Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Travellers now have a vibrant new site to visit on the NSW Silo Art Trail, with a mural adorning the Quandialla Soldiers Memorial Hall drawing tourists to the town.

Like so many small townships in agricultural areas striving to support their community and keep services sustainable, Quandialla needed to find a way to attract visitors off the main roads and to spend time in the town. With a focus on building tourism opportunities, there was strong community support for a project that would encourage sightseers to come and support existing businesses, contributing to the economic prosperity of this small town.

Seeing an opportunity to build on the momentum created by the Silo Art Trail,  the Quandialla Soldiers Memorial Hall Association (QSMHA) recognised the hall served as the perfect blank canvas to develop a large mural depicting the area’s history, development and to commemorate those who served in times of war.

Successfully securing funds through the Strengthening Rural Communities grant program, QSMHA commissioned Melbourne artist Simon White to design and paint a mural and paid for the hire of a cherry picker so higher areas of the building could be reached safely. The mural was completed in eight days and before the paint was dry created a buzz in the streets and on social media. QSMHA shared with FRRR that they are very grateful for the support and said, “Small grants are the only way groups can make projects like this a reality.”

The hall is now a landmark for the town’s main street and the grant has improved a key community venue for major events for the local community and surrounds. Along with drawing visitors to the town, the mural has also succeeded in capturing Quandilla’s history and local achievements, encouraging conversations, building awareness and strengthening community pride.

FRRR has awarded $213,343 via Telstra’s Connected Communities Grant Program to 30 local groups and not-for-profits (NFPs) across remote, rural and regional Australia for projects embracing technology to foster the resilience, environmental sustainability and liveability of their communities.

RiverSmart Australia Ltd is using their grant to grow cultural and environmental knowledge of the rivers and wetlands around Warren by the creation of an app to provide information and digital upskilling to the community.

This is the first round of Telstra’s Connected Communities Grant Program, which is the core of its new partnership with FRRR (announced February 2023).  The focus of the program is on fostering a resilient community, a more sustainable community or a more liveable community.

Awarded grants range from $1,849, which will be used to provide the Victorian community of Strathbogie with access to free Wi-Fi at the local hall, through to $10,000, for projects such as Collinsville Connect Telecentre Group’s cyber security workshop for older members of their Queensland community.

Loretta Willaton, Regional Australia Executive and Regional Customer Advocate at Telstra, said the program’s impacts go beyond simply supplying internet or technology.

“We’re really excited to see this program beginning to come to fruition and to see funding going to rural communities that have been doing it really tough the last few years.

“This round of grants has highlighted the ways in which digital connectivity goes hand-in-hand with social and cultural connectivity. How these factors complement one another has a strong impact on the liveability of a community, so it makes sense that a majority of funded projects are designed to equip locals with the skills to live, learn and work in a digital society.

“That’s what this program is all about – keeping people connected in the most important sense of the word,” Ms Willaton said.

This round saw most projects fall into the liveability category, with a range of initiatives being funded like the provision of Wi-Fi connectivity, new digital equipment, the training of volunteers and community members to build their digital knowledge, be it for cyber security, social media or simply navigating new computing hardware and software that would contribute to better operations of community events and organisations.

Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said that there was a lot of interest in the program, with the Foundation receiving many applications for high quality projects.

“Keeping rural communities connected has never been more important, which was reflected by the strong response we received from communities all over remote, rural and regional Australia.

“Community organisations and local not-for-profits (NFPs) in rural communities are clearly keen to make sure locals have the equipment and the knowledge they need to engage in activities that are often taken for granted in metro areas. That might be spreading important information quickly, increasing opportunities for education or providing access to the electronic resources that become vital in emergency situations.

“With so many impressive initiatives on the table, we are grateful that Telstra increased its commitment this year to more than $213,000. There are so many different ways to keep a community connected, and more importantly, a lot of positive outcomes that can be achieved and we look forward to seeing these ideas come to life,” Ms Egleton said.

