Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

More than 6,800 Back to School vouchers distributed

More than 6,800 students and families in places recovering from the 2019/20 bushfires will head Back to School in semester 2 with a little extra support, thanks to the generosity of donors from across Australia and overseas.

Support continues for students impacted by Black Summer bushfires

Funded through a special Bushfire Response round of the Back to School (BTS) program, FRRR has partnered with local community groups and Community Foundations in impacted regions to distribute 6,814 $50 gift vouchers to families in need.

Students can redeem the vouchers for school essentials such as winter uniforms, school bags, shoes or stationery. To date, BTS vouchers valued at more than $822,000 have been distributed to families in fire-affected communities since June 2020.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that for these students and their families, the vouchers provide a little extra help as they continue to navigate the recovery journey, which has certainly been complicated by the pandemic.

“Last year many of these families were home schooling throughout the colder months. So, with most back at school, some are only now realising there are items that still need replacing following the bushfires.

“Fifty dollars may not seem much, but for these families it can have a big impact, helping to cover the cost of a couple of school jumpers or a winter uniform, new books to start the term or even a sleeping bag that a child can use for school camp.

“We’re grateful to our Community Foundation partners and other groups that are working on the ground in the impacted regions. Their discreet distribution of the vouchers to those in need means families can receive support without having to ask for it,” Ms Egleton said.

Tenterfield Lions Club is one of the organisations helping to distribute the vouchers to students in their region. Club President, Lisa Dalton, said that the vouchers will help parents with the costs of winter school essentials and will also benefit the Shire when the vouchers are redeemed locally.

“We’ve been through the wringer over the last couple of years, and I hope this is just a small way of letting the wider community know we are all in this together,” Ms Dalton said.

The BTS program distributes vouchers to students and families across Australia, including those in regions not impacted by the 2019/20 bushfires. In total, 64 Community Foundations and locally-based community groups have helped FRRR to distribute $1,075,400 in vouchers to through the BTS program this year.

BTS vouchers are funded by FRRR and its donor partners, which include News Corp, Australia Post, Fire Fight Australia concert, Counter Point Community Services (Cycle Recycle), Portland House Foundation, UNICEF Australia, J & M Nolan Family Trust, Bertalli Family Foundation, June Canavan Foundation, and Origin Energy Foundation, as well as individual donors.

Vouchers were awarded to support the following bushfire-affected Local Government Areas:

Towong (VIC)
East Gippsland (VIC)
Wellington (VIC)
Greater Hume Shire (NSW)
Snowy Valleys (NSW)
Eurobodalla (NSW)
Mid-Coast (NSW)
Bega Valley (NSW)
Tenterfield (NSW)
Ballina (NSW)
Clarence Valley (NSW)
Lismore (NSW)
Richmond Valley (NSW)
Kyogle (NSW)
Kangaroo Island (SA)
Yorke Peninsula (SA)

Funding awarded for 33 recovery-focused projects

Through its Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program, FRRR has awarded $637,908 in grants for 33 initiatives prioritised by local communities to support their recovery from the 2019/2020 summer bushfires.

Rural communities recovering from bushfires
SRC Bushfire Recovery project – Eden Visitor Information Centre

The SRC program’s Bushfire Recovery stream is collaboratively funded and supports projects that are led by local people and address local recovery needs. The grants awarded will help promote the healing and renewal of these impacted places.

In this round of Bushfire Recovery funding, grants range from $2,500 to encourage locals to participate in recovery activities at the Maclean Spring Festival in NSW, through to $25,000 for the installation of local fauna sculptures that will increase connection to place and enhance public spaces in Marlow, Victoria.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that the Foundation continues to support communities recovering from disaster, because it knows recovery is a long-term process that is unique for each affected place.

“Many impacted communities have faced multiple disasters beyond the bushfires, including COVID-19 and floods. The pandemic has made recovery all the more challenging for these regions. For community organisations, it’s hampered their capacity to deliver services that they would otherwise be providing to help their communities heal.

“Many groups have worked hard to support locals in safe and responsive ways but understandably, local volunteers are pretty worn out. In response, we have awarded a number of grants for projects that will relieve volunteer-fatigue and alleviate the pressures that many volunteer-led groups are dealing with.

“Recovery is a complex process that really hinges on local people coming together to support one another, to share and heal. We continue to see strong demand for projects that provide a safe space for communities to gather and connect by investing in local community assets and infrastructure.

“We are also seeing attention focused on more vulnerable members of the community, with local organisations using grants for projects that address the recovery needs of age-based groups, gendered groups and Indigenous groups,” Ms Egleton said.

Some of the 33 Bushfire Recovery projects awarded include:

  • Australian Outward Bound Development Fund Pty Limited, Tharwa ACT – Rebuilding from the Heat – $22,367 – Improve preparedness for future disasters at Australian Outward Bound’s Tharwa site through the renewal of aged firefighting and maintenance equipment.
  • Lansdowne Hall Reserve Trust, Lansdowne NSW – Ride on Mower for Lansdowne Community Hall – $5,107 – Reduce volunteer fatigue and increase preparedness for future fires through the purchase of a ride on mower for the Lansdowne Hall.
  • Rathdowney and District Memorial Grounds Association Incorporated, QLD – Natural Disaster Preparedness – Electrical masterplan for emergency response facilities – $13,420 – Enhance community activities and support community preparedness for future emergency evacuations by developing an electricity supply masterplan for the Memorial Grounds.
  • Kingscote Mens Shed Inc, Kingscote SA – Connection Through Activity for Men Living on Kangaroo Island – $3,683 – Increase opportunities to support local connectedness and social recovery, through restoration of a local historic Wharf Trolley.
  • Bemm River Progress and Improvement Association Inc, VIC – Bemm River Men’s Shed Upgrade – Toilet and Kitchen – $16,422 – Boost community recovery and connection through upgrades to the Men’s Shed toilet and kitchen facilities.

In total, this round of SRC awarded $1,589,612 in grants across three streams – Small & Vital, Larger Leverage and Bushfire Recovery. The 112 projects funded will help build the resilience and long-term vitality of smaller remote, rural and regional communities across Australia.

A full list of SRC grant recipients across all three streams of funding is available here.

