Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

First round of Small Network Grants benefit 29 NFPs

FRRR has awarded $737,774 in Small Network Grants to 29 not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) working in remote, rural and regional Australia for projects that will strengthen the capacity and capability of their communities to prepare for, and be resilient to, the impacts of future droughts.

The District Council of Orroroo Carrieton will use their Small Network Grant for upgrades to the Orroroo Community Church Hall so that it can be used as a family daycare

The Small Network Grants program is supported by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund through the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative.

Funded projects are diverse, including a Mental Health forum in Junee, NSW; a series of community connection and education events in Alice Springs, NT; a portable toilet to support small-scale community infrastructure projects in Boonah, QLD; a demonstration day for the new digital weather station and soil probe network in Kingscote, SA; Accidental Counsellor training for the Tasmanian community of Triabunna; a Field Day for local secondary students in Birchip, VIC; and a series of natural resources management and drought education sessions in the Great Southern WA region of Kendenup.

Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, said strong interest in the program indicates that organisations and local leaders are actively seeking ways to inspire their communities to connect, communicate and strengthen social capital, so they can better withstand the impacts of future drought.

“Most of the applications we saw in this round of the Small Network Grants program were for projects designed to improve communication, social connection and collaboration within and between communities, as a way of strengthening and preparing for drought.

“Far North West Joint Organisation’s Drought Resilience Community Action Group is a great example of this type of initiative. With a $50,000 grant, the Action Group will help the communities of Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Cobar to increase knowledge and resource sharing and promote collaboration, so that the NSW Far West region can be better prepared.

“More than half of the applications we received have never been funded by FRRR. This means we are reaching grassroots organisations and responding to the increased priority around drought preparedness in many remote, rural and regional communities, many of which are still recovering from other climate-related disasters like cyclone and flooding.

“We look forward to seeing how these projects help community groups be better connected, informed and resourced in the next drought,” Ms O’Brien said.

Applications for Round 2 of Small Network Grants are open now and close 26 March 2024, with recipients announced in June 2024.

Potential applicants are encouraged to watch this recorded webinar to learn more about the program and the eligibility requirements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DHpeNQqPeI.

For more information, including the list of eligible LGAs, and to apply, visit: https://frrr.org.au/small-networks-grants.

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

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
Small Networks Grants Round 1 - March 2024
Stream 1
NEW SOUTH WALES
Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Fund LtdCommunity Capacity Building Drought-Ready Workshop
Support the Batlow community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a two-day workshop focused on skills development and increasing awareness of drought and drought preparedness activities for up to 20 emerging leaders across the community. This will enable the development and learning initiatives to facilitate professional, personal and leadership-related development and learning to support drought preparation.
Batlow$16,169
Far South Coast Dairy Development Group IncAutumn Break: Supporting Community in Tough Times
Improved communication, social connection, and collaboration within and between communities to support drought preparedness and improved implementation of place-based practices by communities to build and enhance resilience to drought.
Bega$20,000
Junee Community Centre IncDrought Resilience - Junee Mental Health Forum
Support the Junee community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a Mental Health forum, that will facilitate professional, social and community connection to build an understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.
Junee $15,600
Karuah & Great Lakes Landcare IncPreparing for Drought
Support the Stroud community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of two one-day workshops providing education and demonstration in drought preparation for mitigating the impacts of dry spells, facilitating professional, social and community connection to build an understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.
Stoud$20,000
Murdi Paaki Regional Rugby League Council IncCCC Community Wellbeing Project Condobolin
Support the Condobolin community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a Mentally Fit Classroom Initiative and community engagement dinner, enabling the facilitation of professional, social and community connection to build understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.
Condobolin$15,695
Southern New England Landcare LtdCommunity Connection for Outlying Areas
Support the Walcha and Billy Creek / Hernani communities to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of six community events to bring people together, meet neighbours, strengthen networks and increase knowledge and capacity around drought preparedness.
Walcha and Billy Creek$19,984
Western Rural Connect Inc on behalf of Narromine Small Business NetworkRural Women in Business Luncheon
Support the Narromine community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a luncheon for local women with an interest in business that will facilitate professional, social and community connection to build understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.
Narromine$20,000
QUEENSLAND
Boonah & District Landcare Association IncPortable Toilet Project
Support the Boonah community to be more prepared for and resilient to the impacts of drought through the purchase of a portable toilet to use at events enabling small-scale community infrastructure projects to improve connectedness, wellbeing and facilities.
Boonah$6,008
Mitchell & District Landcare Assoc IncAn Honest Look at Drought - A Hard Day's Work
Support the Tooloombilla, Mitchell and Dunkeld communities to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of three, guided workshops in three communities which will include wellbeing and support professionals and government agencies to strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social, or community networks.
Tooloombilla, Mitchell and Dunkeld$6,285
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
54 31 Collective IncThe 5431 Connect, Create, Celebrate Project
Support the Orroroo community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a series of resilience-building workshops and a Rural Women’s celebration event to strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social or community networks.
Orroroo$17,630
Agriculture Kangaroo Island IncOn Farm Decision Making Resources & Demonstration Day
Support the Kangaroo Island community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the development of training resources and the delivery of a demonstration day for a new digital weather station and soil probe network, to improve skills and capacity in community risk management, planning and project delivery.
Kingscote$13,830
Coonalpyn Golf Club IncThe Club in the Scrub
Support the Coorong community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the installation of a new roof on the Coonalpyn Golf Clubhouse, a small-scale community infrastructure project to improve connectedness and wellbeing.
Coonalpyn$9,800
District Council of Orroroo Carrieton Orroroo Community Church Hall Upgrades for Family Day Care
Support the Orroroo community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through minor infrastructure works to the Community Church Hall so that it can be used as a family daycare and family-friendly community venue enabling small-scale community infrastructure projects to improve connectedness, wellbeing and facilities.
Orroroo$20,000
TASMANIA
Rural Alive & Well IncDrought Resilience and Suicide Prevention for Rural Communities
Support the communities of Smithton and Wynyard in the North / Northwest Tasmania region to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of early intervention mental health training enabling initiatives to strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social or community networks.
Smithton and Wynyard$18,000
Spring Bay Suicide Prevention NetworkACT - Accidental Counsellors Together
Support the Triabunna community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through Accidental Counsellor training and other activities that improve skills and capacity in risk management and overall community wellbeing.
Triabunna$7,425
VICTORIA
Birchip Cropping Group IncBCG Main Field Day Secondary Student Stream
Support the Birchip community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the participation of secondary students from the North Central Local Learning and Employment Network (NCLLEN) cluster along with farmers, agronomists, and industry representatives at the Main Field Day in Birchip to help strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social or community networks.
Birchip$19,130
Common Ground ProjectCommunity Drought Preparedness Network
Support the Freshwater Creek community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the development of a local Community Drought Preparedness Network, expanding into outer regional communities across the farming district to strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social or community networks.
Freshwater Creek$20,000
Rural Business and Community LtdShared Shops Trail
Support the Donald, Hopetoun, Boort and Quambatook communities to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the establishment of a Shared Shops Trail for up to six Shared Shops to strengthen the coordination of professional, social or community networks.
Donald, Hopetoun, Boort and Quambatook$20,000
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Facey GroupRegional Resilience
Support communities of the Wheatbelt South region to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a community event that facilitates professional, social and community connection to build an understanding of drought and climate change-associated risks.
Wickepin $20,000
Stream 2
NSW Far West
Far North West Joint OrganisationDrought Resilience Community Action Group
Support the Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Cobar communities to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the creation of a Drought Resilience Community Action Group subcommittee that aims to strengthen coordination of local organisations and services, increase knowledge and resource sharing and promote collaboration to be better prepared for future drought in Far West NSW.
Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett and Cobar$50,000
Mallee Sustainable Farming IncCrossroads: Developing Leadership Skills for Rural Women in Isolated Areas of Far-Western NSW
Support the Wentworth and Pooncarie communities to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a tailored leadership initiative for women strengthening the capacity, capability and coordination of community networks.
Wentworth and Pooncarie$50,000
NT Arid Lands
Kulgera Gymkhana Club IncCustom Made Cool Room
Support the Kulgera community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the purchase of a portable cool room with trailer to improve connectedness, wellbeing and usage of local facilities.
Kulgera$27,159
Landcare NT IncThe Arid Lands Agricultural Community Connections Project
Support the community of the Arid Lands region to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a series of four, day-long community events that facilitate professional, social and community connection to build understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.
Alice Springs$50,000
The Arid Lands Environment CentreProject Manager for the Arid Lands Environment Centre and Alice Spring Community Gardens Network
Support the Alice Springs community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the engagement of a Project Manager, enabling initiatives to strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of two community gardens.
Alice Springs$50,000
NT Tablelands
Charles Darwin University Building Social Drought Resilience Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Groups in Katherine
Support communities of the Katherine region to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of three drought resilience focussed workshops and support resources that facilitate professional, social and community connection to build an understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.
Katherine$44,300
Northern Territory Farmers Association IncNorthern Australia Food Futures Regional Roadshow - Preparing For The Future Support the Mataranka community to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a two-day roadshow with approximately 60 attendees that promotes drought preparedness using targeted engagement with agricultural stakeholders and the broader community to facilitate professional, social and community connection to build an understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.Mataranka $47,232
WA Great Southern
Oyster Harbour Catchment Group IncMega Community Toolbox: Improving the Community's Capacity to Connect
Support the communities of the Great Southern region to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of natural resource management and drought-themed learning sessions enabling initiatives that strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social and community networks.
Kendenup$48,620
Stirlings to Coast Farmers IncFit for Farming - Building Social, Mental, Physical and Financial Fitness
Support the Great Southern region to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through participation in physical health and wellbeing activities / events to strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social and community networks.
Mt Barker $31,525
Wellstead Community Resource Centre Choosing Wellness in Wellstead
Support the Great Southern region to be more prepared for, and resilient to, the impacts of drought through the delivery of a range of learning and wellbeing focussed community activities to strengthen the capacity, capability and coordination of professional, social or community networks.
Wellstead$33,382