Some other examples of the projects being funded are below:

  • RiverSmart Australia Limited – Warren, NSW – Grow cultural and environmental knowledge of the rivers and wetlands around Warren by the creation of an app to provide information and digital upskilling to the community. $10,000
  • Goondir Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Corporation for Health Services – Dalby QLD – Improve digital capability of First Nations health service with video conferencing equipment to enhance staff and stakeholder communications improving overall service delivery to clients. $10,000
  • Callington A & H Society Inc – Callington, SA – Build organisational capacity with software to improve local show operations, developing digital capability for volunteers, efficiencies for participants. $3,700
  • Live Well Tasmania Wynyard, TAS – Build community resilience with preparedness by purchasing equipment to provide power during outages including a generator, solar panels, and rechargeable radios and torches. $5,398
  • Poowong Public Hall Inc Poowong, VIC – Improve community facilities with a digital tv and laptop for the Poowong Hall meeting facilities to enhance functionality and support increased use. $2,312
  • Broome Community Resource Centre Inc – Broome, WA – Support community digital access with upgraded computers ensuring people in and around Broome have access and can be trained in current software use for social and economic needs. $10,000

A full list of grant recipients is detailed below.

Bathurst Information and Neighbourhood Centre IncorporatedConnecting Our Community
Build community capacity to meet, train and connect by providing Wi-Fi internet to the Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre community meeting room.
Broadwater Rileys Hill Community CentreStrengthening IT Access and Literacy for Broadwater Residents
Boost technological skills and digital connectivity for vulnerable residents in Broadwater by conducting IT training sessions and upgrading computer software.
Eden Community Access Centre IncSouthern Cyber Safety
Boost community knowledge around cyber safety in Eden and surrounding communities by providing specialist IT training for six months and offering a weekly drop-in service for checking device security.
Lachlan and Western Regional Services IncEmpowered Connections
Boost organisational digital capability to better support remote community members' social and economic outcomes.
RiverSmart Australia LimitedUsing Digital Technology to Discover Tiger Bay
Grow cultural and environmental knowledge of the rivers and wetlands around Warren by the creation of an app to provide information and digital upskilling to the community.
Wardell Community Organised Resilience Effort IncWardell Community Organised Resilience Effort
Boost community resilience with training and equipment to support digital capability and connectivity during disasters.
Cape York Digital Network Pty LtdFall-back Server
Build capacity of the Cape York Digital Network to enable connectivity in remote Queensland with a new server to manage increasing demands.
Collinsville Connect Telecentre Group IncorporatedCyber Security Sessions for Seniors
Boost digital capability for older people through a cyber security workshop to enhance skills and risk management.
Goondir Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Corporation for Health ServicesImproving Digital Capability for Better Collaboration
Improve digital capability of First Nations health service with video conferencing equipment to enhance staff and stakeholder communications, improving overall service delivery to clients.
North Burnett Regional SES Queensland Fire and Emergency ServicesNorth Burnett State Emergency Service Digital Connectivity
Improve digital connectivity with equipment to improve connectivity operation to enhance operational capacity and better quality training for QFES in North Burnett.
Numabulla Men's Shed Inc.IT Education and Access Program 
Improve digital capability and literacy with technology equipment at the Men's Shed to deliver access and education.
QCWA Branch Upper StoneConnecting our Community
Build community resilience and preparedness with an inverter generator and mobile booster to ensure power and connectivity in disasters and emergencies.
Upper Stone$8,125
St Vincent de Paul Society QueenslandExpanding Our Virtual Reach in Far North QLD
