Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

For 33 years families from Singleton and surrounding areas experiencing life challenges – from domestic violence to anxiety in young people – have been coming to Singleton Family Support for therapeutic counselling, family capacity building, education and wellbeing programs.

Situated on the banks of the Hunter River, Singleton is in NSW, some 197 kilometres north-north-west of Sydney. A major coal mining centre, the rural region has limited public transport options, a transient and often isolated population linked to the mining industry and limited support services.

Supporting this community, Singleton Family Support Services has a passionate, capable and qualified team of professional workers. Together, they offer support to more than 50 families in a one-to-one setting and approximately 30 individuals in a group setting at any given time.

Since the COVID pandemic and critically in the last few months as restrictions have eased, the Service has been inundated with referrals from individuals, families and other service providers. Over the last six months, referrals have increased more than 50% on the same time the previous year. The Service’s ability to refer onto other professionals, such as GPs, Psychologists, Housing services and Mental health providers, has also been impacted, with many professionals’ books closed and long waiting lists. This has placed a significant strain on the Singleton Family Support’s ability to respond to each referral appropriately. While there are many issues and people needing support, the Service is particularly concerned about the mental health of young people. COVID created a pandemic of anxiety and uncertainty with this group. There are no youth-specific mental health services in Singleton.

A $49,500 COVID Regional Community Support Program grant, funded by Resilience NSW, will allow the service to increase staff time. This equates to 80 additional referrals to Family Works, including 10 additional counselling places for youth. An additional six support groups can be offered to the community and it means further support for the organisation’s wellbeing programs. The funding reduces the pressure on the organisation. For families, this will mean timely assessments of the family’s needs, earlier interventions, greater access to counselling, educational programs and support groups, building awareness in parenting theories, domestic and family violence and mental health. This will all lead to increased family capacity to build resilience and safety for children and families.

Twenty-seven community-led groups in remote, rural and regional NSW will share in $912,505 awarded through the Resilience NSW COVID Regional Community Support (CRCS) program.

Funded by the NSW Government and administered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), the grants were allocated to grassroots community groups and not-for-profit organisations that helped their communities navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NSW Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the funding stream would help these groups build resilience and better mitigate the impact of pandemics and other disasters across their communities.

“We awarded between $3,363 and $50,000 to organisations, to support a wide range of regional capacity building initiatives to help enhance community wellbeing, create stronger local economies, and enable a greater ability to respond to future challenges,” Ms Cooke said.

“The pandemic has posed plenty of difficulties for people and families in remote and regional areas over the past two years, and community-led organisations played an important role in navigating those challenges.”

Ms Cooke said some of the common requests from community groups involved facility improvements, food security and assisting with the increased demand on local services in flood-devastated areas such as the Northern Rivers.

“We’ve been able to address some of these needs through this funding stream, to ensure these groups and the communities they work with are in better stead for the future.”

Some of the 27 funded projects include:

  • Agape Outreach Inc in Tweed Heads to improve staff and volunteer resilience and increase capacity to support the community through mental health and wellbeing training – $36,600.
  • Forster Neighbourhood Centre Inc in Forster to promote organisational capacity and support local access to essential services by contributing to the fit-out of the new Forster Neighbourhood Centre – $50,000.
  • Gunnedah Meals on Wheels Association in Gunnedah to improve the capacity of Gunnedah Meals on Wheels to support vulnerable community members through a hamper program and the purchase of a large deep freezer – $8,150.
  • LeaderLife Ltd in Dubbo to grow organisational resilience and support skills development in local youth through a new syntropic farming system – $50,000.
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla in Moruya to increase organisational capacity and promote food security in the Eurobodalla Shire through the hiring of a Business Manager – $50,000.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said the grants acknowledge and will strengthen the capacity of regional organisations in NSW who played such a critical role in supporting communities throughout COVID-19 challenges. 

“The impact of the pandemic has been significant and is still being felt,” Ms Egleton said. “The flexibility of this program recognised that every community is different and requires tailored support and funding to ensure that they can continue to provide vital services, bring people and community organisations together and enable locally-led responses as and when required.

“Being able to support the many community organisations and not-for-profits who have gone above and beyond for their communities during such difficult times and enable them to be better prepared in the future is important to the ongoing sustainability and vibrancy of these communities.”

A complete list of the projects supported is below.

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
Agape Outreach Inc

Upskill Disaster Support & Resilience Project
Improve staff and volunteer resilience and increase capacity to support community through mental health and wellbeing training.

Tweed Heads $36,600
Albury Wodonga Regional Foodshare

Community Pantry
Increase organisational capacity and service reach through the employment of a project coordinator. 

Albury $25,000
Armidale Care for Seniors Inc

Installation of Solar Panels and Implement a Senior's Wellness Activity
Improve capacity of Armidale Care for Seniors to support seniors by running a wellness program. 