The SRC program is collaboratively supported by a number of generous donors, which are also listed here.

The current round is accepting applications until 24 August 2021, with funds to be awarded in December 2021.

27 locally-led projects funded

Rural communities across Australia are sharing in $1,060,404 in grants for 27 projects that will help them access the resources they need to tackle the ongoing effects of the Big Dry thanks to FRRR’s award-winning grants program[1], Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT).

Rural communities still tackling drought
William Creek Gymkhana Committee – TTTT Round 17 grant recipient

While water storage levels in the northern Murray-Darling Basin and northern Australia have improved, parts of south east Queensland and southern Western Australia still face serious or severe rainfall deficiencies[2]. Although other areas and states have had some rain, recovery from drought requires at least 18 months of average to above average rainfall. So much of the country continues to need support to tackle the impacts of the prolonged dry.

The 27 funded projects will help rural communities across Australia, from Charleville in Queensland, Moulamein in New South Wales, Keith in South Australia, to Manjimup in Western Australia, strengthen social connections, boost economic recovery, and build community and organisational capacity and disaster resilience.

Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, said that on top of the effects of the drought, the ongoing impacts of the pandemic has seen volunteer fatigue emerge as a key priority in many places.

“For those areas still in drought, volunteers and local groups have had to find ways to sustain and engage the community,” Ms O’Brien explained.

“Maintaining this optimism and drive is no small feat, and we are pleased to be able to support the places and the people that are working to make their community thrive amidst the complexities of drought and the pandemic.

This includes groups like the Bundaleer Forest Community Areas Association in Jamestown, South Australia, who will be able to support their volunteers and boost economic sustainability by upgrading infrastructure and purchasing new equipment. The funding will provide equipment and storage areas needed to maintain the Maple and Pine event centre. The Bundaleer Forest project will provide strong, genuine and ongoing economic benefit, regardless of seasonal conditions, making Jamestown a more attractive place to live, work and play.

In New South Wales, Moulamein Community Development Incorporated has developed an inspiring project that will encourage tourism activity to the area through the restoration of the Werai Horse Stables and Moolpa Blacksmith shop in the Moulamein Heritage Village. The primarily volunteer-run organisation has been awarded a $149,930 grant for their initiative, which will boost the region’s economic recovery and build community wellbeing.

Some of the 27 projects awarded this round include:

  • Monaro Farming Systems CMC Incorporated, NSW – Building Resilient Relationships for Farmers – $29,610 – Help locals stay informed and connected through the delivery of workshops in the Monaro region.
  • Charleville & District Cultural Association Inc, QLD – Charleville Creative Lane 2021 – $20,000 – Encourage more local involvement in the community by delivering up to 30 creative arts workshops in Charleville.
  • Back to the Bush Festival Incorporated, QLD – Miles Back to the Bush Festival – It is the people that make it – $23,452 – Support opportunities for social and educational participation and address disadvantage caused by the drought, for children and young people of Miles, QLD through the delivery of the Back to the Bush Festival in September 2021.
  • Cadell Community and Tourist Association, SA – Cadell Op-Shop Amenities Block – $11,000 – Support volunteers at the community owned and operated Cadell Op-Shop by installing running water and an onsite toilet.
  • Shire of Manjimup, WA – Youth Engage and Empower Project – $60,000 – Support opportunities for social and educational participation through employment of a Project Facilitator to build local youth resilience and establish a youth council for the Shire of Manjimup.

Applications for the TTTT program are always open and groups in drought-affected areas are encouraged to apply for funding to help their community come together to tackle the drought. Grants are available for a broad range of grassroots, community-led initiatives that directly and clearly benefit local communities.

The cut-off dates for the next round of TTTT are:

  • 24 August 2021. (Note: Stage One for the $150,000 grant tier must be received by 12 August). Outcomes will be advised late November 2021.

Tackling Tough Times Together is possible thanks to the collaborative support of several donors, including the Australian Government which committed $15M to be distributed over three years. Generous contributions have also been made by Pratt Foundation, Stockland CARE Foundation, Paul Ramsay Foundation, The Snow Foundation, Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Henroth Group and private donors from across the nation. To join these donors, and support grants like this through FRRR, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.

More information on the Tackling Tough Times Together grant program is available here.

The full list of grant recipients and their projects are below.

