Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Thirty-four local groups and not-for-profits that delivered food and care hampers to regional communities during the height of the 2021 COVID-19 restrictions will share in $300,000 from the NSW Government’s COVID Regional Community Support (CRCS) program.

HEADING: Regional NSW groups reimbursed $300,000 for COVID relief hamper delivery.
IMAGE: High angle view of a cardboard box filled with multicolored non-perishable canned goods, conserves, sauces and oils shot on wooden table. The composition includes cooking oil bottle, pasta, crackers, preserves and tins.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said more than 72,000 hampers were delivered to residents in regional and rural parts of NSW, including Ballina, Tweed Heads, Leeton and Albury.

“These groups and organisations dropped everything and dipped into their own funds to support isolated residents during last year’s COVID-19 restrictions by partnering with Resilience NSW to prepare and deliver food, essential items and relief packs to those in need,” Ms Cooke said.

“The $300,000 will cover expenses like fuel, couriers, and logistics costs, helping these groups and organisations to continue their wonderful work into the future, including at the Ballina Hot Meal Centre which is using its $5,024 grant to purchase new freezers.”

Each grant being provided through the CRCS program ranges from $1,000 to $30,000 and is administered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal.

Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal CEO Natalie Egleton said the funding recognises the critical role that local community groups played during the pandemic.

“We’re delighted that 23 per cent of applications are from Indigenous community groups, all of which played such a vital role in ensuring that their community members were cared for, and we are pleased to be able to support them with this funding,” Ms Egleton said.

Applications are currently being accepted for grants of up to $50,000 for capacity building initiatives, such as attracting and retaining volunteers and staff, enhancing governance skills, building digital capacity and creating partnerships that foster stronger, more resilient communities.

See the full list of recipients below:

OrganisationLocationsGrant
Agape Outreach IncorporatedTweed Heads - Byron Bay$1,681
Albury Wodonga Regional FoodshareAlbury$13,500
Allambi Care LimitedLake Maquarie - Warners Bay - Central Coast - Cessnock - Newcastle$7,000
Armidale / Uralla Meals On Wheels IncorporatedArmidale$3,183
Ballina Hot Meal Centre IncorporatedBallina$5,024
Belong Blue Mountains IncorporatedBlue Mountains$1,000
Camden Haven Community at 3Lakewood$1,125
CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-ManningNewcastle - Tareer - Forster - Maitland$1,977
Christian Outreach CentreKempsey - South West Rocks - Macksville - Nambucca Heads$1,350
Community Resources LimitedWollongong$3,540
Coonamble Neighbourhood CentreCoomamble - Gulargambone - Quambone$10,810
Food For Life Community Care IncorporatedShoalhaven - Primbee - Wollongong - Kiama $13,500
Galambila Aboriginal CorporationNambucca Heads - Coffs Harbour - Woolgoolga - Bowraville$30,000
Gloucester Worimi First Peoples Aboriginal CorporationGloucester$1,000
Gunnedah Meals on Wheels AssociationGunnedah$5,514
Indigenous Futures Foundation LimitedTweed Heads South - Lismore - Ballina - Grafton$30,000
Ivanhoe Central SchoolIvanhoe - Balranald - Carrathool$6,100
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health And Community ServicesBatemans Bay - Narooma - Bega - Catalina - Dalmeny$30,000
Kempsey Neighbourhood Centre IncKempsey$4,500
Leeton Community Care Development IncorporatedLeeton$13,500
Lions Club Of Raymond Terrace IncorporatedRaymond Terrace$1,420
Livefree Project IncorporatedNewcastle$13,500
Miyay Birray Youth Service IncorporatedMoree - Mungindi - Garah - Boomi$18,345
Moree Sports Health Arts And Education Academy Aboriginal CorporationMoree$5,723
Orana Support Service IncorporatedDubbo - Wellington - Narromine$21,000
Oxley Community Transport Service IncorporatedWest Tamworth$4,500
Queer Family IncorporatedMullumbimby - Byron Bay - Lismore - Kyogle$2,250
Salt CareUlladulla - Bomaderry - Nowra - Kangaroo Valley - Jervis Bay$20,460
Sapphire Community Projects IncorporatedBega - Tura Beach - Bermagui - Candelo - Quaama$4,703
Seventh-Day Adventist Church - South New South Wales ConferenceBathurst - Blayney - Mandurama - Cowra$5,600
The Heartland Foundation LimitedPort Macquarie$5,000
The Mend AND Make Do Crew IncorporatedSouth Grafton$6,750
Uralla Neighbourhood Day Care Centre 1Walcha$4,860
Weilwan Local Aboriginal Land CouncilGulargambone$1,585

