Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

By Jeanice Henderson, In a Good Place Program Coordinator

Despite the many positive aspects of living in remote, rural, and regional communities, there are also distinct challenges associated with distance and isolation, which place these communities at greater risk of poorer mental health outcomes.

These include:

  • Lack of available service or long wait times;
  • Poor, interrupted or lack of digital services and access;
  • Reduction in volunteers, business closures, job losses, loss of agricultural markets;
  • Poorer outcomes in the social determinants of health;
  • Life on the land can be hard – drought, fire, flood, mouse plague, cyclones; and
  • Stigma, shame, and ‘stiff upper lip’ attitudes to mental health.

The compounding and accumulative effects of some or all of these things take their toll – on individuals, families and the communities they live in.

Local solutions need support

At FRRR, we have found that the most effective responses to these challenges are often community centered but lack access or visibility to government or philanthropic funding.

Simple, flexible and accessible funding is required to support projects, programs and activities that create supportive environments, strengthen communities to act, develop personal skills and support services to re-orientate their programs to be both inclusive and appropriate for all.

This is where philanthropy can play an important enabling role, especially for grassroots organisations that often can’t access traditional philanthropy.

Small grants can be the straightforward and friendly ‘front door’ through which grassroots organisations can step to build their capability, connect their community and navigate and drive change.

In fact, for many communities experiencing disadvantage, small grants are one of the few ways that they can get the resources and opportunities to launch new ideas or approaches in their communities.

While not always ‘sexy’, the projects and the needs met through these grants, can address areas of disadvantage and inequity in communities that often have little visibility to funders and policymakers.

We’ve seen this be particularly effective when those small grants are targeted toward addressing specific needs. A case in point is in the area of mental health.

In A Good Place

In a Good Place is a national philanthropic grant program, delivered by FRRR and funded in partnership with CCI Giving.

This aim is to support people living in remote, rural and regional communities seeking help who are at risk of, or are experiencing, mental health issues.

The program has a relatively small, flexible funding pool of $250,000 per year, and offers grants of up to $20,000 to enable rural communities to action their ideas and solutions.

Our focus is to support efforts to strengthen the mental health of at-risk or vulnerable people via services or activities that are preventative or responsive in nature and designed to engage those less likely or unable to participate in mental, social and emotional wellbeing activities.

This program truly reflects the FRRR ethos that local communities are best placed to identify local needs, local opportunities and lead local responses.

We have run the program since 2018 and have so far funded 84 projects  – that’s $1.25 million in small grants invested into remote, rural and regional communities to support non-clinical approaches to mental health and wellbeing.

We’re very proud of it, but it’s really a drop in the ocean, as demand for this kind of support is very strong – and only increasing. Between 2018 and 2023, 397 applications requested over $6,443,348 in grant funding for combined total project cost of $18,981,059.

Further, 24.8% of these were first time applicants to FRRR, as this is one of the few programs of its type. And, in reality, they are not seeking very much funding – the average request was $16,230.

Of the successful applications:

  • The smallest grant was $2,970.
  • The average grant was $14,935.80.
  • 23.8% were awarded the full grant amount ($20,000).
  • Our $1.25 million support projects valued at over $4.5 million.
  • Local communities are still putting in a lot – the estimated value of in-kind support for funded projects is $1,126,082.

Every dollar granted by the In a Good Place program was matched by an additional $2.61 in other funding or in -kind support.

Demand is high

Since the program opened, more than 400 organisations have applied, requesting nearly $6.5 million towards projects with a combined value of over $19 million.

Remember, these are for relatively small grants – up to $20,000 – so it’s clear that there is a strong appetite out there to support community mental health and wellbeing.

Who benefits

So, just who is applying for these grants?

The short answer is grassroots community groups. FRRR doesn’t require applicants to have any special status, such as DRG1. This means we receive applications from community groups that are working directly with community members, families, young people, older people, veterans, gender specific focus groups, mental health and suicide awareness groups, community houses and school councils.

The word cloud above comes directly from the themes listed in this year’s In a Good Place applications. While there are different ideas that appear each round, there are some consistent themes and project approaches each round, including:

  • Suicide prevention.
  • Capacity building such as Mental Health First Aid training.
  • Alleviating loneliness and isolation.
  • Projects focused on the mental health of specific cohorts – men, youth, aged, students, families, farmers, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.
  • Community gardens / horticulture, animal therapy, art therapy nutrition and exercise as integral parts of overall mental health and wellbeing programs.
  • Mental health and wellbeing awareness activities.
  • Events that bring people together, connect with each other.
  • Responding to the impacts of cumulative economic, social and emotional impacts of successive natural disasters and COVID.

