs of the future, armed with new confidence and support.