Local community groups and not-for profit organisations in remote, rural and regional NSW are being offered grants to boost preparedness for future pandemics and other disasters.

Woman unloading fruit box out of the back of a van

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the program, funded by the NSW Government, was established to strengthen groups that have played a critical role in supporting communities throughout COVID-19.

“These grants are being offered through the Resilience NSW COVID Regional Community Support (CRCS) program and are administered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR),” Ms Cooke said.

“Grants of up to $50,000 will be awarded toward regional capacity building initiatives such as those that attract and retain volunteers and staff, train to enhance governance skills, build digital capacity and create partnerships that foster stronger, more resilient communities.”

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that regional organisations in NSW have gone above and beyond for their communities during the pandemic, especially when for many it was also on top of floods, fires and the mouse plague.

“Remote, rural and regional community groups and not-for-profits really stepped up in what were extraordinary times. We take our hats off to them for how they have persevered, especially in the face of so many challenges.

“The findings of our Heartbeat of Rural Australia study last year highlighted that many community groups were really fatigued and able to operate at only a fraction of their usual capacity. They were struggling to find volunteers and staff, and while many groups turned online, the digital divide that exists between urban areas and regional areas became really apparent, as did several other capacity constraints.

“This program has been designed in partnership with the NSW Government to enable community groups to address these issues and fill the gaps that became more evident during the pandemic. We know that every community is different, so it’s deliberately flexible and will support community groups to be better prepared in future,” Ms Egleton said.

To find out what can be funded through the capacity building stream, and to apply, visit https://frrr.org.au/ResNSW-Covid-Support.

Applications close 5pm AEST on Friday 29 April 2022.

Significant funding to rebuild and recover from COVID

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has welcomed a significant boost to its flagship Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant program, following an investment of more than $5 million from the Australian Government.

New partnership boosts grants to strengthen rural communities

This funding, which will be available over the next two years, recognises the significant and long-lasting impacts of COVID and the localised effort needed to recover and rebuild vibrant remote, rural and regional communities.

From today, community groups and not-for-profit organisations in remote, rural and regional communities can apply for funding to support the recovery process, reduce social isolation, foster stronger, more resilient communities, or sustain these vital local organisations in their work.

The Australian Government’s support means that there will be $800,000 available in this round of SRC grants specifically for COVID-related projects. The COVID stream will have two tiers of funding  – one will offer grants of up to $10,000 to groups working in communities of fewer than 50,000 people, while a second tier will offer grants of up to $50,000 for groups in remote, rural or regional communities (as defined by Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Australian Geography Standards).

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that the Australian Government’s investment is sorely needed and will be greatly appreciated by local organisations that have been struggling with raising funds, and coping with the effects of volunteer fatigue.

“At the end of last year, FRRR commissioned the Heartbeat of Rural Australia study, which confirmed that the pandemic has weakened the ability of community organisations to play their various roles in the community, at a time when, for many, demand for their services has increased.

“Many community groups that took part in the study – especially grassroots organisations with revenue of less than $50,000 – saw significant reductions in income as a result of not being able to run fundraising events and income-generating activities and, in some instances, funders redirecting their support. It’s also impacted the number of people able to volunteer, meaning that those remaining have been called on to do more, for longer. It’s no wonder people are exhausted.

“This program will help to rebuild rural communities by funding projects that respond to the ongoing impacts of COVID and will help communities get back on their feet.

“We’ve deliberately kept the SRC program flexible, as we know needs will be different from place to place, and from group to group. Projects eligible for funding could include supporting, training or attracting volunteers; running events; enhancing community facilities; developing services that assist people experiencing disadvantage; or purchasing equipment or resources that strengthen local organisations. We are very grateful for the Australian Government’s support and the commitment that they are showing to strengthen and rebuild rural communities,” Ms Egleton said.

