Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal
On Boonwurrung Country
The primarily agriculture-based Bass Coast community is a two-hour drive, south-east of Melbourne. It’s therefore perhaps not surprising that it’s one of the fastest growing areas in regional Victoria. Wonthaggi is the main centre, with a population of around 8,000 in the township and many more spread across neighbouring towns and hamlets. There is a significantly lower level of weekly income than the Victorian median and a lower proportion of school leavers (19%) participate in higher education compared to the state average (36%). Much of the employment is seasonal, part time or casual. This meant that COVID had a severe impact on the area, with many families falling through the gaps of the Government financial assistance packages.
Established in 1910, Wonthaggi Citizens Band (WCB) is managed by a voluntary committee. Its vision is to develop and nurture musicians, enabling them to provide music for the benefit of the Bass Coast community.
With COVID having an impact in an already challenging socio-economic environment, the group wanted to give an affordable music education to young people. Their aim was to introduce them to the wonder and benefits of music and encourage their participation in the band by offering subsidised tuition on brass band instruments from a qualified music teacher. It also sought to strengthen connections by bringing participants together for rehearsals in a supportive environment.
There is much documentation on the educational, cognitive and physical benefits to be received from learning music on a brass instrument, particularly in improving numeracy and literacy skills. Research shows that children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not. Further, with the high focus on childhood obesity, participation in a marching brass band cannot be underestimated for improved physical health. It improves general fitness, flexibility and muscle strength through both breathing techniques and the physical activity of marching – giving an alternate physical activity to young people not interested in sport.
This project also responded to the Bass Coast Shire Youth Action Plan, which identified the lack of options for those not interested in sport and the lack of access to appropriate arts and culture.
The organisation successfully applied to FRRR, through the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants program for $5,000 to help them establish the program and cover the initial tuition fees subsidy.
As a result, 10 young people aged between 10 and 13 had their first introduction to brass band music. These participants received half-hour individual lessons in a variety of brass instruments and then came together to learn how to play together as a band. At the end of this period, eight young people remained engaged with Wonthaggi Citizens Band and have joined the Youth Band to further their music. These young people have formed a strong social connection with one another, which assisted them during the lockdown periods when they kept in touch online. Feedback from both young people and their parents have acknowledged the benefit young people received from their participation when many others were struggling in coping through the impacts of COVID.
This project has also created social connections between generations, as the three bands of Wonthaggi Citizens Band intermingle and participate in joint performances. The music learnings by the young people have been “outstanding”, as has their participation levels. This was in no small way due to the quality of the tutor and her ability to engage with the young people, and with the senior band members who volunteered their time to assist and mentor.
“We’re excited that this project is set to have a lasting legacy, with the band set to undertake a two-year project to work with 20 ‘at risk’ students at a local primary school, using brass band music to re-engage them,” said Sandra Mousey, a volunteer on the project.
“The community is more engaged and participative, students are more engaged in learning and there are generally stronger levels of resilience in the community,” she wrote.
For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.
This case study is courtesy of the Gardiner Dairy Foundation
A new teen fitness program in Kyabram is inspiring community spirit and building fit and healthy bodies.
A health and wellbeing centre has been established by Kyabram Blue Light at the town’s P-12 College, thanks to $5,000 from the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program in partnership with Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR).
The centre has proven to be a holiday hit with local teenagers and will be used regularly during the school year.
It is part of the KyFit police and teen gym-based mentoring program and, according to organiser Senior Constable Mitchell Bull, the benefits are wide-ranging.
Teenagers have played a central role in establishing the gym in an old storeroom at the school.
“The kids have done the majority of it,” Senior Constable Bull said. “They put together a wish list of equipment, posters and information and then volunteered on weekends to load trailers and remove rubbish and then helped in designing the layout and setting up and testing the equipment.
“It’s not just given to them on a silver platter – it’s a community effort and we all chip in. For six or seven weekends in a row we had up to 10 kids at the gym helping out. We removed six trailer loads of rubbish from the storeroom.”
