Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Ngadjuri Country

The small agricultural township of Orroroo in South Australia knows what it’s like to suffer through drought. With several local businesses closing down and the community running the taxing gamut of drought-related issues, something different needed to be done.

Fortunately, this small outer regional area has a dedicated group of people who are behind the push to ensure the town’s survival, by celebrating and showcasing Australia’s pioneering agricultural history. In the past, the area has relied heavily on a thriving agricultural foundation, but they saw the need to improve their economic diversity, starting with a new tourist attraction.

Over the past few years, the District Council of Orroroo Carrieton, the Orroroo Regional Tourism Group and a team of amazing volunteers have dedicated themselves to very carefully restoring the locally-famed Black Rock Woolpress – a generously donated, circa 1850s piece of manual machinery, which early research suggests may very well be the only one of its kind left in existence.

Plans for the impressive woolpress to be showcased in its very own building in the main precinct of Orroroo came a step closer to reality, thanks to a $20,000 grant from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, funded by the Australian Government.

The grant allowed for a formal business plan to be drawn up by a local consultant, confirming the feasibility of the Heritage Hub project. The plan required input from all areas of the community – those working on the project directly, as well as in the wider community motivated to create an attractive tourist destination. As well, the funds were put towards the planning, architectural drawings and raw materials needed to construct the purpose-built rotunda for the Black Rock Woolpress.

This seed funding enabled the planning committee to produce a proof of concept, which attracted $143,252 in further funding from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, again funded by the Australian Government, along with grants from the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program and funding from the local Council.The stone and glass rotunda now houses the historic woolpress (circa 1851) as the centrepiece in a collection of heritage items on display as part of a landscaped Heritage trail in the town’s centre, with impressive interpretive signage, maps and promotional material. The FRRR grant also contributed to the official launch of the development, which recognise the generous funding organisations and the thousands of hours of volunteer involvement in restoring the woolpress.

District Council of Orroroo Carrieton community project officer Jodie Boully said “We have already had so many locals and visitors stop to comment how impressive the building is.

“It’s been such a huge success to date, a great story of local volunteers who have remained involved in the planning right the way through to highlight some of our early pioneer history.”

The project to create such an attractive tourist destination has already created strong bonds, with those in the community dedicated to seeing the town succeed despite the drought. They have self-funded, committed hundreds of hours of volunteered hours, and worked tirelessly together from the very beginning developing not only the beginnings of a beautifully built tourist hub, but a sustainable and diverse economic platform for the town to rebuild from.

Wiradjuri Country

When bushfires move through towns placing lives, homes and income at risk, the emotional and financial recovery can take years. In the wake of the 2019/20 bushfires, many communities continue to feel stress and anxiety from the loss of employment and the trauma of evacuating and leaving their homes behind. In Tumbarumba, in New South Wales, many people lost their homes, sheds, fences, stock, and other assets in the fires creating a financial burden that has left much of the town physically and emotionally exhausted. However, the residents are trying to rebuild.

The members of local organisation Artists on Parade Co-op Ltd wanted to help their town reconnect to their home, and with each other after the fires. Thanks to a $7,000 grant from the VISY Tumut Region Recovery Fund, funded by The Pratt Foundation, Artists on Parade held 16 workshops over several weekends in October 2020.

Throughout the year, Artists on Parade are responsible for hosting exhibitions featuring local artists. Their gallery space is often used for community activities and events. With access to this fantastic space, it became a perfect location for their hands on workshops to take place. Children, teenagers, and adults in the community participated in activities – not just art – that were specifically chosen to increase relaxation and inspiration among the attendees.

Artists on Parade wanted to ensure the residents of Tumbarumba didn’t miss out on interests and pursuits that were deemed as “non-essential” or “unnecessary” due to financial restraints. They therefore kept workshop fees low to allow as many people as possible to participate.

The workshops were a success, with 115 people from a wide demographic participating. The activities included pyrography workshops, canvas work, cardmaking, sketching, bike maintenance, pastel portrait painting workshops and cakes, coffee, and milkshakes as well.

The workshops provided a safe and relaxing space for the residents of Tumbarumba to gather and meet new people who have the same lived experiences. There were many examples of attendees meeting for the first time after realising they lived on the same street and had gone through very similar experiences in the fires. By the end of the workshops, they had started carpooling together to attend more sessions.

In addition to creating connections between the residents of Tumbarumba, many attendees were also able to take home a finished art piece to mark the occasion and close off a terrible year.

Iningai Country

For years, Central Western Queensland has been heavily impacted by the economic, environmental, and social effects of a prolonged drought. Topology, a grassroots community arts organisation, decided to tackle these impacts and empower their communities with music and performance.

Topology’s goal is to build the creative capacity of their participants and to help increase social connectedness through much needed community-based and intergenerational events. And that’s exactly what they achieved when they launched Top Up Central Western Queensland. This initiative consisted of a series of 12 workshops and a four-day creative bootcamp that culminated in a free community performance in Longreach, which was attended by 2,000 people.

Through our Tackling Tough Times Together program, Topology received a grant of $10,000, funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, as well as separate funding through the Building Better Regions Fund. This money paid the local artists who hosted workshops, as well as covering venue hire and event costs.

The Topology team said, “One of the things we are most proud of is seeing people of all ages, some with no previous experience of the arts, learn about their own potential for creativity – and to perform in public a new piece they have written and contributed to themselves. The feelings of self-accomplishment and pride achieved by the participants is a real and invaluable outcome of this program.”

The program was also the catalyst for Topology consulting with the community on the development of a Regional Creative Hub (RCH). This hub will have lasting impacts for local communities, as it will help to support and upskill rural creative practitioners and community arts organisations.

Top Up Central Western Queensland empowered, educated, and inspired the community to create, perform and tell their stories, while celebrating their community. It was a much-needed reminder of their resilience and their ability to thrive through tough times together.