Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

The Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) NSW service has offices along the NSW coast and operate a 24-hour volunteer crew to monitor the UHF maritime channel and be ready to respond to vessels in distress. During the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, this organisation continued to operate until power went down and volunteers joined with other local emergency services to support an initial evacuation of locals, neighbouring inland communities and tourists in the surrounds.

The Volunteer Emergency Services Fund was an FRRR program focussed on recognising the critical role that local first responders play in the lives of communities, not just in times of disaster, but every day. Funds were available solely for these groups to support their volunteers, enhance facilities or meet equipment needs to ensure future preparedness. For the VMR Bermagui branch, this opportunity aligned to the need to upgrade their facilities to enhance operations.

The Bermagui crew is ideally based in the Wharf precinct of the popular fishing and boating town on the south coast of NSW, however the office set up was not fit to enable effective training and radio monitoring to occur simultaneously. Their original application requested funding to refurbish the internal layout of the building to install a floor to ceiling glass partition to create two separate and fully operational rooms, with new training equipment, air conditioner and a generator. However, they secured alternative funding to cover the building costs, which allowed them to increase the scope of their project.

A variation was approved to allow VMR Bermagui to use the $24,933 FRRR grant, funded by the Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch Foundation, to purchase an air conditioner, generator, three trestle tables, 16 ergonomic chairs, whiteboard, wall cork board, refrigerator, microwave, desktop computer, printer, and software and security packages.

The electrical power generator means the base can now operate as a search and rescue coordination centre (SARCC) during times of emergency and/or crisis. During the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires, the base couldn’t operate after 24 hours as all power in Bermagui was shut down, and their battery back-up system only had the capability of 24 hours emergency operation.

The upgrade has created a fit-for-purpose facility that now meets their operational requirements and has already benefited a range of people. At its broadest, it has, and will continue to, benefit anyone who is holidaying in or passing through Bermagui waters who uses the waters for boating, recreational fishing or requires some form of assistance on the waters. Importantly for the purpose of this grant program, a key benefit is for the current volunteers and all those who will take on that role in the future.

The new spaces include a quiet radio room, with zero background noise to radio transmissions, and capacity to hold training / meetings and discussions simultaneously, as noise interference is now better managed, and the facility has greater capacity to meet future requirements. 

VMR Bermagui’s Grants Officer, Ian Grieg, commented: “Overall, the executive is most proud that we now have a fully capable, modern and well equipped facility that meets our operational needs today, but extends to meeting the communities needs in the future. The facility has a welcoming feel when members of the public come into the facility to interact with us on all matters boating. Additionally, we feel proud that the FRRR and the National Emergency Management Agency’s Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grant supported us so willingly and had trust in us to deliver such a project to the community and our membership.”

Just in time for a very wet forecast, the Wallaby Joe RFS in Wingham, in the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales, has taken delivery of the first part of their order for wet weather gear. 

In Round 3 of the Volunteer Emergency Services Fund (VESF) grant program, Wallaby Joe RFS received a grant of $7,213 funded by the Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch Foundation to boost volunteer vitality with the provision of wet weather gear, helmet torches and emergency flares for use during community emergencies.

Gary Cox, Development Project Coordinator, Wallaby Joe RFS, says further deliveries are expected in the coming months.

“These garments have been delayed due to supply chain issues and high demand across a very wet New South Wales. The new wet weather gear complements the Eflares and helmet torches already acquired with your (FRRR’s) assistance and greatly adds to the safety and comfort of our volunteers. The brigade is most grateful for your generous support.”

Senior Deputy Captain, Rev Brian Ford models the new wet weather gear!

VESF is an FRRR program that aims to support the needs of local volunteer emergency services and first responders supporting communities affected by the Black Summer bushfires. This particular RFS’s recruitment soared after that terrible summer, and the procurement of operations equipment is a great example of how grants can help communities and their amazing volunteer services prepare for extreme weather event and natural disasters.

First responder organisations encouraged to apply for funding to strengthen their emergency response capabilities

FRRR is encouraging eligible groups to apply to its Volunteer Emergency Services Fund (VESF) program to support local volunteer emergency services groups and first responder organisations in communities affected by the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires.

HEADING: Grants available for Volunteer Emergency Services in Black Summer impacted areas
IMAGE: Tionee Rural Fire Brigade

Thanks to the generous contribution of a private donor, grants of up to $25,000 are available to strengthen local emergency response capabilities, based on identified community need and priorities, including to support volunteers’ wellbeing and mental health.