Jump to: NSW | QLD | SA | WA

Up to $150,000
Moulamein Community Development IncorporatedMoulamein Heritage Village Stage Two
Enhance economic recovery and renewal through the restoration of the Werai Horse Stables and Moolpa Blacksmith shop in the Moulamein Heritage Village.
Up to $60,000
Guyra Garden Club Guyra Spring Flower Festival 2021 - Memorial Avenue & Mandala Garden
Boost and strengthen the local economy with the Guyra Spring Flower Festival 2021 including a Memorial Avenue and Mandala Garden to honour service people.
Monaro Farming Systems CMC IncorporatedBuilding Resilient Relationships for Farmers
Help locals stay informed and connected through the delivery of Building Resilient Relationships for Farmers workshops in the Monaro region.
Up to $20,000
Dunoon Men's Shed IncorporatedModelling the Renewable Energy Lifestyle
Support climate resilience and sustainability of the Dunoon Men’s Shed by installing solar power with a battery back-up system.
Crescent Head Community Hall CommitteeInterior Refurbishment of Crescent Head Community Hall
Encourage better use of the community hall by repairing and restoring the interior to make the community space more comfortable and welcoming.
Crescent Head$14,133
Macleay Choristers IncorporatedMacleay Choristers Piano Grant
Enhance cultural activities that increase local connectedness, through purchase of a piano for local choir and wider community.
Up to $60,000
Texas P-10 State School Parents and Citizens AssociationTexas State School Middle School Playground Facility
Encourage children’s learning and development through play by installing play equipment for grades 3-6.
South Burnett Mountain Bike Club IncorporatedGordonbrook Dam Mountain Bike Park
Support eco-tourism opportunities to strengthen the local economy through construction of a mountain bike track at Kingaroy.
Friends of the Gallery
Booringa Action Group Incorporated
Booringa Fire and Water Festival
Boost and strengthen the local economy with the Fire and Water Festival.
Swan Creek School of Arts Committee IncorporationSwan Creek Hall Floor Replacement
Increase safety and amenity at local meeting space, through upgrading the flooring at Swan Creek Hall.
Swan Creek $41,501
Thallon Progress Association IncorporatedSculptures in the Scrub - Thallon Art History Trail
Boost and strengthen the local economy and increase connection to place through development of a sculpture trail in Thallon.
Roughlie Community Centre IncorporatedShaded Outdoor Area
Increase local capacity to support community activities and connectedness, through construction of an outdoor meeting area at Roughlie Community Centre.
Amiens History Association IncorporatedMulti-function Solar Shed and Access Pathways
Boost and strengthen the organisation’s capacity and sustainability by constructing a multi-purpose shed with solar panels at the Amiens Legacy Centre.
Back to the Bush Festival IncorporatedMiles Back to the Bush Festival – It’s the People that Make it
Support opportunities for social and educational participation and address disadvantage caused by the drought, for children and young people of Miles, QLD through the delivery of the Back to the Bush Festival in September 2021.
Up to $20,000
Charleville & District Cultural Association IncorporatedCharleville Creative Lane 2021
Encourage more local involvement in the community by delivering up to 30 creative arts workshops in Charleville.
Farm 2 Fork Collective IncorporatedFuture Proofing the Farm 2 Fork Collective
Boost and strengthen organisation and volunteer capacity with professional development to ensure growth and sustainability.
Killarney Bowls Club IncorporatedPurchase New Kitchen Appliances
Improve volunteer vitality and organisational resilience by replacing appliances at the Killarney Bowls Club.
C&K Middlemount Community Childcare Centre
The Creche and Kindergarten Association Limited
C&K Middlemount’s Solar-wise Childcare Project
Support climate resilience and the sustainability of the community childcare centre through the installation of solar panels.
Up to $60,000
Milang & District Historical Society IncorporatedThe Port Milang Museum Upgrade
Increase volunteer safety and comfort at Milang Museum and Men's Shed, through building repairs.
Bundaleer Forest Community Areas Association IncorporatedStorage and Equipment for Efficient and Sustainable Volunteer Management of Newly Opened Event Centre Maple & Pine, Bundaleer, SA
Reduce volunteer fatigue and boost the sustainability of the Maple and Pine community centre through purchase of equipment.
Keith Golf Club IncorporatedKeith Golf Club Renovations - Stage 2
Improve the comfort, amenity and function of the local community meeting area, through upgrade to Keith Golf Club building.
Bute 2000 Onwards Committee
Barunga West Council
Bute's "Beaut" Silo Art Project
Boost and strengthen the local economy through silo art at Bute.
Riverland Connect Association Enhancement of Paringa Silo Art
Enhance the silo art attraction at Paringa, through installation of lighting and sheds for shelter.
Up to $20,000
Purnong District Hall IncorporatedUnderpinning
Grow community resilience and secure the future of the Purnong District Hall for generations with infrastructure works.
Cadell Community and Tourist AssociationCadell Op-Shop Amenities Block
Support volunteers at the community owned and operated Cadell Op-Shop by installing running water and an onsite toilet.
Up to $60,000
Shire of ManjimupYouth Engage and Empower Project
Support opportunities for social and educational participation through employment of a Project Facilitator to build local youth resilience and establish a youth council for the Shire of Manjimup.
The Moore Catchment Council (Inc)Building a BIG Carnaby's Black Cockatoo Sculpture in Moora
Enhance local tourism and diversify economic opportunities at Moora, through construction of large sculpture featuring the Carnaby Black Cockatoo.

[1] 2020 Australian Philanthropy Awards – Best Grant Program

[2] Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology. Drought Rainfall deficiencies and water availability. 10 May 2020. Retrieved from

In the remote locality of Clarke Creek in Queensland’s Isaac Region, a community of 320 people have been doing it tough in recent years. In March 2017 Tropical Cyclone Debbie and flash flooding devastated the area, and then came the drought.

People from Clarke Creek mostly own or work on cattle stations, many run by extended and intergenerational family groups. School-aged children in the area were exposed to many impacts of Cyclone Debbie – from damage to community and family infrastructure, livestock and pet animal losses, to financial strain putting pressure on their families.

A problem-solving school

The saving grace of this community is the Clarke Creek State School (CCSS), which, in the absence of a township, serves as the community hub. It caters to the needs of 17 students from Kinder to Year 6, extends support to siblings, parents and extended families of those students, and provides a meeting place for all groups in the area, including the P&C Association.

The Clarke Creek P&C Association knew it was critical to support children through all this, and that school can help facilitate healing by providing the sense of normality that’s needed after a disaster. Since residents of Clarke Creek had to travel up to 230kms to access health and professional services, the P&C Association knew that, for help to be constructive, it would need to be brought into Clarke Creek.

The school had previously gained the services of a chaplain directly though the National Schools Chaplaincy Program, however the school could only afford one visit per fortnight without outside funding. By late 2018, it was clear that there was a need for ongoing disaster support for families. With so many pressures affecting the ability to fundraise locally in the tiny community, the P&C Association applied to FRRR’s In a Good Place program. A grant of $10,000 funded by CCI Giving essentially doubled the chaplain’s visits to weekly from July 2019 until March 2020, when the Department of Education funding applications opened.

Chaplaincy support proves vital

In small schools, the school chaplain is often the welfare provider, and plays a key part of the school support team.

The chaplaincy support at CCSS started shortly after the school and community were devastated by cyclone Debbie, and proved to be highly valuable to students, staff and the broader community, in their ongoing recovery and general mental health and wellbeing. The chaplain attends the school one day each week, working with the children in groups and one on one sessions. She provides emotional support and fosters leadership and kindness in the classroom, playground, and at school events.

“Chappy’, as she is fondly nicknamed, has been imparting those crucial life skills to the children and helping them to deal with the many challenges unique to living in a remote community in an isolated context.

It was a crucial time to bring in extra support, and the P&C Association don’t make light of the importance of Chappy’s role. Throughout COVID-19, the chaplain helped children deal with changes to their learning and became a central figure of stability for parents and the wider community.