The gym includes two bench presses, two rowing machines, two magnetic resistance bikes, two treadmills, two decline sit-up benches, sets of dumbbells from 3kg to 10kg and 13 spin bikes for classes.
The Gardiner Foundation grant also helped with installing fans, electrical power points and tiles for the floor.
“We made every cent count and called in favours left, right and centre and had a lot of volunteer assistance with everything,” Senior Constable Bull said. “It’s nothing fancy but it’s equipment tailored to young people.”
The gym is the latest development in the KyFit program that started in 2019 and is run by Kyabram Blue Light using police members, volunteers and community members.
“It was identified there was a need for a sporting or physical program that didn’t require the time, cost and travel commitments of the likes of football or netball,” Senior Constable Bull said.
“The gym will help those who may not have the opportunity to be involved in the local gyms or sports clubs.”
Personal trainers, defence force members, police and other community members help with the program, ensuring young people can access a variety of training programs ranging from boxing to swimming sessions and pitting their abilities against the police fitness test challenge.
A weekly in-school program attracts at least 13 participants and after-school programs are reaching about 30 teenagers. The school also uses the facilities for physical education classes.
Senior Constable Bull said the grant had helped to empower local young people. “We used the gym over the school holidays, allowing kids to drop in when there wasn’t much else to do – we can barely keep up with the demand,” he said.
“A lot of kids want to join the program now because they’ve seen the benefits the others are getting. It’s helping with their physical and mental health and the kids are seeing the benefits of physical activity and working out with other people.”
Police can also use the fitness programs to help break down barriers between officers and young people.
“The kids get the benefits of getting to know local police and other volunteers and mentors,” Senior Constable Bull said. “It’s about building a relationship between police officers and young people and showing we’re approachable if there is a problem in the community that needs to be discussed.”
It’s also beneficial for police. “It means we’re not always seeing the negative side of things in the community and we get to work towards positivity,” Senior Constable Bull said.
The program is free for local teenagers who also receive a free sports top when they get involved.
In recognition of his work with young people, Senior Constable Bull was named Citizen of the Year for Campaspe Shire at the 2022 Australia Day Awards.
Now in its 20th year, the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program is delivered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR). Grants of up to $5,000 help not-for-profit organisations in small Victorian dairy communities deliver projects that will benefit local people and strengthen their ability to deal with local issues and enhance existing community infrastructure.
Applications for the 2022 program opened on 1 March and close on 13 April. More information can be found at https://frrr.org.au/funding/place/gardiner-communities-grants/
$120,000 in Gardiner Community Grants available
The annual Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program (Gardiner Community Grants) has opened today. Delivered in partnership with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), this round marks the 20th year of the program, which is focused on supporting communities across Victoria’s three dairying regions.
This year Gardiner Community Grants will encourage projects to focus on building the capacity of community organisations and improving digital connectivity. The new focus is in response to insights from FRRR’s Heartbeat of Rural Australia Report, which was published late last year.
The report highlighted that there was a significant digital divide in rural communities, compared to urban areas, and that local not-for-profit organisations needed capacity building support to be able to do their vital work, particularly following the impacts of back-to-back disasters, including COVID, on fundraising and volunteers.
A digital connectivity grant project might involve upgrading infrastructure and facilities, improving digital access or providing training that enables the community to benefit from digital services.
A building capacity grant aims to support organisations to sustain or grow the effectiveness of their operations. Funds may be requested for salaries to increase the organisations paid workforce, training for volunteers, upgrading office equipment or supporting strategic planning and improved governance.
The small grants program, which has $120,000 in available funds for grants up to $5,000, will continue to support a broad range of community projects that local groups identify can make their community socially, economically or environmentally stronger. Applications for events to enhance cultural vibrancy, volunteer planting projects to support environmental sustainability, extending education and training opportunities, support for infrastructure projects or programs to improve health and wellbeing are all encouraged.
Allan Cameron, Gardiner Dairy Foundation Chief Executive Officer, said Gardiner is committed to strengthening Victorian dairy communities and is pleased to be partnering with FRRR for the twentieth year to support innovative, community-driven projects.