Enhance digital capacity and literacy of volunteers with equipment and training that will benefit the broader community accessing services.
State Emergency Service - Charters Towers Queensland Fire and Emergency ServicesMobile Operations Centre
Build preparedness and resilience in communities by upgrading the QFES Mobile Operation Centre with radios and back-up solar power to deliver disaster preparedness education and enable connectivity in extreme weather events across the Charters Towers region.
Charters Towers$10,000
Whitfield Community Kindergarten Association IncWater Tank and Weather Station
Support early child development and learning on environmental sustainability with digital tools to understand weather and water accessibility.
Callington A & H Society IncCallington Show - Online Software
Build organisational capacity with software to improve local show operations, developing digital capability for volunteers and efficiencies for participants.
Moorook Bowling Club IncorporatedFuture Connections
Increase community capacity with digital connection via a mobile booster to support access to the internet in Moorook.
Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum Parndana Progress AssociationAdding to the Mosaic
Improve digital literacy and capability of local museum volunteers with software, equipment and a website upgrade to better present and promote local history.
Southern Yorke Peninsula Community Hub IncorporatedLet's Get Social! Social Media Content Marketing 101 for SYP Volunteers & Community Groups
Upskill community group volunteers to increase their efficiency in navigating the digital world.
Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood Centre IncCommunities Connect
Foster a more inclusive and connected community, by providing access to digital resources.
Clarendon Vale$9,510
King Island Regional Development Organisation Inc 2520Digital Literacy Workshops and Buddy Program
Improve digital literacy for the King Island community with an upgrade of technology and delivery of digital training and mentoring to build capability.
Live Well TasmaniaCommunity, Power and Communications Resilience Equipment
Build community resilience with preparedness by purchasing equipment to provide power during outages including a generator, solar panels and rechargeable radios and torches.
Central Victorian Biolinks Alliance IncConnecting People to Restore and Reconnect Nature
Build organisational capacity of Biolinks Alliance with computer equipment, software and subscriptions to increase dissemination of educational information for repairing regional ecosystems.
Poowong Public Hall IncEquipment for Training in Meeting Room 2 of the Poowong Public Hall Inc 
Improve community facilities with a digital TV and laptop for the Poowong Hall meeting facilities to enhance functionality and support increased use.
Strathbogie Memorial Hall Incorporated Strathbogie Memorial Hall Wi-Fi
Boost digital connectivity for the community of Strathbogie by providing free Wi-Fi access at the local hall.
Wodonga Urban Landcare NetworkStrive to Thrive - Connecting Environmental Volunteers
Build community capability for improved environmental sustainability practice via a new website to share information and educate volunteers and the wider community surrounding Wodonga.
Woomelang & District Development AssocWebsite Redevelopment Project
Strengthen community engagement and connection through the creation of a website for Woomelang township to share information for locals and tourists.
Albany & Regional Volunteer Service IncCommunity eSafe Clubs - Equipping Clubs to Confidently Embrace the Use of Digital Technologies
Build volunteer capacity with cyber security workshops to develop digital literacy and upskill people working in community to manage information online with confidence.
Broome Community Resource Centre IncPublic Access Computers - Technology Refresh and Enhancement
Support community digital access with upgraded computers, ensuring people in and around Broome have access and can be trained in current software use for social and economic needs.
Harvey Aboriginal CorporationConnecting Community, Culture and Computers
Provide access to digital resources and First Nations language and culture learning opportunities to students of Harvey by purchasing an interactive whiteboard, tablets and monitors.