The CCSS Principal notes how important the chaplain is in helping students transition through their education.

“I think the older students love the way she makes sure they all know that they have a voice and that someone cares enough to make the time to listen. She helped prepare older students for boarding school, and taught younger ones to be engaged in learning and practising kindness.”

The chaplain attends school and community events, and works with other schools in the cluster, thus creating support networks in the broader communities and creating an inclusive atmosphere and strengthened sense of community. But it’s the flow-on effects from the children’s gains that have the greatest power, as described in the final report:

“Our greatest achievement has been just stabilising our community. Oddly, this was really achieved through the children coming home from school with this positive energy and outlook from their time with Chappy, rather than working direct with parents and community. When the parents knew the kids would be ok and had someone strong to lean on, it was like a weight lifted and the school became the place of ‘normalcy and support’. Things picked up from there.

“In a small school and community, we have to stick together. Chappy has fostered this sense of belonging and caring in our children and it emanates from there.”

FRRR acknowledges the devastating effects that Cyclone Seroja has had on a number of remote communities across Western Australia.

Cyclone Seroja

Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said that the Foundation knows recovery for these impacted communities has only just begun, with reconnection of power an immediate priority, and the rebuilding damaged houses, farms and public assets to occur in the months and years ahead.

“We also anticipate that the activities of local community groups, which are so vital to the ongoing fabric of Western Australia’s remote, rural and regional communities, will be significantly impacted. But we also know these groups will play a vital role in supporting their community through the recovery journey.

“FRRR encourages any donors interested in assisting these affected communities to donate to charities registered with the ACNC, and to consider supporting the needs of communities through the medium-long term recovery journey, in addition to their more immediate needs,” Ms Egleton said.

FRRR has a long history of assisting communities to recover from disasters. We have facilitated support to communities recovering from the recent NSW floods; the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires; 2019 North Queensland floods; Cyclones Debbie (2017), Oswald (2013), Yasi (2011) and Larry (2006); the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires; the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires of 2009; and ongoing droughts; and to those places preparing for future disaster events.

“More frequent and intense climate disasters means that Australia needs to be proactive in how we fund communities to assist with their preparedness activities, and to have funds available to support them through the medium to long term aftermath of a disaster.” Ms Egleton explained.

Any funds donated to FRRR to support WA communities affected by Cyclone Seroja will be allocated through the following two key mechanisms:

  • FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, which is open all year round, and assessed quarterly. Grants of up to $10,000 will be distributed; OR
  • FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund (DRRF). The DRRF was initiated in August 2019, in response to an increasing frequency of disasters. FRRR wanted to ensure it had a corpus of funds invested, so that it can provide some support to disaster impacted communities whether they’re large or small, in the public eye for a long time or swallowed by other events, or are well-supported philanthropically, or not. Donations made to FRRR’s DRRF are pooled and invested, making it a gift that keeps giving, with earnings drawn off every year to be distributed to communities impacted by disaster through grants in programs such as Strengthening Rural Communities. The DRRF currently holds over $4M, which is invested. FRRR will provide support to community groups recovering from the impacts of the cyclone over the coming years, by applying a portion of the earnings from this fund.

FRRR welcomes donations to either of these mechanisms. All donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia.

Beyond FRRR, the Foundation encourages everyone to consider the impact that this cyclone has had on many individuals and communities across WA, and consider giving to a DGR-1 endorsed ACNC registered charity, which can support individuals and their communities through the recovery journey.

For more information, contact Sarah Matthee, FRRR’s General Manager, Partnerships and Services.

By Natalie Egleton, CEO

Over the past month, I’ve had dozens of conversations with community leaders, local, state and commonwealth governments, philanthropic foundations, and corporate partners, that have all circled around the question of disaster resilience and best practice giving. I’m encouraged by the growing sentiment that recognises the increasing frequency and severity of disasters, yet also see a pressing need to shift our approaches to funding disasters as one-off events.

Time to evolve disaster philanthropy in Australia
Natalie Egleton, CEO

The floods that have devastated so many areas across NSW and parts of Queensland this month are yet another in a series of disasters that rural communities have had to face in the past year. Many of those communities have experienced prolonged drought, bushfires, minor flooding, and now catastrophic flooding. For these communities, the rebuild, recovery, and long-term renewal will call on yet more reserves of social capital. Support will be needed that doesn’t compartmentalise their various disaster impacts and which acknowledges the deeply fatiguing and depleting effects of successive disasters on people, communities, and local service systems. 

At FRRR, we view disasters as environmental shocks that remote, rural, regional communities regularly experience. We know they are inevitable and increasing in frequency and severity; what makes them complex is not knowing when they will occur, where, or the severity and nature of their impact.

Recovery and preparedness are only as strong as the social ties, quality of community infrastructure, depth and breadth of skills and networks, cultural knowledge, and the health of local service systems, non-profits, and community groups.

That’s why investing in social capital – preparing for future disasters and adapting to changing conditions after a disaster – underpin our ongoing work outside of disasters. Mitigation and making advances through technology is vital, but only effective when people within communities – those who will act first and drive recovery and preparedness – are invested in.

Our approach is to provide support where there are gaps or quick responses are needed in the short term, however we focus the majority of funds on the medium-to-long term recovery and future preparedness efforts of rural communities. Funding medium to long-term recovery ensures that resources are available to help communities when they are ready, beyond their immediate needs that arise during the emergency.

Adapting and evolving

In operational terms, FRRR has a standing disaster philanthropy model that we scale when a major disaster occurs. Each year, with support from hundreds of donor partners, we provide grants and capacity support to around 500 hundred remote, rural and regional communities across the country via almost 800 grants. This reach gives us a good footprint and connection points that we can naturally tap into when disasters occur.

Right now, we have almost 1,500 active grants in place for diverse projects in remote, rural, regional communities nationally; around 40% of these are supporting community-led recovery and resilience initiatives.

When the 2019-20 bushfires hit FRRR had to scale our processes very quickly. We expanded existing grants programs that have a national footprint, as well as brokered funds management for corporate partners to support short-term recovery.