$20,000 and $50,000 grants to strengthen networks and capabilities

FRRR is encouraging community organisations in agriculture-dependent parts of Australia to apply for the latest round of Small Network Grants for initiatives that build community preparedness and resilience to future drought.

The Small Network Grants program is supported by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund through the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative.

Grants are available through two Streams of funding for simple, one-off, or seed-type initiatives designed to strengthen local networks and capabilities of remote, rural or regional communities. Stream 1 offers grants up to $20,000 to all agriculture-dependent remote, rural or regional areas (except Stream 2 locations). Stream 1 has an indicative funding pool of $1,175,900[i]. Stream 2 grants of up to $50,000 are available for groups in the NSW Far West, NT Tablelands, NT Arid Lands, Northern Queensland Dry Tropics and WA Great Southern. An indicative funding pool of $1,296,350 is available for Stream 2[ii].

Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, said preparing for the inevitable dry times ahead is critical, particularly for Australia’s agriculture-dependent regions.

“Our Small Network Grants program empowers local organisations to strengthen the social fabric of their town or locality by identifying and acting on their region’s drought preparedness priorities, at a grassroots level, in ways that best suit their communities.

“We look forward to seeing projects that will help community groups be better connected, informed, and resourced in the next drought,” Ms O’Brien said.

The Small Network Grants program can fund projects that fit into one of these five categories:

  • Networks: Initiatives to strengthen the capacity, capability, and coordination of professional, social or community networks
  • Community Events: Field days, conferences, forums, summits, and seminars that facilitate professional, social and community connection to build understanding of drought and climate change associated risks.
  • Training:  Initiatives to improve skills and capacity in community risk management, planning and project delivery in relation to drought.
  • Community Infrastructure: Small scale community infrastructure projects to improve connectedness, wellbeing, and facilities.
  • Development and Learning: Initiatives to facilitate professional, personal and leadership related development and learning to support drought preparation.

Applications are open now and close 26 March 2024, with recipients announced in June 2024.

Potential applicants are invited to watch this recorded webinar to learn more about the program and the eligibility requirements:

For more information, including the list of priority LGAs, and to apply, visit: https://frrr.org.au/small-networks-grants.


[i] Stream 1 – All LGA’s in an agriculture-dependent regional, rural or remote location (except Stream 2 locations). Priority will be given to locations where previous Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative activity has not been undertaken. An indicative funding pool of $1,175,954 is available for Stream 1. Applications up to $20,000 will be accepted.

[ii] Stream 2 – All LGAs from NSW Far West, NT Tablelands, NT Arid Lands, Northern QLD Dry Tropics and WA Great Southern regions only. An indicative funding pool of $1,296,352 is available for Stream 2. Applications up to $50,000 will be accepted.

19 projects funded thanks to the Future Drought Fund

FRRR today announced the final projects funded through the Community Impact Program, which is part of the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative funded by the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

Group of three people talking to each other.

In this final tranche of funding, delivered in partnership with ARLF, grants of nearly $1 million have been awarded to support 15 organisations in delivering 19 projects across the Central West region of NSW, the Eyre Peninsula region of SA and the Loddon Campaspe region of VIC. The grants are designed to enhance drought preparedness through strengthening, enabling and building social capital.

FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, Nina O’Brien, says that there are a range of projects being funded in each area, which reflect local priorities.

“All these projects have come about thanks to a robust, locally-led co-design process. In Central NSW, for example, we saw more than 20 organisations, including First Nations groups, actively engage in helping to prioritise what would make a difference in their region.

“The Central West of NSW has been impacted by flooding, as well as bushfires on top of the Black Summer bushfires. These events, combined with prolonged drought conditions have left the community fatigued and in continuous recovery.

“This funding, which will be coordinated by Regional Development Australia – Orana, will support projects including strengthening local leadership and networks through a series of events; a seminar for rural women, which will create a safe space for sharing and creating connections; and educational activities. Other projects in this region will include a pilot program to increase access to better mental health support; a series of networking and social support activities targeting young women; and workshops providing culturally sensitive information in different languages targeting the diverse multicultural community living in the region.

“It’s a similar story in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, where the program activity will be coordinated by Agricultural Innovation and Research Eyre Peninsula. The co-design process saw 37 participants from the not-for-profit sector, government, small business and general community invited to have input. Four projects have been supported, again with a series of events and activities focusing on different groups, including rural women, young farmers (through peer-to-peer learning) and the broader community, with a focus on building understanding of drought and drought preparedness at a farm, environment and whole of community level.