In addition to the COVID funding stream, the SRC program still has grants available to support communities affected by the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires. There is $650,000 available this round, through grants of up to $25,000. A third, more general stream of funding offers Small & Vital grants of up to $10,000 for initiatives that strengthen and support communities of 15,000 or fewer in remote, rural or regional areas.

To learn more about the program, and to apply, visit https://frrr.org.au/SRC. Applications close 31 May 2022 at 5pm AEDT.

Each quarter, we ask FRRR’s staff to share some of their observations from speaking with community leaders across the country, and reviewing grant applications. Below are a few comments from looking back on the first quarter of FY21.

It’s a universal truth that communities that have strong local leadership are best placed to thrive. However, offering support for particular elements or activities perceived to be needed can create a deficit inference and shame. A recent comment caused the team to pause and reflect: “Conversations about capacity are complex because people can feel shame about not having capacity.”

It’s a good reminder, as often offering funding for a particular activity can infer a judgement. It can imply that ‘it’ is absent or ‘not up to scratch’ in that community or not-for-profit organisation. At FRRR, we take a strengths based approach to granting. Language and wording matters and we are grateful to have such honest conversations with our community partners.

ANOTHER strong theme that continues to come through is the extent of the impacts of the summer bushfires, and the impact of COVID-19 on recovery. For example, in a recent application one community leader wrote: “The conversations revolved around the effect of running on adrenalin for the months before and after Christmas and the feeling of emptiness that followed. There was no time to come together before the community was once again under threat. The fires had denuded the landscape and when the rains came, many roads and properties were further affected by mudslides. The cleaning up started again. The normal community celebrations were delayed or cancelled as COVID-19 forced individual distancing. Somehow there needs to be a way of marking closure for this community, most of whom were volunteers in one capacity or another.” 

COVID-19 and the ongoing drought are also affecting community groups’ fundraising capacity. For example, the Texas Kindergarten told us, “Annually we raise approximately $25,000 a year to help keep the Kindergarten open, pay staff, pay day to day expenses and purchase resources. Due to the ongoing effects of the drought individuals and businesses in our region are still really battling. It has become more and more difficult for our strong and resilient little community to help the Kindergarten financially. Now with COVID-19 we are unable to do any fundraising at all which will reduce our income this year dramatically. ” 

Volunteer fatigue and decline is also becoming more apparent in various communities. For example, as Dirranbandi Arts Council, in Queensland’s far south west, explained “Our precinct has three separate buildings, which we wish to have open on a more regular basis for our whole community and travellers to access. But this is impossible as we just do not have the numbers. We have tried in the past to open just one of the buildings with the help of volunteers but this has become increasingly difficult as our volunteer base diminishes and those available age.”  This presents new challenges and communities need to find new ways to engage volunteers, or source funds to pay for this service.

In other communities though, young people are stepping up and taking the reins. FRRR recently helped facilitate this blog from young community leader, Sam Kane, in which he tells the story about how he and some colleagues stepped up to get a pool in their community, and what they’ve gone on to do. 

However, in the medium to longer-term, it’s likely that COVID-19 will have benefits for remote, rural and regional Australia. There are strong signs of population movement toward regional centres, as reflected by the Regional Australia Institute’s recent work on regionalisation. International travel restrictions too mean that more Australians will holiday at home. This is good news for regional communities, but it will also be critical for rural areas to be ready to take advantage of both relocation to the regions and tourism. Regional tourist attractions, remote working opportunities, community connectedness, and cultural vibrancy are competitive advantages that smaller rural areas can harness, however, foundational infrastructure and services are needed to retain and build momentum. Unfortunately, there is significant long-term underinvestment in community assets and local services which improve liveability and quality of life, increase attractiveness and competitiveness, and foster innovation and revitalisation. This is why areas such as community halls, childcare services, aged care services and youth engagement activities are just some areas that FRRR seeks to fund across many programs and regions. We need more funds that are broad and will have multiple flow-on effects in communities. 