In the space of a month, FRRR went from having about 700 donors to 30,000 donors. We had to ensure our systems could cope and we needed to scale up our communications and finance management resourcing. At the same time, we were engaging in working groups and forums with Governments, philanthropy, and connecting with fire-affected communities where we had active grants and relationships.

When COVID-19 hit, our biggest challenge, aside from looking after our people, was adjusting our community engagement approaches.

While regional Australia is great at working remotely, working on recovery, trying to engage with largely volunteer-led community groups and not-for-profits is really done best in person.

Understanding the local context can be done remotely but it’s not ideal. We also found that as restrictions came into place, a lot of community groups went to ground.

We knew there would be significant impacts from COVID-19 on recovery from the 2019-20 bushfires because the lockdowns would essentially stall social recovery processes, which are most effective when people come together physically, to process and heal.

One of our big, but unsurprising observations during COVID was the gaping hole in digital inclusion – equitable access to stable telecommunications, low levels of digital connectivity in households, and low digital literacy in what are largely ageing populations. In the Snowy Valleys for example, we learnt that 24% of people didn’t have an internet connection at home. In Tasmania, connectivity is inconsistent and communities very isolated.

At the same time, we were seeing independent news publications falling over and rural communities were becoming even more isolated.

The shocks and disruptions just kept coming and the readiness wasn’t there. And then, large parts of NSW were impacted by once-in-a-century floods.

We hear a lot about needing to increase resilience and I am of the firm view that that is coming from the wrong angle. There is an abundance of resilience, but only so much that any strong community can absorb and bounce forward from.

Embedding disasters in regional development practice

The past year has proven the repeated warnings of many. The frequency and severity of natural disasters will cost society, economies, biodiversity, and liveability. We need to do things differently.

In our work partnering with a community in NSW focussing on their non-profit sector capacity building before the 2019/20 bushfires, it was clear that those organisations and community leaders were more ready to respond to the recovery process and opportunities it presented. These same communities are now facing an unimaginable clean up and recovery from flooding. Our role is to be there, offer patience, continuity, flexibility, and agility to move how and when the community is ready with fit-for-purpose funding and resourcing support. The critical piece here is that when we do this work between disasters, reserves of social capital can be replenished and expanded. Communities are more able to engage with mitigation and do essential future-focussed work to strengthen their response to risk and climate change.

Innovation and renewal – applying learnings to support flood-impacted communities

Since the bushfires, we have reviewed and adjusted our approach to funding the core operating costs of the community groups that are so essential to the fabric and vitality of remote, rural and regional communities.

With the funding model of our national small grants programs being relatively unpredictable and dependent on donations from our partners, it is difficult for FRRR to commit to resourcing beyond one-off grants that seed and strengthen locally led projects.

However, throughout the pandemic, the FRRR Board recognised that the depletion of fundraising revenue, volunteer capacity, and local sponsorships, coupled with increased vulnerability and successive disasters, presents a serious threat to the survival of community groups and local not-for-profits. We recognise this as being critical at this point in time, so we will support core overhead costs until the picture changes. It will still be one-off funding but will help to keep the lights on and people working on key issues, while communities and organisations adapt and evolve through the recovery.

This approach translates to better practice for disaster philanthropy overall.

Given what is unfolding in NSW and Queensland at the moment, it is time that we stop looking at disasters as one-off events and view disasters as a constant. This means that we need to invest in underlying capacity and capability at the community level.

The new National Resilience, Relief & Recovery Agency, along with several State Agencies, are now modelled through an all-hazards lens and hopefully the policy and funding settings will follow. Philanthropy can then play a meaningful role beyond responding to successive crises.

It’s certainly where we are focussing more and more of our efforts, and we welcome more conversation on this.

More than $250,000 distributed to impacted regions

FRRR, in partnership with News Corp Australia, has awarded $279,940 in grants to support 12 projects in communities impacted by the Black Summer bushfires, some of whom are now facing the complexity of recovery from multiple disasters.

News Corp Bushfire Fund grants
SAVEM Inc in Onkaparinga, SA was awarded a $21,050 grant in September 2020 for their Field Hospital Essential Equipment Project

Funded through the News Corp Bushfire Fund, grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 have been awarded to community groups in fire-affected regions across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

The funding will go toward community initiatives that support infrastructure rebuilding and social recovery, such as helping people connect; alleviating pressure on volunteers; or critical upgrades to communities’ facilities, activity that will build community capacity and preparedness for future disasters.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, explained that several of the recipient communities are now dealing with floods, which makes it all the more important to support them and get this funding on the ground.

“Local not-for-profit organisations and community groups are responding to complex and intersecting challenges. The recovery of many bushfire-affected communities was significantly hampered by COVID-19 restrictions and many are only now starting to make inroads,” Ms Egleton said.

“Some communities are also navigating the ongoing impact of drought while in other areas, the recent flooding will add further to the complexity. However, the underlying issues that these projects were seeking to address will still be there, so these grants are critical to continuing recovery.

“Where project challenges arise due to the flooding, we will work closely with these communities to ensure they are supported to adapt their plans and deliver on the goals they have for local recovery. 

“It’s wonderful to partner with an organisation like News Corp Australia, who have committed support to these fire affected communities over the last year that has allowed us to be flexible and respond as different needs emerge and the recovery journey evolves,” Ms Egleton explained.

News Corp Australia’s community ambassador, Penny Fowler, said the strength of these fire-affected communities is truly inspiring.

“Many of the communities supported with this funding have felt the effect of multiple natural disasters over the last few years – whether drought, flood or fires – yet they continue to move forward. The importance of having well-equipped community facilities that enable people to come together to support one another, or to get back to some semblance of ‘normal’ came through really strongly this round,” Ms Fowler said.

“We are very pleased to be able to work with FRRR to ensure that those community groups on the ground, doing the heavy lifting and supporting their people, have what they need to continue to do so.”