“In the Loddon / Campaspe region, in Victoria, there is a history of drought, although in late 2022, the region experienced significant flood damage. Several communities remain displaced with the recovery and rebuilding process hampered by a variety of factors, including volunteer fatigue. Despite this, there was strong engagement in the co-design process, including the local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Coordinated by LEAD Loddon Murray Inc, there are four projects that will be supported in this region, including redevelopment of the Bridgewater Community Hub to build a community garden and sensory garden, backed up by eight community workshops to share knowledge. There will also be an education program – ‘Let’s Talk About the Weather’ – involving local community mapping of the network and focused capacity building support. The Dja Dja Wurrung Clans will lead a project that will employ a local coordinator who will work with Council, Landcare, community organisations and private landholders to heal Country, building understanding of traditional land management practices and ways to restore the land. The final project will focus on building and strengthening networks and building capacity of individual leaders in climate resilience,” Ms O’Brien explained.

In addition to the projects that are being supported, each region will also engage in a leadership development activity. ARLF Chief Executive, Matt Linnegar, says those activities include either a community leadership program, leadership action initiative, group coaching or change-maker workshops.

“The activities will be tailored to each area and we’re already working with the local community partner lead organisation to work out the best timing for the various activities. Leadership development is a critical part of building the social capital required to strengthen drought resilience. It helps to create and build local networks, as well as develop the skills and knowledge to take action and address challenges and make the most of opportunities.”

Participants also gain access to the wider alumni network of the ARLF. “It’s these connections that prove invaluable to people. When they’re stuck, there’s someone to ask for advice,” Mr Linnegar said.

FRRR is currently inviting applications for small grants to support activity in parts of the country where there was no Community Impact Program grant awarded. Full details are available at www.frrr.org.au/small-networks-grants.

Other elements of the Future Drought Fund’s Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative are also underway, including a Mentoring program and an online network connecting community members involved in projects in each of the regions, both led by ARLF. FRRR has also launched a portal providing access to experts to support delivery of their projects, if local expertise isn’t available.

Community Impact Program grantees have commenced delivering project activity, increasing connection across regions and supporting locally identified and driven drought preparedness activities. Some activities delivered so far are young farmer network events, women’s events and local field day type activities in several regions, with strong local participation and attendance. From FRRR’s perspective, it is exciting to see the momentum being created by passionate locals keen to see their regions remain connected, and vibrant as dry times increase across many communities nationally.

Learn more about the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative at www.frrr.org.au/drought-preparedness.

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

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
New South Wales: Region 03 Central West
Regional Development Australia - OranaCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 03
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Central West region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
Central West NSW Region$49,608
Coonamble Chamber of Commerce IncorporatedWellbeing Changemaker Assistance Program
Support members of the Coonamble Chamber of Commerce (80+ members) and their families to face drought and other stresses through the provision of access to mental health support services as community workshops and the provision of space locally for mental health support services in Coonamble.
Coonamble Shire$85,465
Hovells Creek Landcare Group Incorporated

Building Community Networks, Community Support and Resilience to Drought Through Social and Learning Activities

Increase awareness of and change attitudes to drought preparedness through the delivery of two community workshops focused on holistic property management during drought.

Cowra, Weddin, Hilltops, Hovells Creek, Wyangala$14,700
Oriscon IncorporatedCreating Connections Project
Stimulate a change in awareness of and change attitudes towards drought preparedness at the community level through the development of a multilingual knowledge and information sharing website, two community workshops and a networking event supporting migrant community members in connecting, accessing, and understanding localised climate adaptation and drought preparedness activities and information across Central Western NSW.
Dubbo, Warren, Gilgandra, Wellington, Nyngan, Narromine, Wellington, Stuart Town$10,000
Tradies IN SightNSW Real Reconnections Tour
Build local networks and social support mechanisms required to better prepare for drought through the provision of eight informal mental health events focused on connecting regional men.
Dubbo, Narromine, Gilgandra, Coonabarabran, Warren, Nyngan, Cobar, Tattenham, Parkes, Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett$18,417
Voices of Women IncorporatedEMBRACE: Voices of Women Dubbo
Build a shared experience that can be drawn upon for support during drought through local networks and social support for young women aged 18-35 through the delivery of an intensive creative workshop focused on building relationships and confidence of young women.
Dubbo$9,550
Watershed Landcare Group IncorporatedEmpowering Watershed Women
Stimulate a change in awareness of and attitudes towards drought preparedness through the delivery of a seminar for rural women focused on providing a safe space for communication, support, mentoring, professional development and empowerment.
Mudgee, Cudgegong $10,000
Watershed Landcare Group IncorporatedHolistically Strengthening the Capabilities and Resilience of our Rural Community
Enable the community to build their local leadership, networks and social support mechanisms at a community level through the delivery of three connection and networking events and Holistic Management training focused on a comprehensive drought and disaster resilience approach to agricultural practices and decision-making.
Mudgee, Gulgong, Rylstone, Kandos$40,700
Western Rural Connect Inc.Western Rural Connect Networking and Development Events
Build local leadership, networks and social support to build drought and other disaster resilience through the delivery of three Women in Agriculture events over two years.
Narromine$18,000
South Australia: Region 23 Eyre Peninsula
Agricultural Innovation & Research Eyre Peninsula IncorporatedCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 23
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Eyre Peninsula region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
Eyre Peninsula SA Region$30,760
Agricultural Innovation & Research Eyre Peninsula IncorporatedYoung Farmer – Facilitated Peer to Peer Learning
Share innovative ways to build drought resilience and build local leadership, networks and social support in Ceduna and Cleve locations. AIR EP will offer four field events for young farmers focusing on young people aged 18-35 years.
Ceduna and Cleve $60,000
District Council Of CleveFuture Farmers Focus
Future Farmers support a change in awareness of and attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level through the delivery of learning workshops for two target audiences: 1. high school students; 2. families, industry and broader community.
Cleve$47,000
WoTL LtdBetter Connected Communities
Engage 12-15 young women in remote and highly drought sensitive communities to participate in a series of workshops covering a range of topics with overt social drought preparedness themes and outcomes.
Cleve, Franklin Harbour$77,456
WoTL LtdRegenerate Rural Women
Learn and share innovative ways to build drought resilience by engaging approximately 15 local women in a comprehensive program covering topics to build personal resilience, refine decision making skills, clarify priorities and goals, and enhance personal, family and community wellbeing in Ceduna and Lower Eyre Peninsula.
Lower Eyre Peninsula, Ceduna$68,400
Victoria: Region 28 Loddon Campaspe
Lead Loddon Murray IncCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 28
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Loddon Campaspe region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
Loddon Campaspe VIC region$80,000
Lead Loddon Murray Inc2024 Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program - Climate Resilience
Enable an increase in the reach and activities of community leaders, mentors, networks and organisations driving action on drought resilience through the delivery of LMCLP Climate Resilience program.
Loddon Campaspe VIC Region$80,000
 Kooyoora Women's Network IncBridgewater Railway Station Redevelopment
Build depth of social connection and increase skills, knowledge and understanding of the risks posed by drought and climate change while offering a place for community connection through the further development of the Bridgewater Community Hub.
Bridgewater, Loddon Shire$75,000
Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal CorporationHealing Country across Djandak
Stimulate a change in awareness of and attitudes to drought preparedness while increasing engagement with and participation of First Nations community members through the delivery of the Djaara Forest Gardening Engagement Coordinator pilot program, “Healing Country on Djandak”.
Campaspe, Loddon, Central Goldfield, Bendigo$100,000
Jumpleads NFP LimitedLet's Talk About the Weather | Drought Resilience
Enable communities to identify and adopt innovative ways to build drought preparedness at the community level through the delivery of a Let’s Talk About the Weather program across Campaspe, Loddon and Central Goldfields local government areas.
Campaspe, Loddon, Central Goldfields$120,000

56 projects funded thanks to the Future Drought Fund

FRRR has awarded $3.65 million in grants to 11 agriculture-dependent regions across Australia, for projects that will better prepare their communities for the impacts of drought and a changing climate.