Emerging themes of late have included:

  • Community based support programs for ADF Veterans / First Responders.
  • Supporting those affected by domestic violence.
  • Responding to social determinants of mental health, such as food security, housing security / homelessness, disability and under / insecure employment.
  • Increased recognition and use of lived experience and peer volunteers.

Proven impacts

There are many stories that we could share about the impacts of these grants and how they have contributed to building healthier, resilient and better-connected communities by supporting and promoting mental health awareness, and building individual and community resilience.

I’m Not Afraid To Talk

For example – University of South Australia partnered with a community group called I’m Not Afraid to Talk to pilot and evaluate a Men’s Mental Health program. It sought to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health – by doing so in an environment that is very familiar to local men and adolescents – the football club. The aim was to improve mental health and reduce the risk of suicide by providing a safe and informed environment in which to connect with others and normalise self-help seeking. 

Working around COVID restrictions, cancellation of the football season, harvesting and extreme weather events, the workshops were held in Kimba, Tumby Bay and Cowell in SA.

Each four-hour workshop featured local speakers who shared their experienced, which was followed by a series of activities that focused on how men may be perceived by others and how they perceive themselves, shared experiences and the importance of ongoing open conversations about mental health.

Comments received after the football club presentations were interesting, but we particularly liked the insight from one man  –  “mental health discussion rarely starts without a major poke.:

Subsequently, a toolkit was developed by UniSA and INATT to guide the footy clubs in continuing the mental health conversation. The steps and strategies listed in the resource were based on community development principles.

INATT ran an additional workshop for women. This was  extremely popular, with more than 80 women attending from Kimba and surrounding communities.

The project leveraged the extremely strong links INATT has with the Greater Flinders and Eastern Eyre communities, which was evident by their excellent leadership and facilitation of the workshops and high attendance, and the expertise of Uni SA in capturing the insights from each workshop and developing the community tool kits for clubs to use.

Melodies, Mates and Mental Health

In another example, Mullewa is a small agricultural community in WA, which experiences the challenges of rural isolation, declining population, long distances and dependence on the weather for economic success in farming and tourism. These challenges were putting many at risk of poor physical and mental health, exacerbated by the consequences of COVID which saw events cancelled that traditionally brought people together and sustained strong social connections.

The Mullewa Community Resource Centre used their grant to deliver six free, community concerts in the smaller remote locations in the district. Each event brought people together for a BBQ, music and an interval during which there was a presentation regarding mental health. There was always a collection of resources that people could take home. They also conducted events in Mullewa at the end of the year and at the Mullewa Agricultural Show, which not only attracted the locals but visitors who were in town.

To really drive home the mental health message and develop the skills and capacity of the locals, the Resource Centre engaged a facilitator to run a Mental Health First Aid course. While only nine people attended, it actually meant that one additional skilled person was now available for every 50 adults in their community.

With the remaining funds, they engaged professionals to facilitate “Gather with the Women of Mullewa” and “A Night with the Blokes of Mullewa”, with both workshops focused on open, honest communication about how you are feeling with loved ones, family or friends.

Overall, they estimate about 500 people participated, sometimes more than once. The music events brought people together and built shared memories, while the training events built vital skills and networks and the confidence to use them when needed.

Creating a Safe Space

Another great example is local suicide prevention group, Every Life Matters (ELM), who teamed up with the Castlemaine Neighbourhood House to establish the Castlemaine Safe Space. It has become an inclusive venue for people to connect with others when feeling vulnerable.

Working with the local health services, ELM identified when there were local spikes in calls for assistance and pinpointed two evenings per week where there seemed to be a greatest need and aimed to operate over those times.

While the challenge was on to find a suitable location, the group worked with Roses in the Ocean and Living Works to develop a training schedule to support lived experience volunteers to work at the Safe Space during opening times. The In a Good Place program provided seed funding to support the training and purchase some basic equipment for the space.

Eighteen peer volunteers were trained in the first instance, and the centre welcomed more than 30 people through the doors in the first three months. Interestingly, most of them were male.

The Safe Space is now an independent group and has found a more permanent home. They have received additional funding to train more volunteers with lived experience to enable extended opening times and guard against fatigue, and to increase the visibility of the space in the local community. They have also gained funding support from the local Council. This is an innovative project and one that we watch with interest as it develops and progresses.

Small grants, big impact

The In a Good Place program – and targeted small grants more generally, have a definite and important role to play in supporting rural communities to activate their ideas and solutions.

Analysis of final reports confirm that at a community level, the program has increased the knowledge and understanding of mental health issues in those rural communities, and helped to reduce stigma for those experiencing mental health challenges.

