Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

In November, around 25 supporters joined the FRRR directors, CEO and Partnerships Team for a donor event held at the Nutrien Ag Solutions offices in Docklands, Melbourne. Dialling into the event as a guest speaker was Jacqui Bramwell from Alpine Valleys Community Leadership (AVCL) program.

Based in the Alpine Valley in north east Victoria, AVCL is dedicated to supporting their region by building strong leadership among locals, to create thriving, connected and resilient communities.

Back in 2019/20, the Alpine Valley was heavily affected by the Black Summer bushfires. The fires destroyed homes, livestock, 3,387km of fencing, and in the Alpine Shire 30% of the shire footprint had some of the worst air quality in the world, causing smoke taint on the grapes in the many local wineries.

For these communities in the north east, recovery took many forms. Immediate recovery needs included finding food and shelter for displaced people and repairing fences to keep livestock contained. But as time passed, recovery needs changed and the focus turned to the future.

In 2021, AVCL received a $90,000 multi-year grant from FRRR, through the Bushfire Recovery Fund, funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust (HMSTrust) and the Sidney Myer Fund. The grant was to build their capacity to strategically plan and deliver leadership training that will effectively support and build community recovery in the area.

This FRRR grant program supports not-for-profit community groups who play a central coordinating or networking role in supporting communities to recover from the Black Summer bushfires and to build organisational capacity.

Jacqui joined the meeting to share progress to date in implementing their grant and to provide some insights into the ongoing recovery.

A key goal for AVCL was to develop a recovery component in their organisation’s strategic plan, including developing specific workshop programs and resources and to make them more accessible to community members.

To understand what the broader community needed, they started by consulting widely. They connected with their 500 alumni across the north east region. They also contacted local authority Recovery Managers and Neighbourhood Centres who are well connected within their communities to hear first-hand what locals need.

“The key themes from those consultations were the challenges around supporting and sustaining community-led recovery. For the community to lead the recovery process, they need to have the leadership and project management skills,” Jacqui explained.

She noted that the scale of the recovery has affected all other activities in the Shires, taking community leaders away from other organisations they are normally active in.

“In this region, there are up to 10 Community Recovery Committees due to the vast impacts of the fires and the geography. That means a lot of people. This highlights the importance of building the next generation of leaders to backfill those positions on the committees of organisations such as CWA, the SES, the local cemetery management committee etc. Improving the leadership skills of more people can help to expand the reach of recovery efforts and strengthen the future of community more broadly.

Another aspect that Jacqui highlighted was the need to be proactive and consider future sustainability of the region. Some communities have told AVCL that they want to take a bigger view, in the face of rapid climate change and the intensity and frequency of these events. They are interested in transformational change, such as considering changing a community’s economic base.

To support local leaders through this, they have arranged trips to other communities that have had to transform, such as Derby in Tasmania, which has evolved from a mining community into an adventure-based tourism community, attracting thousands of people. These trips are an important opportunity to explore how to take it from being a concept to being a reality. Hearing directly from the people that have driven that in a community where it’s worked is important for them. They can take those lessons on board as to how to drive that sort of change in their own communities.

Over the next two years, the remaining funds will go towards actually delivering these resources and learnings to local communities.

“AVCL will coordinate leadership development in governance, project management and other specific leadership skills requested, ideally attracting other funding so the training can remain free or at only nominal cost.”

We look forward to sharing what else they learn as this project continues to roll out.

The Bushfire Recovery Fund grant program, funded by HMSTrust and the Sidney Myer Fund, has recently awarded a grant of $110,000 to be paid over two years to the bush nursing centre at Swifts Creek in East Gippsland. Bush nursing centres operate in locations remote from the medical facilities of major hubs and where there is no local doctor or pharmacy.  Swifts Creek Bush Nursing Centre played a central role in supporting the local community and emergency services workers during the Black Saturday fires and continues to provide backbone support to the communities recovery. 

The project titled “Sustainable Remote Community Health Services”, will support the organisation working towards key organisational goals for future service delivery. The Bush Nursing Manager is a multi-faceted role, encompassing a complex range of nursing duties combined with business management. There is significant risk to the centre with changes to key staff such as the Bush Nursing Manager and/or key members of the Committee of Management.