The $3,654,124 in grants is funded through the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund, and delivered as part of the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative’s Community Impact Program. To date, $9,115,583 in grants has been awarded to 27 agriculture-dependent regions, through the Program.

Delivered in partnership with ARLF, the Program aims to strengthen the ability of agriculture-dependent communities to work together to prepare for future drought or other disaster.

Nina O’Brien, Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead for FRRR, said that the collaborative nature of the Community Impact Program means locals in each region have come together to identify and act on their communities’ drought preparedness priorities, at a grassroots level.

“The beauty of this program is that it’s so flexible. It can support events, initiatives, training and even small-scale infrastructure. But at their core, each project is about fostering the growth of stronger networks to encourage shared learning and more collaboration. We’re already seeing that happen among the program facilitators, who are leading by example, having established a community of practice, and mentoring one another across the regions.

“We recognise that co-design in each region has taken significant effort and we particularly thank the Community Partner Lead Organisations for stepping up and taking the lead in bringing everyone together. It’s been wonderful to be able to harness local knowledge and expertise and to have a cross-section of the community collaborate and create solutions. We know that these projects will strengthen the networks, support, engagement and wellbeing of people across their region.

“We look forward to seeing the continued growth of these networks and to seeing the impacts of these projects as they roll out over the next two years,” Ms O’Brien said.

Funded projects include a youth community hub and film festival on Mitakoodi Country, Cloncurry in Queensland. The Mitakoodi Community and Housing Aboriginal Corporation will use a $76,809 grant to develop the hub and festival, which will build a depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose, and longer-term community belonging that locals can draw upon in future drought.

In Boyup Brook, Western Australia, Blackwood Basin Group Incorporated has been awarded a $40,730 grant to run a series of land management workshops, as well as produce written resources and provide accidental counselling. These capacity building activities will provide local people and communities with opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought.

As part of the program, each region will also access tailored leadership development activities, delivered by ARLF.

ARLF Chief Executive, Matt Linnegar, says the leadership development supports the delivery of local projects and yields long-term benefits for the regions.

“We know that a multimodal approach of leadership development increases the impact the investments have in each region. In addition to the project funding, these leadership development activities build social capital required to support the project and people in each region. We get to connect local networks, create a deeper sense of shared purpose and develop capability that helps people to take action and address challenges and make the most of opportunities.”

Participants also gain access to the wider alumni network of the ARLF. “It’s these connections that prove invaluable to people. When they’re stuck, there’s someone to ask for advice,” Mr Linnegar said.

Other elements of the Future Drought Fund’s Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative are also underway, including a Mentoring program and an online network connecting community members involved in projects in each of the regions, both led by ARLF.

FRRR has also launched a portal providing access to experts to support delivery of their projects, if local expertise isn’t available. A small grants funding round will also open before the end of the year to support projects in areas not covered by the Community Impact Program.

Learn more about the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative at www.frrr.org.au/drought-preparedness.