“Investing in the communities that are at the heart of the Victorian dairy industry is critical to the sustainability of dairy farming in Victoria. Since launching the program with FRRR in 2002, Gardiner Dairy Foundation has supported over 500 local projects and distributed more than $2 million to Victorian dairy communities.
“Gardiner is committed to supporting the needs of the communities as they change and evolve, now, and in the future. That’s why, this year, we are encouraging initiatives around digital literacy and organisational capacity, to help local groups respond to the current needs of Victoria’s dairy communities,” Mr Cameron said.
Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that the Heartbeat of Rural Australia Report called for more support to go to community groups to address critical issues, and it’s wonderful to see Gardiner Foundation respond.
“Our Heartbeat Report highlighted significant gaps and challenges for rural communities, but also highlighted the critical role that local not-for-profits play in meeting the needs and filling the gaps in rural communities. That’s why we value our longstanding relationship with Gardiner, because they, like us, are committed to working together to support these vital community groups in the long-term.
“For 20 years, Gardiner’s Community Grants have consistently boosted Victorian dairy communities with contributions towards large important community projects, and significantly enabling many smaller community organisations and projects, often for items and activities that are less accessible through government or major philanthropic funding,” Ms Egleton said.
Applications for the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program open Tuesday, 1 March and close Wednesday 13th April 2022 at 5 pm AEDT. More information can be found at – https://frrr.org.au/gardiner-communities-grants/.
Mental Health training helps community get in a good place
With the effects of plunging milk prices and bushfires in South West Victoria, the community was feeling strained. Front line workers were regularly being confronted with people breaking down because they couldn’t pay their bills, afford feed for their stock or feeling financial pressure.
The Simpson & District Community Centre (SDCC) knew it was important to keep the conversation about mental health in the community open, to continue to break down the stigma associated with asking for help. So, they wanted to equip local community members with the skills to recognise mental health issues and provide resources for referrals to support services, as well as give them skills in self-care, given they were dealing with more and more people in crisis.
SDCC was established almost four decades ago to support Western Victorian dairying communities. Around 50 people a week use its facilities for meetings and activities – from craft, scrabble days, children’s activities, adult education, digital literacy, a Men’s Shed programme and more. The centre puts considerable effort into reducing social isolation and increasing health and wellbeing in the area.
The Simpson area has been supported by a Dairy Community Support Officer who works with farming community families in crisis. In three years, the social worker’s client numbers went from 9 to 98. She identified a number of mental health issues facing the community including anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and self-imposed isolation. The community has had one suicide since the beginning of the dairy crisis and wanted to do whatever was needed to prevent more.
Through the In a Good Place Program, funded by CCI Giving, FRRR was able to help fund the delivery the training. In March 2019, nine community members participated in a two-day Mental Health First Aid course. Another session ran in March 2020, with a half day refresher for the previous years’ participants.
In total, 16 members of the community were provided with the training and skills to identify and start a conversation regarding mental health. Those trained included workers from the local supermarket and Post Office, stockfeed supplier and vet group, as well as dairy farmers and volunteers from the Football Netball Club, Men’s Shed, Community Centre, Cricket Club, CFA and Landcare network. The array of participants meant that there was great community coverage, with everyone attending wearing “more than one hat” – so those new skills are going into nearly every organisation and workplace in Simpson.
Furthermore, the instructor for the First Aid program and the Dairy Community Support Officer were able to identify an opportunity to secure funding for additional training that will reach the community, regarding Mental Health in the elderly population. Transitioning off farms for older people is an area of mental health difficulty that the Support Officer sees first hand in her work in the community.
The SDCC maintains that if just one person can be supported through a crisis without a tragedy, then the program will be a success.
“Training more people in the community to recognise the signs and direct them to help or help to them can only improve the long term outcomes for our community and increase the resilience and sense of connection.
“By providing the training we are giving people the skills to take back into the community at their workplaces, homes and recreation activities. The more people who are able to recognise and respond to the signs of deteriorating mental health the stronger our community will be. These skills will be maintained for life and can be shared.”SDCC Final Report
Congratulations to the SDCC for the great strength and support they provide and their ability to adapt to the community’s changing needs.