Armidale $35,280
Bega Valley Shire Business Forum

Growing Volunteer Participation in Local Business Chambers
Support economic recovery by strengthening the volunteer base and upskilling committee members across the Forum’s seven member organisations. 

Bega $50,000
Boys To The Bush Ltd

Boys to the Bush (BttB) Young Up and Coming
Support Boys to the Bush to establish a presence in Young NSW through the delivery of camps for disadvantaged young males and associated community engagement.

Young $49,970
Carevan Wagga Incorporated

Carevan Continues to Care
Support Carevan Wagga to provide meals to people experiencing food insecurity through the purchase of take-away food containers and gloves.

Wagga Wagga $3,363
Carries Place Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services Inc

Establishing Client Centric Spaces within a Community Hub to Support the Provision of Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services in the Hunter Community
Grow the capacity of Carrie’s Place to support domestic and family violence victims in the Hunter through a trauma-informed fit-out of a new hub.

Maitland $23,188
Community College-Northern Inland Inc

Human Resources Project
Improve the capacity of CCNI to provide targeted and relevant education to rural and regional communities through improved HR processes and policies.

Barraba $30,000
Coonamble Cancer Survival Fund Inc

Governance Training
Strengthen and support community groups by providing current and future volunteer committee members with governance training. 

Coonamble $4,095
Emmanuel Care Centre Inc

Business Continuation
Improve organisational sustainability through hiring of new staff member. 

Dubbo $26,508
Forster Neighbourhood Centre Inc

Futureproofing Forster/Tuncurry
Promote organisational capacity and support local access to essential services by contributing to the fit out of the new Forster Neighbourhood Centre. 

Forster-Tuncurry $50,000
Gundagai Neighbourhood Centre Inc

Fridays for Friendship
Support organisation to empower local recovery and resilience building through weekly wellbeing sessions.

Gundagai $42,766
Gunnedah Meals on Wheels Association

Our Elderly are Resilient and Deserved to be Looked After
Improve capacity of Gunnedah Meals on Wheels to support vulnerable community members through a hamper program and the purchase of a large deep freeze.

Gunnedah $8,150
Home-Start National Inc

Newcastle/Lake Macquarie Volunteer Resilience Project
Build the capacity of Home Start in the West Lake Macquarie region through bridging funding for a part-time project coordinator.

Lake Macquarie $20,546
Kempsey Neighbourhood Centre Inc

Connecting Community
Increase KNCs capacity to support vulnerable community members through the employment of a community engagement worker.

Kempsey $43,546
LeaderLife Ltd

LeaderLife with Syntropics: Let's Grow
Grow organisational resilience and support skills development in local youth through the implantation of a syntropic farming system.

Dubbo $50,000
Liberty Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Services Inc

Liberty Domestic and Family Violence Wellbeing Space
Improve capability of Liberty to support domestic and family violence victims through the fit out of a new wellness space and the hiring of an onsite co-ordinator.

Port Macquarie $50,000
Louisa Johnston Centre Inc

Bonalbo Stay Connected with a New Computer Hub
Enhance organisational capacity to support Bonalbo’s residents to rebuild through the establishment of a community computer hub.

Bonalbo $40,648
Manning Support Services Inc

Keeping Families Connected
Improve service provision and client engagement while increasing organisational resilience to future pandemics.

Taree $12,581
Queer Family Inc

Queer Family Recovery Officer
Hire a Recovery Officer to support recovery and resilience building for an organisation focused on LGBTQIA+ communities in Northern NSW.

Mullumbimby $49,700
Rural Financial Counselling Service, NSW - Southern Region Ltd

Building Counsellor & Business Coach Capacity
Improve organisational capacity through targeted training in coaching and mentoring services for rural and regional businesses in financial difficulty. 

Wagga Wagga $50,000
Singleton Family Support Scheme

Singleton Family Support Scheme Incorporated
Build capacity of Singleton Family Support Scheme to assist families in crisis by increasing staff hours.

Singleton $49,500
Support for New Mums

Attracting, Training and Retaining Volunteers
Increase the capacity of support for  new mums to care for mums and babies in Tweed and Byron shires through the training of new volunteers.

Murwillumbah $10,204
Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla

SAGE NSW Inc - Building Capacity and Resilience Project
Increase organisational capacity to promote food security in the Shire through the hiring of a Business Manager.

Moruya $50,000
Third Sector Australia Ltd

The Meeting Place
Enhance the capacity of Momentum to support a low socioeconomic community through the fit-out of a community space. 

Casino$1,5950
We Help Ourselves

WHOS Hunter - Day Program Fitout
Improve capacity of WHOS Hunter Valley to support patients requiring rehabilitation who are not under residential treatment, through the fit out of new premises. 

Newcastle$35,670
Wyee Community Hub Inc

Building Resilience after COVID at Wyee
Improve the capacity of WCHIA to support a more resilient Wyee through volunteer training.

Wyee$49,240

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.