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

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
New South Wales: Region 05 Northern Tablelands
Glenrac IncorporatedCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 05
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Northern Tablelands region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
Northern Tablelands NSW Region $30,146
Glenrac IncorporatedGrowing Social Capital, Glen Innes
Enhance awareness of and attitude toward drought preparedness and build local leadership, networks and social support through a diverse series of community events, activities and delivery partners.
Glen Innes $70,508
Gwymac IncorporatedConnecting our Community for Resilience in Tough Times
Enhance awareness of and attitudes toward drought preparedness through building local leadership, networks and social support through a series of collaborative events.
Inverell$51,290
Southern New England Landcare LtdSNEL HELP – Preparing Communities for Drought
Increase the reach and activities of community leaders, mentors, networks and organisations driving action on drought resilience through the delivery of a series of community activities and events that will share information on the local impacts of drought, drought preparation activities and strengthen local connections, networks and relationships.
Armidale, Inverell, Uralla and Walcha$62,214
Granite Borders Landcare Committee IncorporatedDrought Community Impact Program
Enable communities to identify and adopt innovative and transformative ways to build drought resilience through a series of collaborative workshops targeting innovation in drought preparation information and knowledge sharing.
Tenterfield$70,936
Queensland: Region 07 South-West
Southern Queensland Natural Resources Management LtdCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 07
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the South-West region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
South-West QLD Region$20,500
Thallon Progress Association IncPODDS 4 Thallon & Bollon (Place of Diversity & Development)
Increase the reach and activities of community leaders, mentors, networks and organisations driving action on drought resilience through the development of shared workspaces in Thallon and Bollon.
Thallon and Bollon, Balonne Shire$126,800
Wyandra and District Progress and Recreation Association IncWyandra & Surrounds Drought Resilience Leadership Network – Empower Paroo & Murweh
Increase the reach and activities of community leaders, mentors, networks and organisations driving action on drought resilience across Paroo and Murweh through the delivery of community events, minor community infrastructure upgrades, leadership network establishment and connection to local support services.
Wyandra, Cunnamulla, Charleville$83,615
Queensland: Region 10 North-West
Southern Gulf NRM LtdCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 10
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the North-West region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
Queensland North-West Region$33,007
Southern Gulf NRM LtdProactively Improving Mental Health Preparedness in Northwest QLD
Enable capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through the delivery of mental health first aid training across the region.
Cloncurry, Julia Creek, Richmond, Hughenden, Normanton, Burketown, Mount Isa $66,209
Southern Gulf NRM LtdCommunity Group Development Facilitator for Northwest QLD
Improve capability, coordination and collaboration between networks, other community organisations and sectors that can be drawn upon in future drought through delivery of governance, volunteer management, communications and project management training.
Mount Isa, Cloncurry, McKinlay, Richmond, Flinders, Burke, Carpentaria$148,538
Mitakoodi Community and Housing Aboriginal CorporationThe Cloncurry Community Hub and Film Festival
Build a depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose and longer-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future drought through the development of a youth community hub and film festival.
Mitakoodi Country,Cloncurry$76,809
Western Australia: Region 21 South-West
South West Catchments CouncilCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 21
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the South-West region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
WA South-West Region$23,768
Warren Catchments CouncilGreen Spaces Counter the Blues
Enable capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through a coordinated series of water efficient landscaping / gardening workshops.
Shire of Manjimup$75,661
Southern Forest Arts IncRivers of Thirst
Build depth of social connection, awareness of and constructive attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level through community development of seven public artworks across towns in the region.
Manjimup, Boyup Brook, Nannup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes$49,908
South West Catchments CouncilCommunity Resilience Network
Improve the capability, coordination and collaboration between networks, other community organisations and sectors that can be drawn upon in future drought through the establishment of a Community Resilience Network of local groups in Community Resource Centres.
Manjimup, Boyup Brook, Bridgetown-Greenbushes, Donnybrook-Balingup, Augusta- Margaret River, Harvey, Dardanup, Busselton$86,935
Blackwood Basin Group IncorporatedBoyup Brook Community Drought Preparedness
Enable capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought, through a series of land management workshops, production of written resources and accidental counselling training.
Boyup Brook$40,730
Goomburrup Aboriginal CorporationNi! Boodja Waangkiny (Noongar Seasonal Calendar)
Enable depth of social and cultural connection, awareness of and constructive attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level through the development of a place-based, locally developed Noongar seasonal calendar that captures the knowledge and resilience of the people and culture with storytelling.
Bunbury$66,000
South Australia: Region 24 Northern and Yorke
Regional Development Australia Barossa Gawler Light Adelaide Plains IncorporatedCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 24
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Northern and Yorke region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
SA Northern and Yorke Region $56,893
Lochiel Progress AssociationDiner en Rose
Build depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose, and longer-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future drought through a community event celebrating the local landscape.
Lochiel– Pink Lake (Wakefield Regional Council)$21,170
Wirraminna CareScone / Coffee Times Bringing Neighbourhoods Together to Share Socially
Build depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose and longer-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future drought by addressing social isolation within the community.
Williamstown, Eden Valley$7,000
WoTL LtdManaging Yourself and Your Business Through Drought and Other Disruption
Enable capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through leadership workshops specifically designed for women.
Riverton, Clare, Kadina$67,000
Two Wells Regional Action TeamDrought Resilient Greening for Community Wellbeing
Enable a change in awareness of and attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level and enhance the public good by planting drought-tolerant trees at three entrances to the township of Two Wells.
Two Wells$3,000
Barossa Improved Grazing Group IncorporatedBuilding Local Human Capacity to Support Drought Preparedness Across the Barossa Generations and Community
Enable capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through supporting and training young farmers.
Barossa, Light, Mid Murray $55,000
Victoria: Region 27 Mallee
Mallee Sustainable Farming IncCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 27
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Mallee region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
VIC Mallee Region$76,818
First People of the Millewa-Mallee Aboriginal CorporationCommunity Impact Program – Mallee Region
Build depth of social connection and increase skills, knowledge and understanding of the risks posed by drought and climate change through land management training and mentorship of young First Nations people.
Neds Corner Station, Mildura$41,200
Birchip Cropping Group IncMallee BCG Young Farmer Network
Enable capacity building activities where young farmers have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought in remote, rural, and regional Australia through the growth of a Young Farmers Network.
Quambatook, Birchip, Manangatang$32,960
Mallee Sustainable Farming IncThe Mallee Matters
Build awareness of and changed attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level through the production of short videos that showcase local resilience.
Northern Mallee areas$65,920
Food Next Door CooperativeFood Next Door Co-op: Sustainable CALD Market Gardening
Build the capacity of local people and communities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought in remote, rural and regional Australia through irrigation management training for CALD communities.
Mildura, Merbein, Nichols Point and Red Cliffs$56,856
Rural Business and Community LimitedShared Shop
Increase economic diversification in an agriculture-dependent community through the establishment of a cooperative ‘shared shop’ for micro businesses in Donald.
Donald$32,960
Rural Financial Counselling Service Victoria Wimmera South West IncResilient Small Businesses
Deliver capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought in remote, rural and regional Australia through the establishment of a small business resilience network targeted at new, young and Indigenous business owners.
Mildura$41,200
Millewa Advisory GroupMillewa SHIM Shed
Build depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose, and longer-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future droughts through the establishment of a community gathering space in the Millewa district.
Millewa$17,304
Victoria: Region 29 Wimmera Southern Mallee
Wimmera Southern Mallee Development LimitedCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 29
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Wimmera Southern Mallee region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
VIC Wimmera Southern Mallee Region $44,228
Wimmera Southern Mallee Development Limited Community Connector Program
Improve the capability, coordination and collaboration between networks, other community organisations and sectors through service mapping, gap analysis, resource development and network capability building and service promotion before the next drought hits.
Whole of WSM$133,700
Wimmera Southern Mallee Development Limited (Migrant Settlement Services)Migrant Youth Support
Build depth of social connection, shared cross cultural drought knowledge and longer-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future drought through a drought resilience building program for young migrants.
Horsham, Nhill$50,000
Wimmera Catchment AuthorityRanch Billabong
Build depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose and longer-term community belonging through the revitalisation, and increased visitation of a culturally significant site by the local First Nations and wider community.
Barengi Gadjin Land Council $40,000
West Vic Business IncorporatedCommunity Placemaking
Build depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose and longer-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future drought through capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through the establishment of a Place-making network.
VIC Wimmera Southern Mallee Region$46,393
Victoria: Region 32 West Gippsland
Food & Fibre Gippsland IncCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 32
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the West Gippsland region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
VIC West Gippsland Region $96,050
Rural Financial Counselling Service Victoria - Gippsland IncBackbone
Build awareness of and attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level by producing two drought resilience special editions of the Rural and Regional Backbone magazine.
Latrobe Valley, South Gippsland, Wellington, Bass Coast$99,880
Food & Fibre Gippsland IncGated Framework – Community
Build capability in community leaders, networks and organisations to undertake strategic drought resilience planning and future drought preparedness activities through the development of a templated drought preparedness framework.
Baw Baw, Latrobe Valley, South Gippsland, Wellington, Bass Coast$109,978
Gippsland Women's Health IncGendered Violence Prevention – Active Bystander Training
Develop skills, knowledge and capacity to face the unique challenges caused by drought through Active Bystander (Family Violence) training.
Baw Baw, Latrobe Valley, South Gippsland, Wellington, Bass Coast$44,122
Rural Financial Counselling Service Victoria - Gippsland IncADAPT
Increase the reach and activities of community leaders, mentors, networks and organisations driving action on drought resilience by subsidising the delivery of ADAPT wellness program including online training and ongoing mentoring supporting small to medium sized grassroots organisations to access informal wellness support mechanisms at a community level.
Baw Baw, Latrobe Valley, South Gippsland, Wellington, Bass Coast$35,000
Victoria: Region 33 Ovens Murray
AgBiz Assist LimitedCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 33
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the Ovens Murray region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
VIC Ovens Murray Region $30,000
Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Fund LtdCommunity Capacity Building
Support capacity building activities where local people and communities have opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through a community leadership program.
Indigo Shire$95,000
Startup Shakeup LtdDigital Work Skills
Build capacity of local people and communities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through business digital skills training.
Indigo Shire and City of Wangaratta$95,000
AgBiz Assist LimitedWellbeing and Social Connection
Build capacity of local people and communities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through mental health awareness and support activities and training.
Indigo Shire and City of Wangaratta$170,328
Tasmania: Region 34 North and North West
Rural Business Tasmania IncCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 34
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the North and North West region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
TAS North and North west Region $47,000
Southern Farming Systems LtdEmpowering Rural Youth to Build Capacity in Tasmanian Rural Communities
Build depth of social connection and increase skills, knowledge and understanding of the risks posed by drought and climate change through tailored drought related events for three distinctive climates in the region.
Scottsdale, Ulverstone, Campbell Town$102,000
Rural Business Tasmania IncLocal Communities Volunteer Project
Build depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose and long-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future drought by connecting volunteer-based community organisations with young people in the region.
Fingal, Deloraine, Scottsdale, Whitemark$114,084
Tasmanian LeadersDrought Resilient Impact Preparedness (DRIP)
Build capacity of local people and communities to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through a targeted leadership program.
TAS North and North West Region $99,709
RANT ArtsClose Up: Drought Preparedness
Build awareness of and attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level through the creation of accessible educational videos.
Devonport, Burnie, Latrobe, Meander Valley$31,059
Tasmania: Region 35 South Region
University of TasmaniaCommunity Partner Lead Organisation (CPLO): Region 35
Strengthen drought preparedness and drive local action in the South region through the coordination of Community Impact Program activities and evaluation administration.
TAS South Region $38,778
Rural Business Tasmania IncLocal Community Volunteer Project
Build a depth of social connection, a shared sense of purpose and longer-term community belonging that can be drawn upon in future drought by connecting volunteer-based community organisations with young people in the region.
TAS South Region $100,000
Southern Regional Natural Resource Management AssociationIgniting Community
Build culturally informed drought preparedness and social connection through a shared sense of purpose, which can be drawn upon in future drought through a series of cultural burn workshops.
Southern Tasmania$100,000
Reconciliation Council of Tasmania LimitedYouth Mob
Build depth of social connection, awareness of and attitudes to drought preparedness at the community level by developing land management skills of young First Nations people.
Clarence and Sorell Municipality$82,960
Tasmanian Small Business Council IncTasmania Small Business Community Resilience Project
Build the capacity of local people and small business to develop the skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought through a series of business workshops and field trips.
Dunalley, Triabunna, Swansea$90,000

