Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

On Gunditjmara Country

On the southwest coast of Victoria, the city of Portland and surrounding areas now have access to a fantastic service called Cycling Without Age.

Cycling Without Age (CWA) is a volunteer organisation that involves taking elderly and less-abled citizens out for free bike rides on a specialised bicycle called a trishaw. The project originally started in Denmark and after major success there are now 1600 chapters across the globe, including Portland.

CWA Portland has only been in the community since 2020, but in their short time they have secured funding to purchase bikes and also partnered with the local Rotary Club. Portland’s local Rotary Club has been in the community for 70 years and know the residents well. This partnership was a perfect way to get the project off the ground.

With support from the Rotary Club, CWA Portland applied for a Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant to purchase a custom-built trailer that will allow them to transport two bikes to other communities across the Glenelg Shire.

After being awarded a $9,000 grant, supported by the Ian Rollo Currie Estate Foundation, CWA Portland was able to purchase the trailer and has been able to regularly pick up passengers from Harbourside Lodge Aged Care facility. They have plans to engage with the Casterton and Nelson communities.

The interaction that CWA Portland has had with Harbourside completely exceeded their expectations, with the facility embracing weekly rides that see new passengers joining in each time.

This program has been extremely beneficial for passengers. For elderly people and those living with a disability, loneliness and social isolation can be a big issue, particularly in remote, rural or regional communities. The CWA bikes give these people the opportunity to ‘feel the wind in their hair’ and a chance to visit some of their favourite places in their community. CWA provides a safe and enjoyable way for community members to socialise, tell their stories and be a part of the community once again.

For example, regular rider Brian, who suffers from memory loss, enjoys seeing all the local dogs when he’s out with CWA. Brian used to be a part of the local Vintage Car Club, and he sometimes gets to visit their museum. One day he saw an orange Charger in the museum that used to belong to his son, which made him very excited when he was able to remember it.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

Content warning: this article deals with sensitive themes including domestic violence that might be disturbing for some audiences.

The St George branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) was established in 1946 and sixteen active members work to support the community and participate in and host a range of local events.

The members embarked on an ambitious project – upgrading a small disused unit attached to their meeting room to become a low cost, short-term accommodation unit which could be used for a variety of purposes. This includes supporting victims of domestic violence, providing a place to stay for isolated parents or families of locally hospitalised children, or for families coming into town for the likes of parent / teacher interviews. While they were fundraising locally, a local cotton grower realised they could do with more support to fund the renovations and furnishings, as the unit was empty and had fallen into disrepair.

The grower nominated them, and the received an Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities grant for $5,000. This enabled them to start refurbishment of the unit to convert it into a safe haven for those in need.

Paula Hetherington, President of the St George QCWA, said that it was a steep learning curve for their small group to achieve a project of this magnitude with a miniscule bank account. “Before commencing the project, we knew there was considerable funding required to achieve the outcome of having an affordable, comfortable, self-contained unit for residents of the Balonne Shire.

“The largest cost item was building renovations, which we knew when the Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities grants were open. Getting the grant enabled us to provide some much needed comfort items, such as air conditioning and window blinds for our hot summer days, comfortable bedding and a table to sit at for meals.”

The QCWA St George Branch has since been raising funds for linen, utensils, crockery, cutlery et cetera through catering for local events, and have successfully raised the necessary funds to finish the broader refit project. The renovations were completed in February, and the unit is now ready to be used for its intended purpose.