Some of the projects funded include:

  • Container of Dreams Limited – Drake, NSW – Covered Work Area for Tiny House Building – $25,000 – Build an undercover work area, so that no matter the weather conditions, volunteers can safely build tiny houses for those still homeless following the fires.
  • Upper Murray Innovation Foundation / Thowgla Community Recovery Committee – Thowgla Valley, VIC – Thowgla Valley Fire Preparedness – $23,095 – Improve the community’s preparedness to respond to future fire events, and other disasters, by purchasing portable fire-fighting equipment and UHF radios, strengthening community resilience.
  • Granite Belt Art and Craft Trail Incorporated – Stanthorpe, QLD – Granite Belt Art and Craft Trail – $25,000 – Employ a coordinator to address volunteer fatigue and enable the ongoing delivery of a largely volunteer-run art events program to help drive local engagement and attract tourists.
  • Mount Torrens and Districts Community Association Incorporated – Mount Torrens, SA – Dunnfield Community Space – $25,000 – Increase community connections by creating a playground, reflection and meeting spaces, and a community garden in the Dunnfield Community Space using timber from the fire ground.

FRRR encourages all grant seekers to subscribe to our eNews and social media channels to be alerted when other funding opportunities are announced, and to be inspired to develop their own community-led projects.

Visit here for more information on FRRR’s grant programs to support communities before, during, and after a natural disaster or drought, and build communities’ climate resilience. Anyone wanting to directly support medium to long-term flood recovery can do so at

A full list of grant recipients and their projects are below.

OrganisationProject LocationGrant
Blicks Community IncorporatedCommunity Action Plan: Rebuilding Together - Our Sustainable Environment
Enable the community to recover from bushfires and better prepare for future emergencies by developing an Environmental Sustainability plan.
Broulee Surfers Surf Life Saving Club IncorporatedKitchen Renovation
Improve the club's ability to support and service the community during times of emergency through kitchen renovations at the club house.
Container of Dreams LimitedCovered Work Area for Tiny House Building
Improve the capability of Container of Dreams by building an undercover work area allowing volunteers to build tiny houses in all weather conditions for displaced community members.
Eden Community Access Centre IncorporatedPower for the People
Enhance the efficiency of the Eden Community Access Centre by installing solar electricity to support the reduction of running costs and provide a more reliable power source during times of emergency.
Melanoma and Skin Cancer Advocacy Network Limited (BlazeAid)Bushfire Recovery: Keeping Volunteers Sun Safe and Skin Serious!
Improve BlazeAid's capability to protect volunteer health by providing broad brimmed sun hats to be worn when they are supporting the rebuild of community infrastructure.
Southcoast Health and Sustainability AllianceMaking the Moruya Pre-School Kindergarten a Heatwave and Bushfire Haven for Young Children and Their Parents
Improve the Moruya Pre-School's ability to prepare their facility to protect young families of the community by upgrading fire defence systems and installing solar electricity at the centre.
The Big Scrub OrchestraRebuilding Lives of Children Experiencing Trauma from the 2019/20 Bushfires with Music
Encourage children's recovery and learning through music by providing access to big band music experience in the Richmond Valley region.
Granite Belt Art and Craft Trail IncorporatedGranite Belt Art and Craft Trail
Boost the capability of Granite Belt Art and Craft Trail Incorporated to deliver art events across the Granite Belt region by employing an event coordinator locally.
Kingston Brigade Lecepede CFS GroupLacepede CFS Wellbeing Retreat and Learning Zone Development
Strengthen and support the volunteer fire brigade crew to reduce stress and increase community safety during emergencies by providing a breakout space including learning area for volunteers.
Mount Torrens and Districts Community Association IncorporatedDunnfield Community Space
Help locals recover and reflect by providing a community space including playground and community garden constructed with trees recycled from local fire grounds of the 2019/20 bushfires.
Mount Torrens$25,000
Tambo Upper Primary SchoolHistorical Hall Kitchen Rebuild
Expand the use of the community hall by upgrading the kitchen to provide a well-appointed facility for the community to use, particularly during times of emergency.
Tambo Upper$19,345
Upper Murray Innovation Foundation - Thowgla Community Recovery Committee (CRC)Thowgla Valley Fire Preparedness
Improve the community's ability to respond to future fire events by providing portable firefighting equipment and radios for the Thowgla Valley.
Thowgla Valley$23,095

Focus on medium to long-term recovery in flood-affected rural communities in NSW & QLD

FRRR has launched a Flood Recovery Appeal to support remote, rural and regional communities in New South Wales and Queensland devastated by this month’s floods. Donations can be made to the Appeal in general, enabling FRRR to distribute the funds where needed, or allocated to specific regions or communities.

FRRR Flood Recovery Appeal

FRRR has supported remote, rural and regional communities across the country prepare for and recover from natural disasters since 2006. To date, FRRR has distributed more than $26 million for community-led disaster recovery and resilience initiatives, including more than $4 million for projects supporting recovery from the 2019-20 bushfires.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said the Foundation stands ready to support the recovery of flood-affected rural regions of NSW and Queensland.

“It’s hard to fathom that rural communities could face any more challenges than they have in the past year, but sadly they are. Many places devasted by the floods have also been dealing with the impacts of drought, the bushfires, and COVID-19 restrictions,” Ms Egleton said.

“In terms of disaster recovery, FRRR’s approach is to provide support to local community groups and non-profits where there are gaps or quick responses needed in the short term, however we focus the majority of funds on the medium-to-long term recovery and future preparedness efforts of rural communities. Funding medium to long-term recovery ensures that resources are available to help communities beyond the immediate needs that arise during the emergency.

“From our experience, we know disasters have a long-lasting impact – it could take a decade or longer. As recovery gets underway, communities will have different concerns and needs, meaning that recovery will happen at different rates, depending on the community and local priorities.

“Donations to our Flood Recovery Appeal will help to fund a diverse range of initiatives that reflect the needs the community identifies, but it could include rebuilding infrastructure, supporting vulnerable community members and the overall mental health of locals, providing opportunities for locals to reconnect and share their experiences, as well as looking at ways of improving resilience and how the community can prepare for future disasters,” Ms Egleton explained.

FRRR’s programs and partnerships in flood-affected communities are already in place or ready to scale up, including:

  • Strengthening Rural Communities: a flexible national grant program with a targeted bushfire recovery stream, now to be expanded with a flood recovery stream to support short, medium and long-term recovery.
  • Back to School: a partnership program with place-based organisations such as Community Foundations that provides K-mart, Target, and local business vouchers for school supplies that directly helps children and families.
  • Disaster Resilience & Recovery Fund: an invested fund enabling support to be provided for many years to come. Fund earnings are distributed via FRRR’s grant programs for medium-to-long term recovery.