By Nina O’Brien, Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead

The call to action at this year’s Australian Disaster Resilience Conference is deeply apparent and has been reflected in most of the presentations, including my own – we must expand our understanding, balance investment, and elevate the voice of community, particularly First Nations people, to reduce the risks and impacts of a changing climate, and build collective resilience towards the increasing severity and frequency of disasters.

FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, Nina O’Brien, presenting at ADRC23

At FRRR, we are addressing this call to action by working deeply with local groups that are on the ground, working to enhance the preparedness and resilience of their remote, rural and regional communities. Programs like Disaster Resilient: Future Ready, as well as the thousands of grassroots, community-based projects we support through small grants like SRC Prepare and Recover , and others such as Rebuilding Futures, allow us to learn from local leaders about the needs and priorities of their communities, and how we can best support them to build local resilience and disaster recovery.

My presentation spoke of the importance of balanced investment in people and processes, not just products and ‘things’ across the entire disaster cycle, with a specific focus on preparedness. Social, cultural, political, and human capital are equally as vital as built, financial and natural capital in bolstering resilience. This approach takes a holistic view that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all these facets of community life.

This is why I advocate that we must shift our focus from (often) the disproportionate investing in products and things (hard infrastructure, as we often refer to it) to prioritising people and processes (or the soft infrastructure).

Ultimately, it is the people and processes that really make communities tick and make a difference in effective disaster response, recovery, and preparedness.

This is reinforced by the findings of ongoing research that FRRR has commissioned alongside our learning partner, University of Sydney.

“Working in a community led way to build local resilience means that local community members act as equal decision makers with a range of other stakeholders (local government, emergency services, service providers, business) to address issues which are priorities for that community. Rather than a top-down approach, where decisions are made outside a community or are made by government or other formal authorities, community led resilience building starts and continues with listening and collaborating on the priorities of community members. Genuine ownership by the local community requires their active involvement in all aspects of resilience building, not merely consultation.”

Howard, A., Rawsthorne, M. and Joseph, P. (2022) Critical Dimensions in Community Disaster Resilience [FactSheet], University of Sydney for the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The formal study has reinforced our anecdotal observations that when communities take the lead in driving resilience-building efforts, remarkable things happen. Whether tackling natural disasters like cyclones, bushfires, floods, or adapting to community shocks such as the loss of major services or industries, community-led initiatives tend to persist longer and have ongoing positive impacts. They foster local strengths that can adapt to a wide range of challenges over time.

This work provides an important formal evidence base for supporting grassroots not-for-profit organisations that are critical to nurturing the vitality of regional communities.

It also validates FRRR’s preferred approach of working alongside communities, mapping their assets and systems of interconnectivity, understanding their particular strengths and nuances, and viewing community life through resilience dimensions that help to identify and craft locally driven resilience initiatives.

Through diverse funding mechanisms that prioritise people and processes, we’ve seen tangible dividends in increased resilience. These include support for locally conceived projects and initiatives; building volunteer capacity and strengthening networks; resilience coaching, mentoring and support; strengthening internal organisational capacity; and fostering long-term project delivery capability through sustainable local partnerships.

FRRR’s Caroline Larcher, Brooke Williams and Nina O’Brien at ADRC23
FRRR team with Red Earth Community Foundation at ADRC23

And as a side note from ADRC23; the feedback from communities is clear. They want flexible funding criteria, longer timelines, negotiated measures of success, simpler forms and reporting – and patience from funders. As a mechanism to deliver support to approximately 1000 small projects per year; with around half of those related to disaster impacts; FRRR is working hard to meet these requests with flexible guidelines, negotiated timelines where possible, agile timing, and a streamlined approach to applying and reporting.

Without deliberate, balanced investment in social, cultural, political and human capital, alongside traditional capital, the impacts and harm from disasters will continue to escalate in our communities. We need a systems-based lens that prioritises people and processes to meet future community needs and challenges effectively.

The long-term benefits of this shift are significant; capable local individuals, agile community-based networks, strong not-for-profit organisations and ultimately resilient remote, rural and regional communities become the norm. This paves the way for a future where communities can thrive, adapt and face the uncertainties of a changing climate, with resilience and hope.

The far northern tip of Queensland – Gulf country – extends from wide plains through to tropical rainforest, but mostly comprises dry tropical savannah country. It s a very isolated region, yet is a productive beef grazing area, with some areas of horticulture. About 10,000 people live in 234,000 square kilometres – an area the equivalent size of Victoria. About 25% of people in the Gulf region identify as Indigenous.

Gulf Savannah Natural Resource Management (GSNRM) connects science, technology and landcare to improve productivity for farmers and graziers. Drought is a common challenge, with frequent extended dry seasons recorded over the last 30 years. GSNRM saw an opportunity to bring together producers for a series of forums across the region to strengthen networks and generally build the community’s capacity to better respond to the impacts of drought. They were supported by a Future Drought Fund Networks to Build Drought Resilience grant of $49,700.

To make the most of the time, organisers planned a farm visit during the Farming Forum, followed by information sessions and a lunch. With most graziers travelling long distances, their session was over two days, providing an opportunity for participants to not only gain new knowledge and skills but also reinforce and strengthen connections between these very isolated residents at social events. The face-to-face events provided a mix of guest speakers to impart knowledge and practical implementation skills or planning sessions to start putting the ideas into action. This included building
understanding of the risks posed by drought by exposing participants to discussions about the future of the region in the face of adverse climatic conditions and then discussing potential solutions. This approach empowered community members to make business resilience changes and fostered partnerships and collaboration between growers, graziers, agronomists, extension officers, industry, drought hub and government.