The VESF grants are available to local volunteer emergency services groups and first responder organisations in eligible fire-affected communities across the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

Danielle Griffin, FRRR’s Philanthropic Services Manager – Corporate, said that funding from this grant program had already provided much-needed support, funding 54 projects across 66 communities.

“We have seen local groups upgrade their equipment and infrastructure, improve their service to communities and enhance support for their volunteers.

“This funding is a timely reminder that these communities need continued support and investment. The funding will contribute to remote, rural and regional communities’ confidence in the capacity and capability of their local volunteer first responder and emergency services groups to implement solutions for adapting to changing conditions and planning for future disasters. The volunteers themselves are critical to these outcomes and we encourage projects that build not only the skills of this unpaid workforce but wellbeing support to sustain their efforts.

“Many of these communities have endured multiple disasters in recent years, including the current floods. We encourage any groups impacted by the Black Summer fires who are also affected by recent flooding to get in touch and discuss their needs so we can support applications being developed in these difficult conditions,” Ms Griffin said.

The VESF grant program is now open. Applications close 5pm AEST 28 April 2022, with grants to be announced in July 2022. You can find out more about the program at:  

Ngangganawili Aboriginal Health Services (NAHS) is an Aboriginal community controlled organisation that plays an integral role in health service provision for the highly mobile population in the Central Desert Region. It delivers more than 10,000 episodes of health care per annum to up to 4,000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clients on Martu country in remote Western Australia. NAHS is a critical first point of contact between the community and the WA health care system, operating since 1993 over an area of some 184,000 square kilometres.

The Community Paramedics operate under a model unique to Western Australia: they not only provide traditional emergency ambulance care, but they provide in-home extended care services, so that patients are able to receive high quality health care in the home without needing to go to hospital. This also facilitates the ongoing review of patients’ conditions that would normally need to be managed in an in-patient setting or via multiple trips to a clinic.

Through the support of FRRR and its donor partner the Kapikarnpi Community Fund, NAHS was able to upgrade the response bags in both of the NAHS emergency ambulances. The bags in use were ageing and inconsistent with a mismatch of brands and styles, and they feared this could lead to confusion in an emergency when working in the different ambulances. They were also problematic to clean, cumbersome and not designed with ergonomics in mind, increasing the risk of injury to paramedics through manual handling incidents.

The $4,333 grant enabled the purchase of modern, fit for purpose ambulance kit bags. The new ergonomic bags have an internal layout which allows equipment to be laid out in a logical manner that protects the contents and allows easier access. Most importantly they are designed in accordance with AS4146-1994 Australian Standards for Laundry Practice, which allow for the cleaning of pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis and vegetative organisms. This new equipment assists in the provision of safer services for the community of Wiluna.

Community Paramedic Wade Bloffwitch said that, “Grants such as this are vital to the operation of community-controlled, not-for-profit health services across the country and NAHS thanks FRRR and its donors for their commitment to the community”.

Grants available for services supporting communities impacted by Black Summer bushfires

A generous private donation of $1 million will fund FRRR‘s new Volunteer Emergency Services Fund Grant Program. The Program will fund volunteer emergency services to support their recovery needs from the 2019/20 bushfires and help them prepare for future challenges.

Volunteer Emergency Services Fund Grant Program
Murgon SES volunteers

The Volunteer Emergency Services Fund will offer grants to local volunteer emergency services and first responder organisations in 2019/20 fire-affected regions across rural, regional, and remote Australia. Funds will help them to respond to local disaster recovery needs and address preparedness priorities ahead of the 2021/22 bushfire season.

Grants of up to $25,000 are available for projects including practical improvements and upgrades to facilities and equipment so that these services are better able to respond to future disasters. Initiatives that support the mental health and wellbeing of first responder volunteers, as well as projects that provide training and build the capacity of these services can also be funded.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that an integral part of the recovery process is preparing for future disasters and adapting to changing conditions after a disaster.

“We know that disasters, like bushfires, are not isolated events. They are increasing in frequency and severity; and it is vital for our volunteer-led emergency services groups to be equipped,” Ms Egleton said.

“Throughout the 2019/20 summer bushfires, volunteer emergency and first responder services worked tirelessly to protect and save their communities. They literally saved lives.

“These grants will support those who support the community by funding projects that will help these volunteers process and heal from the trauma of the bushfires, as well as build resilience and preparedness for future disasters.

“We look forward to assisting these vital members of impacted communities and helping to build and strengthen the emergency services they so generously give their time to be a part of,” Ms Egleton said.

The Volunteer Emergency Services Fund Grant Program is now open. Applications close 5pm AEST 7 July 2021 with grants to be announced August 2021. For more information, visit FRRR’s website –