“In the face of these successive disasters, the last year has also shone a light on the generosity of Australians. Australians want to lend a hand, even though it’s been tougher than usual for many, given COVID-19.

“We hope that this same desire to give will continue in the face of this latest disaster as these communities will need support long after the waters have receded,” Ms Egleton said.

Donate to FRRR’s Flood Recovery Appeal here.

Black Saturday funding available for community-led initiatives

Twelve years on from the devastating 2009 Victorian bushfires, FRRR is offering another round of funding to support impacted communities as they continue to rebuild, reconnect and recover.

Black Saturday funding available for community-led initiatives
Whittlesea Community Garden

Supported by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund (VBAF), the funding is available through FRRR’s Grants for Resilience & Wellness (GR&W) program and the Grants for Resilience & Wellness Kinglake Ranges (GR&W Kinglake) program. The grants of up to $20,000 will support not-for-profits and community-based organisations to lead projects that aid recovery and build community resilience.

The GR&W and GR&W Kinglake Ranges programs fund initiatives that:

  • Improve mental health and wellbeing of communities and individuals;
  • Enhance wellbeing and resilience of pre-school, primary and secondary school-aged children and young people;
  • Strengthen community connections, sense of place and community identity; and
  • Increase the community’s ability to prepare for future disasters.

To date, FRRR has awarded more than $4.5 million in grants to local groups, thanks to VBAF funding, which comes from the generous contributions by the general public following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. Through this round of funding there is a total of $360,000 available for GR&W grants and a total of more than $700,000 available for GR&W Kinglake projects.

Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, said that the impact of COVID-19 has increased the need to support recovering communities to reconnect socially and continue to enhance their wellbeing.

“Despite the restrictions that the pandemic has put on people coming together, local groups report services and activities that enhance wellness and resilience are still well attended. One program funded twice previously by FRRR, the Be Well in the Ranges program, has been fully booked out, and the Yinnar Memorial Hall exercise group continues to attract 30-40 participants each week,” Ms O’Brien said.

“The GR&W programs provide flexible support to respond to issues as they emerge. More than a decade since the fires, communities are focusing on building resilience for the future,” Ms O’Brien explained.

Applications for both GR&W and GR&W Kinglake close at 5pm AEDT, Wednesday 21 April 2021.

Potential applicants should visit the GR&W and GR&W Kinglake webpages and review the guidelines before applying.

More than $580,000 in grants awarded

22 July 2020: The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) has awarded $584,971 in grants to support twenty-eight projects that will assist the continued recovery of communities impacted by the Black Saturday Bushfires in February 2009.

The funds come from its Grants for Resilience & Wellness (GR&W), GR&W Kinglake Ranges and Community Group Futures (CGF) programs, thanks to the support of the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund (VBAF), which the general public generously contributed to in the immediate aftermath of the Black Saturday fires. More than a decade on from the tragedy, nearly $4 million in grants has been provided to community groups through these programs.

The GR&W program focuses on community-strengthening and resilience-building projects for communities. This is the 16th round of the program, confirming that recovery does take time. This round sees 13 projects share in $195,234 in grants. Projects funded this round will help to strengthen community connectedness, create a sense of place and enhance community identity.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that creating spaces for the community to meet and feel safe continues to be a priority for the ongoing recovery of many communities impacted by the Black Saturday bushfires.

“When communities have lost so much, having a safe, comfortable space to come together is so important. It facilitates opportunities for people to reconnect, maintain good mental health and prevent isolation. It’s therefore important that these spaces are in good condition, are comfortable and have the appropriate amenities and levels of accessibility.

“Communities continue to look for ways to build resilience, particularly when it comes to their young people. Activities such as workshops and training provide these young people with the chance to come together and share their experiences while building their skills and resilience,” continued Ms Egleton.

“Other communities are finding ways to continue their recovery through the arts, such as Marysville’s Singing Saturday Choir or Bruarong‘s place-based oral and visual history gathering project.

“The diversity of these needs, more than 10 years on from the initial bushfire events, highlights the importance of having flexible funding available in the medium to long-term.”

Some of the projects funded in this round of the GR&W program include:

  • Flowerdale Hall Reserve Committee of Management received a $20,000 grant to increase community pride and continued access to local meeting space due to an upgrade to the exterior of Flowerdale Community Hall. 
  • Myrtleford Chamber of Commerce & Industry received a $5,380 grant to increase youth involvement in volunteering and provide training and support through delivery of La Fiera Festival Young Ambassador Scheme.

In addition, a further $289,252 has been awarded through the GR&W Kinglake Ranges program. In this second round of funding, eight projects have been awarded grants, with several also pointing to the importance of increasing connection with others and the region’s environment.

Among the GR&W Kinglake Ranges awarded grants are:

  • Toolangi District Community House received a $59,649 grant to increase social connection and community participation in Toolangi Castella, through the purchase of resources and delivery of a 24-month program of engaging activities.
  • Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House received a $4,917 grant to increase the collaboration of the arts community in Kinglake Ranges through community consultation and development of a project plan for a local Art Trail.

Another stream of VBAF funding, known as Community Group Futures (CGF), is designed to strengthen the capability of local community groups and not-for-profit organisations to ensure they remain viable and sustainable. This is the ninth round of CGF, with seven projects sharing in $100,485 in grants. These projects will provide support and funding for skilled support to develop marketing materials and tools to increase community engagement, as well as support to undertake and implement plans into the future.

Ms Egleton said that it’s been a long road for many local not-for-profits supporting the recovery of their communities, and it’s important that these organisations can access support to explore their longer-term role within the community, as needs continue to evolve.

“That’s why the Community Group Futures program is so important. It helps not-for-profit organisations to think beyond day-to-day operations and short-term needs and look ahead to what is required to be sustainable and viable to meet the needs of the community in the years to come.”