The organisers also recognised that, by far, the greatest risk posed by drought and the unpredictable nature of climate change is deteriorating mental health. The Unbreakable Success Matrix program, which involved online learning supported by live group discussions and mentoring, gave people the tools to mentally cope with those elements of their lives that cannot be controlled. This structure enabled geographically diverse individuals to come together over several weeks and develop an understanding of how others are coping or not coping, and receive the benefits of listening to the coaching and ideas from the facilitators.

Regular touch points enabled people to get to know each other better and therefore, as the program progressed, saw more vulnerable sharing and thus greater problem solving within the group. Assessment showed the ‘fear factor’ had significantly reduced for all respondents.

These events had the support of the Gulf Cattlemen’s Association and the FNQ Growers Association and were promoted widely through a range of different databases. This ensured a diverse cross-section of the community participated, beyond those that GSNRM normally engages with.

In total, 106 people participated in the three events, ranging from 15 to 74 years, although around 80% were aged 45-64. Around 15% were 15-24. Participants were often intergenerational and reflected a mix of new and established residents and was reflective of the general community.

The opportunity to contemplate drought and climate change in a supportive atmosphere and consider how prepared they are, or not, saw 42% of respondents say that the forums had ‘definitely prompted‘ them to change something in their business, while another 25% said they were ‘somewhat prompted’. Almost 100% of all respondents said that each speaker session was either ‘very valuable‘ or ’valuable’. For the GSNRM group itself, their network has increased dramatically and it has also seen significant increases in the interconnections between virtually all aspects of the
industry, especially across sectors.

By Nina O’Brien, Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead

If agriculture-dependent communities are to be sustainable in the long-term, we must also ensure local people are ready to withstand the pressures that come with extended dry periods. At the core, this requires strong social connections and community networks.

Often when drought preparedness is discussed, the narrative centres around caring for the land and the kinds of infrastructure that needs to be in place in areas to mitigate risks related to extended periods of drought or unseasonably dry conditions. While these are crucial factors to consider when preparing for drought, investing in initiatives that bring local people and strengthen these networks is vital for disaster preparedness and the long-term vitality of remote, rural and regional Australia.

In 2021, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) was awarded $3.75 million to deliver the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund Networks to Build Drought Resilience program. The aim of the program was to build community capacity by strengthening social and community networking, support, engagement and wellbeing. With additional funding from several donor partners, a total of $4,199,157 in grants was awarded. In total, the 87 community groups that completed their projects undertook 791 activities and reached 37,841 participants.

The final reports from grant recipients clearly demonstrate the positive impact that this dedicated focus on providing agriculture-dependent communities with opportunities and resources to strengthen social and community networking, engagement and wellbeing has had. Through the funded projects, communities report increased resilience and preparedness for the impacts of climate change, including drought. They have also seen a significant increase in community members’ knowledge and understanding of drought, increased skill development, and an increased understanding of technology and how it can support drought preparedness. This investment in the Networks to Build Drought Resilience program provided opportunities for communities to come together and put the conversation about ‘managing and mitigating future droughts’ squarely on the table. There is also now strong evidence showing the practical benefits of investing in local people and facilitating environments where they can learn to adapt to a drying, and unpredictable climatic future.

Social networks promote a sense of belonging

The final reports make evident the program’s effectiveness in increasing social capital in these communities and providing both formal and informal avenues for community organisations and grassroots groups to expand social networks.

As a result of these efforts by community groups in providing opportunities for people to connect, there was increased diversity in participation in community networking events and conferences, which has, vitally, led to locals feeling a greater sense of belonging.

Preparedness includes proactive mental health support

A particularly strong theme that emerged, was recognition of the importance of proactive mental health and wellbeing strategies, both for both individuals and communities as a whole.

One group, Active Farmers, located in the Riverina region of NSW, reflected on the long-term positive impact that their project, 100 Mental Health Champions, will have, writing: “Upskilling people across our network in mental health first aid will only have a positive flow on effect into the future – no matter what our communities are faced with. Becoming skilled in mental health first aid will help us on our mission of building more resilient and stronger rural communities.”

One size doesn’t fit all

The program saw a hugely diverse range of applicants, projects and participants. This highlighted the variety of ways in which drought-impacted communities are capable of, and can, benefit from strengthening their networks. One grant recipient, Outback Academy Australia, used their grant to run four in-person events and a national online event that saw community members connect with Aboriginal farming communities to learn local Aboriginal methods and techniques best used in a changing climate. Not only did participants increase their technical knowledge, but they were also able to build a shared sense of community and purpose.

The group reflected on the experience, saying: “Workshops addressed the perception that agriculture is separate from cultural and natural resource management, and that First Nations people are not engaged in farming or have an interest in agriculture to the same level as cultural heritage, and cultural and natural resource management. Another achievement was the respectful exchange between Western scientific-based knowledge and systems and Aboriginal knowledge, also referred to as traditional ecological knowledge, to improve farming systems and address the impacts of drought, extreme weather events and climate change.”

This the Networks to Build Drought Resilience program also proved that strong networks don’t always have to built in the traditional way. Mallee Sustainable Farming in Mildura VIC, was awarded a grant to build an online learning community that helps educate farmers on how to protect, manage and repair soils before, during and after drought. Their program is built around a schedule that provides information to farmers at the time of year when it’s most relevant.

They said, “The approach has been so successful that Mallee Sustainable Farming will continue to manage the group and use it as a way of both disseminating information and understanding audience needs concerning soil management for the foreseeable future.”

Success in the face of future drought

The success of the Networks to Build Drought Resilience program demonstrates the value in funding diverse approaches that allow communities to come together and put the conversation about ‘managing and mitigating future droughts’ squarely on the table.

The program also provides strong evidence showing the practical benefits of investing in local people and facilitating environments to strengthen community capacity to both increase drought preparedness efforts, and to support one another through future droughts and an ever-changing climate.

Read more about the impact of the Networks to Build Drought Resilience program in the Program Implementation and Learnings Report.

The Networks to Build Drought Resilience program was a precursor for the Future Drought Fund’s Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative. FRRR is proud to be delivering this Initiative, alongside Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF), through a community-driven, multi-pronged approach. Through this initiative, with the Australian Government’s support, we’re continuing to invest in the future, enabling agriculture-dependent communities to identify and act on their drought preparedness priorities at a grassroots level.

It has been over 20 years since the rural town of Marama has had an active committee. In past generations of the committee, Marama Community Incorporated has been extremely social, connected and dedicated to keeping the town together. The main purpose of the committee was to bring people and community together with sport, dances, weddings, social events and church services. All of these events were usually held at the community-owned hall.

Now with a newly elected committee, the current generation was keen to foster a sense of belonging by renewing and improving the hall and providing a central place for activities to be held once again, however the space had fallen into disrepair after years of no use.

During the time the new committee was being elected, the district was also experiencing severe drought. A lot of the local farming community were feeling the effects on their mental health from prolonged drought. This added another layer of importance to the renewal of the hall; the community needed somewhere to come together and support one another.

With a $150,000 grant from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund’s Networks to Build Drought Resilience the committee was able to fund the underpinning, roof replacement, ceiling replacement, stone work, paint the interior, electrical work (including air-conditioning), and new toilet facilities.