As the population in regional areas grows, there is more focus on issues relating to public transport. For example, Carroll is a small village within the Upper Namoi Cotton Growers Area. There is no bus service in the area and the residents are 20 km from services in the next town of Gunnedah. A local committee raised money to buy the bus, purely from local community fundraising and very generous support of many local businesses in Gunnedah and Tamworth. However, not all communities are able to do this, and we are seeing more and more requests to support this kind of service. 

If you would like to know more, contact FRRR.

COVID-19 has impacted rural communities in countless ways, with increased vulnerability and disadvantage being felt in many communities grappling with successive setbacks, including drought, bushfire and existing disadvantages exacerbated by imposed restrictions.

This means FRRR’s work is more important than ever, as Australia emerges from and transitions into new ways of working, living and delivering services.

While FRRR staff are still working from home, they are connecting daily with communities across the country. Below are some of the insights from the calls, queries and requests they are receiving day to day.

There have been high levels of caller concern around the mental health of their communities, given COVID follows several natural disaster events. NSW/ACT Program Manager Jacki Dimond says that there are also increased personal stress levels around not being able to deliver on approved grant activities and / or timelines. She has been spending much of her time considering more project variations than usual.

“Callers have reflected much relief for the support of our flexibility and desire to support them through the variations process to identify alternative activities or delivery mechanisms, such as the Gunning Arts Festival going online, or extending or deferring acquittal periods where needed, ” Jacki noted.

Vivienne McCrory, Grants Officer for Victoria, SA and Tasmania, echoes Jacki’s comments noting that bushfire affected communities are asking if programs will be assessed the same way due to COVID-19.

“They are still applying, but not sure if the project will still go ahead as planned due to restrictions and whether it would affect their grant chances. They have mentioned exhaustion and frustration over the flow of events since Christmas (on top of the drought).”

Another common theme is while some groups have the option to take activities online, inconsistent telecommunications access and mixed levels of digital literacy means it’s not a realistic option for some groups.

“For example, I received a phone call recently from the Yinnar Memorial Hall over 60’s Exercise group. We have funded the program for two years and up to 40 people were coming each week. They are now delivering the program via zoom and many elderly members are having issues connecting. The internet is also poor in the area!,” explained Hannah Jakab, who works on FRRR’s disaster recovery programs.

VIC/SA/TAS Program Manager Carlene Egan is seeing increased requests to fund local people to take on recovery coordination roles.

“Bushfire affected communities are taking charge of their own recovery with known and trusted people and ensuring funds are directed to where they identify as most needed.”

From a drought support perspective, Deanne Cavalier is seeing reduced volunteer capacity due to COVID-19.

“Conversations with community groups have identified a decrease in volunteering at this time due to the pandemic, as their focus turns towards their families and concerns of job security and general fatigue. Volunteers are often older and health and safety concerns relating to COVID-19 this naturally has had flow-on effects on the capacity of community groups to maintain continuity of services and their ability to maintain momentum on community-focused projects.”

While it’s no longer on the front pages, drought is still a very real issue in large parts of the country as this map of Queensland shows, and this story from WA. 

“Despite the wetter start to 2020, the long-term accumulated rainfall deficiencies continue in many parts of Australia and with these continued deficiencies over an extended period, drought continues to be prevalent across much of rural Australia and recovery will be a slow process,” explains Deanne. 

Meanwhile, Alli Mudford, Program Manager for the Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) program says that it highlights the importance of building capacity, not just funding ‘things’.

“Building good relationships within each community is a critical foundation for success. The benefits from regular facilitated connections (rather than just providing grants) must not be underestimated and the IRCF evaluation has processes in place to incorporate these learnings.

“We are also seeing that capacity change in the not-for-profit sector crosses generations. Insights show that the younger generation are more than willing to work with and across other not-for-profit groups in the community.”

Rural communities are eternal optimists and innovators and despite the challenges, community groups have been able to adapt their models to keep a source of income, such as offering delivery services, making hand sanitiser or face masks. We are inspired by the growing success of community-led solutions – especially the renewal of local media ownership, which is a reversal of media closure trends.