Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

The Cobargo Wellness Group formed following the bushfires that devastated the region on New Year’s Eve in the final hours of 2019.  They exist to assist individuals and communities to thrive after crisis with emotional and physical support through creative projects, groups and events.

Ongoing impacts on local communities following bushfires, COVID 19 and floods meant an increased demand for their popular programs ‘Thriving After Crisis’, which is being developed into an online course, and ‘Ginger the Frog’, a theatre production for children and the young at heart. In response Cobargo Wellness Group sought to further enhance these programs to reach more local parents and children.

Grant funds of $10,000 from FRRR’s Investing in not-for-profit capacity program were used to bring in more hands and expertise to help with project planning, website design, and create a documentary of the Ginger the Frog production and journey. Ginger the Frog then toured three LGA’s – Coffs Harbour, Nambucca Shire and Hawkesbury Shire to great reviews.

‘Children wanted to go back and see the show straight after they’d just seen it, parents brought their friends for another session, the kids went crazy when it was time to join in with the activities and dancing’.

The Thriving After Crisis program was promoted alongside Ginger the Frog events to provide another support for families dealing with trauma. A future goal is to build on the scale of the show, with ambitions to tour it around the country and even internationally.

Around 800 children, parents and teachers were able to enjoy fun filled shows which included activities, dancing, laughter and wellness techniques. Cobargo Wellness Group reported it was a great opportunity for community connection, warmth, laughter, song and dance, all of which the group believes are the best way forward when recovering from a crisis. A further benefit to local residents is they will receive a digital version of the Ginger the Frog program for free along with access to the Thriving After Crisis program.

Upon reflecting on the success of the project, which involved hard work and long hours to bring it all together, Cobargo Wellness Group told us “joyous occasions create great memories, open the heart, and build connection and courage to work together as a community.”

“I’m also very proud of the fact that in my own community, organisations and the general community trust us now to offer quality programs and events.”

Calls for embedding creative projects in disaster recovery

A new report released today has validated the long-term and multi-pronged impact of creative projects in the recovery of rural communities following disaster events.

The Impacts of Creative Recovery report confirmed that arts projects have a unique ability to build long-lasting community resilience, wellbeing and local capacity for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. It also highlights that creative recovery programs have the capacity to mitigate disaster impacts, as well as the disempowerment that so often results from the stresses and strains of disasters.

The study, undertaken by the Creative Recovery Network, involved reviewing five diverse arts-led projects funded by FRRR to support recovery following different disaster events. Researchers Elouise Bagnara and Bronwyn Ward explored project outcomes across four key areas: social capital and connection; revitalisation and placemaking; acceptance and growth; identity and belonging.

The evaluation recommends new approaches to provide ongoing support for creative recovery programs; to embed creative recovery processes into policy, which is integrated into wider disaster management arrangements; and investment in local creative economies to provide ongoing participation and employment in the arts. 

FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, Nina O’Brien, said that FRRR has seen the impacts that projects have in the medium-term but this was a chance to check back in and look at the longer-term legacy of each of these projects.

“The evaluation showed each project has had a marked impact on lasting social capital and connection, leaving a legacy of enriched community and social connection, while permanently strengthening both creative practice and disaster management processes.

“It was inspiring to see the influence they’d also had on local placemaking, helping create a stronger sense of identity, particularly informing how the community was seen by others. The report also found that the projects led to mentorship and educational opportunities that have influenced both the prosperity of the local community and the quality of life of those living in affected communities.

“But some of the strongest benefits were around mental health, helping people to understand and shape their world and respond to the disaster event. The projects also seem to have increased the understanding of mental health and led to improved wellbeing practices and resources, which is so important for the long-term health of these communities,” Ms O’Brien said.

Creative Recovery Network Executive Officer, Scotia Monkivitch, said in many ways, the report confirmed what the sector has known for some time, but it adds impetus to the call for further funding and embedding such initiatives into disaster management processes.

“We know that arts and culture play an integral role in building social cohesion, connectedness and strength for a hopeful future. This report contributes to the growing body of research that clarifies the many benefits arts-based practices can bring to disaster impacted communities through supporting opportunities for respite and joy, providing spaces for gathering and connection and improving mental health outcomes through engagement in creative processes.

“Our hope is that this report will support the ongoing development of policy frameworks and funding opportunities to embed the arts in programs that support communities through the disaster experience and build capacity for future challenges,” Ms Monkivitch.

Impacts of Creative Recovery was jointly commissioned by Creative Recovery Network and the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal. The report was researched by Elouise Bagnara and Bronwyn Ward and authored by Elouise Bagnara.

Explore the report.