Some of the projects funded through the CGF program include:

  • St Andrews Community Centre received a $20,000 grant to increase St Andrews Community Centre’s capacity to implement a Growth and Stainability Plan through increasing staff hours.
  • Whittlesea Men’s Shed received a $14,000 grant to increase direction and purpose for Whittlesea Men’s Shed members through the development and implementation of a Strategic Plan and an annual Action Plan.

The next round of GR&W, GR&W Kinglake Ranges, and CGF opens on 26 August and closes 23 September 2020. Applications for the GR&W Kinglake Ranges program are now invited from all community groups in the wider Kinglake Ranges, not just those that participated in the initial consultation process in 2017.

The full list of grant recipients and their projects are below.

Jump to : GR&W | GR&W Kinglakes Ranges | CGF






Alexandra Community Shed / Eildon and District Woodworkers Guild Inc. 

Sherry’s First Wish
Increase access to functional space for community activities through upgrade to former government offices currently leased by the Alexandra Community Shed / Eildon and District Woodworkers Guild Inc.  



Bruarong Community Centre 

‘Capturing History – Bruarong Stories Remembered’
Improve social cohesion and build strong local cultural identity through place based oral and visual history gathering project.  



Coleraine & District Development Association Inc. 

Grasslands Walk
Increase local wellbeing and tourism attractions through completing construction of a 10km section of the Coleraine – Hamilton Rail Trail. 



Embassy of Ideas Inc. 

Community Feeding it Forward Food Garden
Increase local food security and community wellbeing through establishment of a community garden in Alexandra. 



Flowerdale Hall Reserve Committee of Management 

Facelift for the Flowerdale Community Hall
Increase community pride and continued access to local meeting space due to an upgrade to the exterior of Flowerdale Community Hall.  



Marysville & Triangle Business and Tourism Inc. 

Mira Shared Community Shed
Increase space for community activities and events through construction of a storage shed at Marysville’s Information and Regional Artspace. 



Middle Kinglake Primary School 

The Challenge for the Future- Resilience and Wellbeing – Youth Out Loud
Increase resilience among students at Middle Kinglake Primary School through delivery of the Youth Out Loud Program to grade 5/6 students.  

Kinglake Central


Mitchell Community Resources and Advocacy Group 

Kids2School Program (k2sP)
Increase school engagement for students at Broadford and Upper Plenty Primary Schools through the delivery of a breakfast program and facilitated resilience-building workshop. 

Mitchell Shire


Myrtleford Chamber of Commerce & Industry Inc. 


La Fiera Italian Festival Myrtleford -Young Ambassador Scheme
Increase youth involvement in volunteering and provide training and support through delivery of La Fiera Festival Young Ambassador Scheme.



Nillumbik Shire Council 


Nillumbik Youth Connect
Increase engagement from local youth in Council planning and development through formation of a Youth Council and Youth Strategy.



Singing Saturday
Triangle Arts Group Inc. 

Singing Saturday Choir
Enhance wellbeing and community spirit through funding a music director and accompanist for newly formed community choir. 



St Andrews Primary School  


Library ‘Broadening’ and Upgrade
Increase access to educational resources through the purchase of new books for the St Andrews Primary School Library.  

St Andrews


St Andrews Primary School 

St Andrews Mental Health Training and Support
Increase community support for individuals with mental health issues through delivery of Mental Health First Aid training courses. 

St Andrews



Kinglake Friends of the Forests Inc

KFF Forest Surveys Project
Improve community awareness of the biodiversity of the region; increased social connection; increased connection to place; and support for environmental recovery through equipment to support monitoring and community tours.



Kinglake Landcare Group
(Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House Inc)

Community and the Local Environment
Increase awareness and management of the local environment through the delivery of a series of expert led community workshops and activities.



Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House Inc

Digital Archive for Arts Recovery Project
Celebration of the outcomes of arts-led 2009 bushfire recovery activities in the Kinglake Ranges, through development of a Digital Archive of art and its impact.

Kinglake Ranges and Online


Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House Inc

Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House
Increase comfort and resources at Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House through upgrade to heating and cooling and increase to Foodshare Program options.

Kinglake, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek


Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House Inc

Be Well in the Ranges Extension
Reduce barriers to mental health support for the 2009 fire affected Kinglake Ranges community, via providing access to locally based mental health professionals.

Kinglake, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek


Toolangi District Community House Inc

Strengthening Our Community
Increase social connection and community participation in Toolangi Castella, through the purchase of resources and delivery of a 24-month program of engaging activities.



Kinglake Ranges Arts
(Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House Inc)

Kinglake Art Trail Planning Project
Increase collaboration for the arts community in Kinglake Ranges through community consultation and development of a project plan for a local Art Trail.



Rotary Club of Kinglake Ranges

A Home for Rotary Club of Kinglake Ranges and A Walking Track below the Ranges
Increase evidence and planning support for Kinglake Ranges forest walking track extension project through contracting consultants to develop feasibility study.




Embassy of Ideas Inc.

Social Enterprise Project Officer
Increase support for development of local food security initiatives through employment of a dedicated worker at the Embassy of Ideas.



Mitchell Community Resources and Advocacy Group

Kids2school Program (k2sP)
Increase support and viability for school breakfast program pilot programs in Mitchell Shire through employment of a Project Officer.



Rotary Club of Kinglake Ranges

Onwards and Upwards for the Kinglake Produce & Artisan Markets
Increase efficiency of volunteers and improve management of the Kinglake Produce & Artisan Market through strategic planning and review of policies and procedures.



St Andrews Community Centre Inc

Wadambuk Future Viability Project
Increase capacity to implement a Growth and Stainability Plan through increasing staff hours at St Andrews Community Centre.

St Andrews


The Anglican Parish of Eaglehawk – Saltworks
Bendigo Diocesan Trusts Corporation

Saltworks Community Engagement
Increase effectiveness of communication and attract stakeholders through redevelopment of brand identity and update of communication tools for Saltworks Bendigo.



Toolangi District Community House Inc

Community House Audit and Action Plan
Increase workplace health and safety through review of policies and procedures at Toolangi Castella, Flowerdale and Kinglake Community House’s.



Whittlesea Men’s Shed Incorporated

Strategic Planning and Implementation Support
Increase direction and purpose for Whittlesea Men’s Shed members through the development and implementation of a Strategic Plan and an annual Action Plan.