The project relied on a big commitment from the community to get involved through volunteer work, local contractors and working bees to get the job done. But there was never any doubt they wouldn’t pull through!

Since completing the renovations on the hall the community has seen a dramatic shift in the attitudes of residents. Not only did the project give them a reason to meet throughout construction, but they now have a shared space to use that they can be proud of.

“Overall, the finished project is something we as a community are very proud of, and it has helped bring us together to work as a team to achieve a better, more user-friendly outcome.”

The hall has been host to a number of important community events since its completion and is booked in to host future events held by key industry groups that will benefit the community by improving abilities to adapt, reorganise or transform in response to a changing climate, increasing variability and scarcity of rainfall and changed seasonality of rainfall.

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) have today announced the appointment of Nous Group to assess the impact of the Future Drought Fund’s Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative, which is funded by the Australian Government.

Wheatbelt South WA community members take part in Community Impact Program’s co-design process.

The Future Drought Fund’s Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative aims to build enduring resilience to the impacts of climate change and drought and to enhance the public good in agriculture-dependent communities. It focuses on building community capacity by strengthening social and community networking, support, engagement and wellbeing.

There are five parts to the Initiative, including the Community Impact Program, Small Grants, a Learning Network, Mentoring Program and Expertise Pool to support local groups implementing their projects, all of which will be evaluated.

While the evaluation will explore the outcomes of the Initiative, it will also provide valuable feedback on the various funding mechanisms employed and the impact of leadership development initiatives delivered. This will also reveal insights into the different ways that the Australian Government can invest in remote, rural and regional communities to address locally prioritised challenges. In total, $1.3 million will be invested in the process, reflecting the value that FRRR, ARLF and the Australian Government place on evaluation, something that is often not prioritised or funded.

Multi-year evaluation

The evaluation will take place over two and a half years and see Nous Group consult with the delivery partners, as well as other stakeholders, to develop the evaluation plan and then work closely with local leaders and with the delivery partners on the evaluation itself.

Phase 1 data collection and analysis is already underway, as the first tranche of funding has been awarded. An interim report will be prepared mid-2024, followed by workshops for community groups and stakeholders to unpack the learnings to date. Phase 2 of data collection will then get underway in August 2024, with the final report due September 2025.

FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, Nina O’Brien, says that there are great efficiency gains in having Nous Group undertake this work, as they are familiar with both the Future Drought Fund and with the delivery partners. “Nous Group supported the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) to design the Measuring, Learning and Evaluation (MEL) framework for the overall Future Drought Fund, so they are intimately familiar with the overall aims of the various streams of work the Fund supports. They bring a depth of understanding and rigour to the process, while still being able to work closely with and relate to the groups delivering projects on the ground.

“What we are most excited about however, is that this process will help build the capacity of communities and stakeholders to engage with and ultimately undertake more formal evaluations of the projects and initiatives that they run. They can learn by doing. These skills will help local communities then better direct their limited resources, as well as be able to provide greater evidence to support funding applications for their initiatives.

“We look forward to working with Nous Group to co-design the evaluation approach and collect insights for the evaluation. We will also be connecting them directly with the local lead partner and other groups delivering projects in the community to understand the impact of the various elements of the Initiative, as well as bring together community groups and stakeholders to explore and interpret their findings,” Ms O’Brien said.

Matt Linnegar, CEO of the ARLF, says understanding the impact is becoming more important for people participating in initiatives, as well as those providing the support for it to happen.

“It’s increasingly important to understand the impact of initiatives like the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative at depth and from multiple perspectives.

“This is because when we’re talking about leadership across regions and communities, we’re talking about people, relationships, networks and structures. Here, understanding the quantitative impact or intervention on the participant alone isn’t enough.

“It’s important to understand the individual and collective impact those people have on their regions and communities.

“As the ARLF continues to grow its work in the impact evaluation space, we highly value the collaboration with FRRR and work with Nous as an evaluation partner for this Initiative.”

Carlos Blanco, Nous Group Director, says Nous is excited to partner with the FRRR, ARLF and DAFF to collaborate with delivery partners, initiative participants and communities to help build even greater resilience within drought-prone communities.

“Nous has a long history of working with regional communities across Australia. We’re looking forward to co-designing and delivering an evaluation that strengthens the evidence base on how to empower remote, rural, and regional Australia to become more prepared for and resilient to the impacts of drought,” Mr Blanco said.

If community groups have any questions about the evaluation process, they can contact FRRR via futuredrought@frrr.org.au.

Local not-for-profits (NFPs) across the Central West NSW and WA Great Southern region are being encouraged to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to partner with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) to lead the Future Drought Fund’s Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative’s Community Impact Program in their region.

The Initiative seeks to help agriculture-dependent communities in regions across remote, rural, and regional Australia that are vulnerable to the impacts of drought become more prepared for and resilient to these impacts.

It is part of the Australian Government’s $29.6 million investment in drought resilience initiatives over three years and builds on the Future Drought Fund’s previous Networks to Build Drought Resilience program (led by FRRR) and the Drought Resilience Leaders program (led by ARLF).

There are two main components to the program:

  • Community Impact Grants: Grants between $200,000 and $500,000 for projects that strengthen community networks, capabilities and facilities that support drought preparedness; and
  • Community Leadership Activities: AARLF will offer a range of funded leadership development activities to support community members to develop their leadership skills and equip them with the networks to respond to drought preparedness in their community.

Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Climate Solutions Portfolio Lead, said that this a great opportunity for community groups in Central West NSW and the Great Southern region of WA to proactively strengthen drought resilience across their regions.

“Rural communities are better able to withstand the impacts of events like drought when they are strong and well connected. The overall aim of this program is to ensure communities are better prepared for future.

“But we know that looks different in each community, which is why we are looking for a local lead partner. They can then work with other community members and organisations to identify what local action will be most appropriate. FRRR staff will be there to support the process and we’ll also fund a facilitator to work with the community to get the best outcome possible.

“The grants can fund projects, events, initiatives, training, capability building and small-scale community infrastructure projects and we’re really keen to make sure that First Nations communities and younger people are also engaged in drought resilience planning and action.

“We have already funded some impressive projects in other ag-dependent communities, including training and awareness-building activities to develop skills and knowledge to face the unique challenges caused by drought, preparedness upskilling and capacity building for local NFPs, and youth-focused activities such as field training and skills development programs,” Ms O’Brien explained.

As part of the program, ARLF will offer several complementary Leadership Development Activities at no cost to the successful applicants. These are designed to strengthen the leadership capabilities of communities to build individual and community drought resilience.

ARLF’s Chief Executive Officer Matt Linnegar said that because every lead organisation and region will be at a different point in their resilience journey, ARLF has a number of options that communities can tap into.

“We have five leadership development activities, ranging from intensive residential leadership programs to a series of deep-dives into particular leadership topics to group coaching. Each is underpinned by the concepts of adaptive leadership, resilience and network leadership.

“Applicants will need to include their preference for leadership development activities when they lodge their express of interest for the Community Impact Program, and we will work closely with applicants to refine their preferences as we move through the collaborative project design phase,” Mr Linnegar explained.

Expressions of Interest close 9 June, with shortlisted groups commencing co-design in their communities in August and funding confirmed in November 2023. Groups will have until June 2025 to implement the projects.

Interested groups can learn more about the program and lodge their EOI here.