Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Tableland Community Link Association (TCL) in North QLD provides person-centred support for people with disabilities and/or mental illness to have opportunities that increase their connection and sense of belonging within their community.

They used a $15,000 ANZ Seeds of Renewal grant to build an enclosed verandah extension at ‘The Grove’ activities centre, which is used on a daily basis by their clients. The extension has added extra cooling, further weather protection and increased the capacity of the centre, which has allowed TCL to increase the number of participants in the activities they hold for clients each weekday.

‘The Grove’ hosts daily activities for clients like chair yoga, craft classes, bingo, games and karaoke items, and has a full industrial kitchen for cooking classes and many more activities. The Atherton Tablelands community, and in particular Atherton, is expanding rapidly and the increase in clients has followed this trend. Through the expansion of the back verandah ,more outdoor activities are now possible and more clients can visit and participate at the centre. 

Carrie de Brueys, Services Manager of ‘The Grove’, said, “This activity centre is the only one of its kind in Atherton and on the Atherton Tablelands. Clients must travel almost one and a half hours to Cairns to have access to similar facilities – so expanding our capacity has been critical.

“For people with a disability or mental illness, a sense of community and belonging is very important in their day-to-day routines, as it creates a sense of independence and stability. It enables clients to interact with like-minded people, whilst also feeling safe and comfortable. It also allows them to have a sense of independence in a community environment.”

This renovation project aligns with one of the ANZ Seeds of Renewal grant program criteria under the theme of ‘Improving Housing Access’. For organisations that offer housing support and services for people living with a disability, funding is available to improve disability access to community facilities.

An innovative program drawing on the personal experience of its founder’s family is making an impact on veterans and current service personnel in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley.

Bootstraps is a volunteer-operated charity that runs a drop-in recovery centre for former service personnel who may be having difficulties connecting with family or society at large. Given the proximity of the RAAF Base at Amberley, Army Aviation at Oakey and Signals Regiment at Cabarlah, and with RSL Sub-Branches dotted through the Lockyer Valley, the organisation is well-located to offer this support.

President and founder of Bootstraps, Sam Kavanagh, was taught leatherworking by his father, who was in the air force and practised this craft as a kind of therapy. Building on this, as part of its offering, Bootstraps runs a leatherworking program to facilitate reconnection and social interaction. Ex-service personnel, current serving personnel and their families take priority, but space allowing, the program is open is open to anyone in the community.

The organisation needed some equipment to deliver the program and applied to FRRR for funding for an industrial leather sewing machine and a new computer, which they received in the form of a $5,407 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by The Sylvia & Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation.

The computer replaced a small inefficient laptop and enhances the organisation’s day-to-day communications and planning, while the sewing machine supports every level of the Bootstraps leatherwork training program. The model chosen is capable of being hand-cranked, which facilitates use by veterans with lower limb disabilities in particular, and those confined to a wheelchair.

The grant application noted, “There are not many (if any) families in the Lockyer Valley that do not have a military and/or a horse connection that could benefit from the leatherwork activities run by Bootstraps.”

Bootstrap’s new leather sewing machine

At the time of reporting, Bootstraps noted that more than 250 patrons have used the Bootstraps facilities, including the new leather sewing machine. The new IT facilities have meant better access and clearer information is available to the public about the program, via a more responsive and efficient website and communications.

These important pieces of equipment will help the program’s participants further their craft, while enabling social connection and helping veterans and the general community remain in a good head-space.