Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

On Ngadjuri, Peramangk and Kaurna Country

The Barossa Valley in South Australia is a renowned wine-producing region northeast of Adelaide. When the COVID pandemic hit, tourism and wine exports significantly decreased, which placed a big financial stress on families in the Barossa. With the added pressure of drought, the region was seeing distressing numbers of mental health incidents and homelessness impacting the community.

Not-for-profit organisation Foundation Barossa has been working hard in the region since 2002 to encourage and support philanthropy to build and nurture their own community’s strength and assets. In recent years, Foundation Barossa has worked closely with several schools in the area where extra support is needed.

Foundation Barossa has been a big supporter of FRRR’s Back to School (BTS) program for a long time, and liaise with school principals and school welfare teachers to ensure that families in need receive the extra support they require.

Five hundred and fifty vouchers worth $50 were distributed to 13 schools, both primary and secondary, for the 2022 school year, thanks to the Fire Fight Australia Fund and a private donor who support FRRR’s BTS program. Students could use these vouchers to purchase school supplies like uniforms, stationery, lunchboxes and anything else that would make their education experience easier and relieve some of the financial pressure from families.

Together with matched funding provided by the Origin Energy Foundation through FRRR and local sponsorship from Barossa Real Estate, a further 203 vouchers were distributed, bringing the total to 753; the Foundation’s highest number to date. The success of the voucher rollout has been measured through an increase in student attendance and retention, and in general an improvement in student wellbeing. The Foundation has also noted a big benefit to the teachers at these schools who would sometimes become distressed or concerned for their students.

Here are some of the happy testimonials:

  • “I would like to say thank you very much for choosing our family to receive the vouchers from Foundation Barossa. I lost my job back in October and am a sole parent. My pride was allowed no place when my boys handed them to me. Having only found a part-time job in the last week means the vouchers were very much appreciated and unexpected.” – Parent, Nuriootpa High School & Flexible Learning Centre
  • “Teachers were very grateful and expressed they felt better going into the school holidays knowing that students had access to vouchers.” –  Nuriootpa Primary School
  • “Thank you so much for the Kmart voucher. My daughter purchased a new pencil case and pencils for schools. She thought Christmas had come early!” – Parent, Tanunda Primary School
  • “We had a family arrive at our school at the beginning of term 2 who were homeless and living in a caravan with family members. On the first day when we met the mum, we gave her a voucher for each student to help get them some school supplies. She was so thankful that she was brought to tears, as she said they needed new school bags and she would now be able to get those.” Kapunda Primary School

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

More than $770,000 in vouchers distributed

Students and families in remote, rural and regional parts of Australia will start the 2022 school year with a little extra support, thanks to the generosity of FRRR and its donors, and the Community Foundations and groups helping to distribute the more than 15,700 Back to School vouchers across the country.

Rural communities come together to help students get Back to School

FRRR’s Back to School (BTS) program partners with community groups and Community Foundations to provide $50 gift vouchers to local families in need. The vouchers can be redeemed at select national retailers or local businesses for school essentials like uniforms, shoes, school bags or stationery.

Now in its 18th year, the BTS program has worked with community organisations in rural communities to distribute more than $10.7 million in BTS vouchers and help in excess of 216,000 students and their families get what they need to start the school year on a positive note. This includes families that have been impacted by natural disasters such as 2019-20 Black Summer Fires, flooding events, and the economic impact of the COVID pandemic. 

Sarah Matthee, FRRR’s General Manager Partnerships & Services, said that the Back to School program continues to give a helping hand to rural families doing it tough.

“The unique aspect of the BTS program is that it taps into the deep understanding and the trusted relationships that local organisations have within their communities to ensure that these vouchers go to families most in need of the support.

“For many rural families, schooling and finances continue to be impacted by the pandemic. Although fifty dollars may not seem much, that little bit of extra help can go towards easing their worries in some small way,” Ms Matthee said.

In some communities, local Community Foundations also got behind the BTS program, with FRRR and its donors offering to match local donations, dollar for dollar. This year communities raised almost $63,000 in local fundraising across the country. Thanks to this community support, together with funds from the Origin Energy Foundation, FRRR was able to provide an extra 2,514 vouchers. One hundred percent of all donations to the program go directly into purchasing a $50 voucher to support a primary or secondary school student in need.

Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation, in South Australia, has worked with FRRR since 2009 to distribute BTS vouchers to local students and their families.

Garry Downey, Chair of Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation, said that the organisation sees huge need to continue to help families start their children off well-prepared for their learning years.

“The support of the FRRR program is truly valued, and their willingness to match locally donated funds creates an outstanding opportunity for Eyre Peninsula residents and businesses to boost the impact for local kids.”

You can see the full list of recipient organisations and the more than 100 remote, rural and regional communities that will benefit from these vouchers below.

BTS vouchers are funded through the support of FRRR donor partners, which include Portland House Foundation, Perpetual Foundation – Julian Flett Endowment, News Corp Australia, Fire Fight Australia Fund, Counter Point Community Services (Cycle Recycle), Bertalli Family Foundation, UNICEF Australia and Origin Energy Foundation, as well as private and individual donors.