A call for more investment in local community groups, so they are better equipped to play a key role in building community resilience ahead of climate, natural disasters and other disruptions, is among the series of recommendations to come out of a three-year research project.

ways to strengthen community resilience to disasters

Led by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) in partnership with Resilience NSW and researchers from the University of Sydney, the ‘Get Ready Disaster Resilient: Future Ready (DR:FR) pilots project’ worked with three diverse NSW communities to explore how best to ensure that rural communities are more disaster resilient and future ready.

The ‘Get Ready DR:FR pilots project’ was a structured program that brought groups in each community together to share knowledge and encourage collaboration to identify ways to increase disaster resilience. The program supported co-created initiatives and actions identified by local residents with funding and other support.

The action research component of the project was designed to investigate, understand and measure activities, processes and structures that enable, or hinder, communities in disaster resilience building. Particular attention was focused on measuring how community energy and momentum was sustained or blocked.

Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said that the Foundation initiated the project back in 2017, in light of the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters. An alignment between FRRR’s DR:FR initiative and the Resilience NSW’s Get Ready program enabled the project to be piloted and researched in three NSW communities.

“Every year, we see more and more disasters, which places enormous pressure on Australia’s social, economic, environmental, and policy systems. We need approaches that strengthen social capital and create room for innovation and ground-up solutions that communities can adopt and adapt to better prepare and respond to these events, especially in remote, rural and regional areas,” Ms Egleton said.

“That’s why we developed the DR:FR initiative. It creates space, facilitates processes, builds relationships and provides resources for community-generated resilience conversations and initiatives to be held at a pace and style that is appropriate for each local community,” Ms Egleton explained.

A key finding of the research was that for disaster resilience to be impactful and meaningful, affected communities need to be actively engaged and involved in the process.

“While the core principles for building disaster resilience are consistent, the research confirmed that one-size-fits-all frameworks and models are not effective. Resilience-building must be community-led and tailored to each community, and communities must have the support and resources to allow them to create their own resilience-building approaches.”

“The research clearly demonstrated that when community members worked on projects and activities co-designed by them, adaptive local resilience building was evident. This is an important insight and consideration for agencies and organisations that are designing and implementing resilience building programs with a shared responsibility philosophy of disaster preparedness.”

While the study found that the approaches to disaster resilience and the actions in each community were different, there were seven key factors that are critically important in community-led resilience: communication, networks, self-organising systems, decision-making, information, resources, tools and support and inclusion.

Some other important findings included:

  • Social capital plays a critical role in disaster preparedness, not just response and recovery – and needs to be consistently invested in. Community knowledge, skills, time, commitment, capacity and relationships fundamentally underpin disaster resilience.
  • Shared responsibility – and actively engaging communities – are critical to successfully building community resilience. Where there was shared dialogue, shared decision-making and increased and shared support for community-led resilience building, communities were significantly more engaged and prepared for disasters.
  • Communities need ongoing support to build and maintain momentum for sustained community-led resilience building and they need to be resourced and included as key local players at all phases of the emergency management cycle. Relying on good will and volunteer time alone will not provide adequate capacity to maintain efforts and participation between and during disasters.
  • There is a need to invest for the long-term in local capacity and systems, outside of the cycle of relief and emergency response, so that there is sustainability beyond the life of a program or project.
  • Resilience is not something that individuals or communities can achieve on their own. It requires combined and intersecting structures, processes, formal and informal networks and supports in communities working together.

The researchers made nine recommendations:

  1. Community led approaches must move to the centre of resilience building efforts.
  2. Communities should be regarded as equal contributors in disaster resilience work.
  3. Shared responsibility must translate into increased and shared support for sustained community-led resilience building.
  4. Disaster resilience building needs to reflect the experiences of communities and recognise that preparedness, response and recovery are fluid, and sometimes simultaneous.
  5. The times between disasters is an ideal opportunity to engage communities in complex discussions and hear their ideas.
  6. Communities should contribute to and contextualise disaster information (outside of warnings and alerts) to local needs, building trust and ownership of information and communication.
  7. Community-led approaches are valuable, and must be matched with sustained cross-sector and cross-community investment, including recognising the value of community time, skill and effort.
  8. Resilience building programs and projects must be designed and implemented within a systems framework and acknowledge the complex array of relationships involved, and the time required.
  9. Further work should be undertaken in supporting practical links between local community organisations and self-organising networks and groups in supporting sustained resilience building in local communities.

You can read the Summary Research Report online at

Meanwhile, FRRR has already leveraged the research insights, findings and recommendations from this research to iterate its methodology, approach, and activities for the next phase of the national expansion of the DR:FR initiative. The Foundation is currently working with a group of Victorian communities who wish to explore and work together in different ways to strengthen their resilience over the next two to three years, with the support of the DR:FR initiative.

FRRR acknowledges the support of the Joint State and Commonwealth Natural Disaster Resilience Program for the action research component of the pilot project. FRRR also appreciates the support of our donor partners in the rollout of the broader DR:FR initiative across Australia, including Sidney Myer Fund, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Maple-Brown Family Foundation, Simon Kucher and Partners, Ronald Geoffrey Arnott Foundation and the Doc Ross Foundation for their support of the broader DR:FR initiative across Australia.