The grant will build the capacity of the organisation to tackle the systemic complexity of the health sector and be strategic in navigating the local health system to ensure that it meets the compelling needs of the recovering community now and well into the future.   

The Bushfire Recovery Fund grant program, funded by HMSTrust and the Sidney Myer Fund, has recently awarded a grant of $120,000 to be paid over three years to Indigenous organisation Jaithmathang TABOO, who are working on Country in North East Victoria to support regeneration in the landscape’s recovery from the 2019/20 bushfires, and support cultural healing.  

The project, titled “Beginning the journey to cultural healing on Jaithmathang country’, will operate a program of annual cool burns and work with key environment and government stakeholders, including Parks Victoria and DELWP, to share learnings.  

Specifically, the grant aims to build the capacity of the organisation by contributing to the cost of employing a Jaithmathang descendant to lead the project over the next three years for the purposes of realising Jaithmathang goals in establishing ongoing partnerships that can support Jaithmathang operating sustainably into the future as custodians on Country.

Capacity building grants support long-term recovery initiatives of local not-for-profits and community organisations

FRRR has awarded grants to four Victorian community groups playing a central role in the long-term recovery of communities impacted by the 2019/20 bushfires.

Local groups playing a critical role in Victoria’s bushfire recovery to receive $400,000 in funding

The grants are the first to be awarded through the Bushfire Recovery Fund established thanks to a multi-year partnership with the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust (HMSTrust) and the Sidney Myer Fund. The program is designed to strengthen the capacity of local not-for-profit organisations and community groups operating in fire-affected areas to support the ongoing recovery of communities.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that having access to longer-term, multi-year support is vital when it comes to creating effective solutions on the ground to allow these communities to recover and thrive.

“These grants recognise the vital role of these organisations and invest in the skills, tools and resources they need to support their community as they rebuild, and to sustain their work beyond the recovery. With the additional pressure of COVID-19, this multi-year support will mean they can confidently plan, invest and be there to support their community as needs change,” Ms Egleton said.

HMSTrust CEO, Debra Morgan, said that the Trust believes local organisations are best placed to understand local needs, and that this is particularly the case in bushfire-affected areas, where it’s critical that organisations have the support they need to sustain their operations.

“The four organisations have identified the needs specific to their communities, and each has a unique approach to the road to recovery. The projects reflect the local context of each community and the interventions required for long-term recovery. We are pleased to support these strong organisations seeking to build organisational capacity and resilience, and we hope they will serve to strengthen the communities into the future,” Ms Morgan said.

Sidney Myer Fund CEO, Leonard Vary, said that the Bushfire Recovery Fund aims to strengthen the operations of ‘backbone’ organisations and give each the means to implement effective and innovative approaches in supporting impacted communities over the longer term.

“Local organisations must be given the tools to develop and implement plans for sustainability and growth so as to support bushfire-affected communities into the future. These grants will help enhance organisational capability and improve the services offered to communities including future preparedness efforts,” said Mr Vary.

The four groups funded are:

  • Alpine Valley Community Leadership (AVCL) – $90,000 – Build AVCL’s capacity to strategically plan and deliver leadership training that can more effectively support and build community recovery capacity in north-east Victoria.
  • Corryong Neighbourhood House Inc – $103,340 – Increase operational capacity by providing an additional .8 FTE to the core staffing levels. The increased resource will enable Corryong Neighbourhood House Inc to continue to progress its strategic social enterprise and community development work including participation in bushfire recovery work.
  • Mallacoota Community Health Infrastructure and Resilience Fund Inc (CHIRF) – $113,230 – Enable the employment of a skilled local project manager, who will progress the current aims for developing the local mental health services offering through strategic planning, fundraising and project design and development.
  • Mount Beauty Neighbourhood Centre (MBNC) – $100,000 – Increase operational capacity of the organisation, which will allow it to develop a prepared and resilient community. The driving force behind this application is the volunteer-run Keep Calm Committee, which works alongside MBNC.

More information about the Bushfire Recovery Fund is on this website.