For more information about the program, visit https://frrr.org.au/back-to-school/.

To support grant programs like this through FRRR, you can make a tax-deductible donation at frrr.org.au/giving/.

The full list of recipient organisations are below.

OrganisationLocation
NORTHERN TERRITORY
Isolated Childrens Parents Association Northern Territory State CouncilMataranka, Daly River, New Castle Waters, Ti Tree
NEW SOUTH WALES
Community Foundation for Albury Wodonga Region LtdAlbury, Wodonga, Corowa, Howlong
Edward Public School Parents & Citizens AssociationDeniliquin
First Steps Count IncorporatedTaree, Wingham, Old Bar , Nabiac
Foundation Broken Hill LimitedBroken Hill, Wilcannia, Menindee
Mumbulla FoundationBega Valley Shire
The Southern Highlands FoundationBowral, Berrima, Mittagong, Moss Vale
The Trustee for Northern Rivers Community FoundationAlstonville, Ballina, Banora Point, Baryulgil
Volunteering Coffs Harbour IncorporatedCoffs Harbour
Walhallow Parents & Citizens AssociationWalhallow
QUEENSLAND
Biggenden Primary P&C AssociationBiggenden
Buderim Foundation LimitedBuderim, Mountain Creek, Sippy Downs, Kuluin
Cowboys Charity LimitedBadu Island, Bamaga, Boigu Island, Chinchilla
Peachester State School P&C AssociationPeachester
Tara & District Family Support Committee IncorporatedTara, Chinchilla, Miles, Wandoan
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation IncPort Lincoln, Whyalla, Ceduna, Streaky Bay
Foundation BarossaNuriootpa, Angaston, Tanunda, Kapunda
Fleurieu Community Foundation LtdStrathalbyn, Goolwa, Middleton, Port Elliot
Stand Like Stone Foundation LtdAllendale East, Beachport, Bordertown, Frances
TASMANIA
George Town Neighbourhood House IncGeorge Town
Swansea Primary School Parents and Friends AssociationSwansea
VICTORIA
Ballarat Foundation United Way IncBlowhard, Ballan, Bungaree, Cape Clear
Bass Coast Community Foundation Open FundWonthaggi, Waterline Area, San Remo Area, Cowes Ventnor
Donald Learning Group IncDonald, Marnoo
Into Our Hands Community Foundation LimitedWangaratta, Milawa, Oxley, Glenrowan, Moyhu, Whitfield
South West Community FoundationWarrnambool
St Arnaud Neighbourhood House IncSt Arnaud
Kaniva CollegeKaniva
Mirboo North and District Community Foundation IncMirboo North, Thorpdale, Yinnar, Boolarra
The Trustee for Geelong Community FoundationGreater Geelong, Winchelsea, Torquay, Meredith
Tomorrow Today Education Foundation LtdBaddaginnie, Benalla, Broken Creek, Devenish
Uniting (Victoria and Tasmania) LimitedMaffra, Wurruk, Longford, Seaspray
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Co op LtdMorwell, Moe, Wangarratta, Wodonga

Just off the South Australian mainland you will find Kangaroo Island (KI). Australia’s third largest Island, KI is known for its stunning nature reserves and wildlife. During the 2019/20 bushfires, the flora and fauna of KI was severely impacted. Around 210,000 ha was burned, which destroyed numerous bushland patches of reserves and private property. The true damage of what this has done to the environment and its habitats is still being determined; it may take years to properly understand the impacts.

With this in mind, all remaining vegetation across KI is now considered to be highly important for conservation. Protecting the wildlife that live within these bushland areas is a high priority to organisations like the Nature Foundation. Their vision is to inspire people to connect with and conserve the natural habitat of South Australia for future generations. The Nature Foundation is involved in a number of projects that educate the broader community, provides scientific research and raises funds and awareness for their conservation work.

One of their more recent and ongoing projects is completely eradicating feral cats from Dudley Peninsula, which is located on the eastern side of the Island. Conservationists report that the feral cats living on KI are preying on small animals and birds that are already under threat from the mass loss to their habitat after the bushfires. They are also known carriers of parasitic diseases (Sarcosporidiosis and Toxoplasmosis), which have caused economic impacts on the island’s primary producers. These diseases are known to affect sheep across the island.

To help reduce the numbers of feral cats, the Nature Foundation received a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant, which was funded by the Fire Fight Australia Fund from donations received during the concert for national bushfire relief in February 2020. The SRC grant was used to purchase and install equipment needed to monitor the cat numbers and their movements around the peninsula. The Nature Foundation has built a cat proof fence that separates the peninsula from the remainder of the Island. They made sure to include gaps in the fence so other wildlife like Kangaroos can get through to the other side. The cameras were installed at the fence breaks to monitor the effect of the fences and to determine the best way to control feral cat numbers.  

Since installing the fence and the cameras, it has been reported that numbers and diversity of species within the enclosed area have almost doubled. As reported by the ABC, the current traps set up along the fence are proving to be extremely successful in reducing the number of feral cats to the area.