It is a relevant, responsive and proactive program within the greater scope of positive mental health promotion and early mental ill-health intervention.

We acknowledge that it is a relatively small contribution. But the communities we work with tell us they are forever grateful that the funds were available to support them.

One grantee sums this up perfectly, “If just one person can be supported through a crisis without a tragedy, then the program is a success.”

If you’d like to add your support to these kinds of impactful community-led projects, please contact our partnerships team.

Workshops for women

Goomalling Aboriginal Corporation in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, used their $19,605 In a Good Place grant, funded by CCI Giving for their project called Maangart Yorga (Jam Tree Woman) – a workshop series delivered over the course of a year to impart both traditional and life skills to Aboriginal women and girls.

The program was created for Aboriginal women experiencing poverty, isolation, domestic violence and mental health concerns, and Aboriginal girls, from twelve years old, who are at risk. The program aimed to increase social participation by providing relevant and culturally appropriate workshops and a culturally safe space for connectedness. The workshops enabled the re-emergence of yarning circles and connection to Country that has helped foster relationships with young Aboriginal girls and Elders and provide an ongoing support network.

Maangart Yorga was an initiative to provide a safe space for women and girls to come together, learn, share and connect. Delivered through a series of workshops over a year, the aim was to increase participation in social activity, enhance the sense of community connectedness, improve outlook and help participants make healthier choices.

The workshops included a wide variety of traditional art, yoga and meditation, and health and wellbeing presentations. A series of practical skills sessions and workshops were held for women to have greater confidence, such as:

  • Bush medicine;
  • Traditional weaving;
  • Animal totem workshop;
  • Journal making;
  • Play with clay;
  • Rock painting;
  • Yoga and pilates;
  • Introduction to nutrition;
  • Basic Nyoongar language lessons;
  • Gungurra Art workshop;
  • Native wreath-making;
  • Self-care planning;
  • Sound therapy meditation;
  • DIY workshops;
  • Scam awareness & computer literacy.

The organisation reported that participants would come to the workshop filled with apathy, tiredness or stressed, but always left feeling fulfilled and empowered after each workshop. The workshops provided a set of skills that can be transferred amongst the community.

While the workshop roll-out was interrupted by maternity leave for the program manager, the silver lining was that her leave coincided with movement restrictions due to COVID, so there was no additional impact from the pandemic.  

Sadly, participation rates were lower than expected due to deaths in the community of two female elders and the suicide of two young Aboriginal men. Grieving periods were long and resulted in non-attendance from some members. For some members, the Maangart Yorga was a saving grace and gave them something positive to focus on.

Overall, 16 women participated across the program (including 2 non-Indigenous ladies), with a good cross section of ages from 21 years to 61 years old. Four female Aboriginal facilitators, three local female non-Indigenous facilitators, and two local female-owned food businesses also benefited from the project.

The greatest success of the program was providing a consistent and safe space for women to meet and yarn about their experience, which assisted healing and created lasting connections. The group plans to continue to meet monthly to use some of the skills they’ve learned and to continue connecting with each other. The Council is working with the Goomalling Aboriginal Corporation to create a permanent space for the women to take ownership of so they can create and share culture.

The close knit community of Quorn has been impacted by closure of local industrial businesses, prolonged drought, changes to lifestyle and isolation due to COVID-19, and recent deaths of long term residents. Service provider changes and short staffing had reduced available local support services. Things were seeming pretty bleak, so the town decided it was time to do something about it.

The Quorn Community Sporting Association requested funds to provide two free community events – one for the fellas and one for the ladies – providing an opportunity to come together, have a catered meal and listen to Stephanie Schmidt from ACT for Ag on building skills in psychological flexibility,  gain some skills to help  manage in times of stress, and take home some resources. While COVID-19 interrupted the original schedule, the events finally took place.

The Men’s Night Out was held on a Friday night at the new Quorn Pioneer Machinery Pavilion. The attendance of 93 men aged 10-96 exceeded expectation. All were able to enjoy the BBQ catering provided. The presentation was tailored for the men with plenty of opportunities for questions and conversation.  A group of young Aboriginal men from the APY lands attended. They mentioned that they chose to come to the event as there weren’t any other events in the region. They engaged in the conversations and the presentation. Afterwards, Elders gave the following feedback:

‘The fellas had a great night thank you. We really need more of these nights for the area. We are also finding the lack of culturally appropriate services around and hope to network more with you all. We would love to do more and we can maybe host onsite where we are in the future.’

The next day, the Ladies High Tea took place at the Quorn Town Hall and was attended by 100 local women, including the local catering team. The hall was abuzz with conversation, whist cakes, sandwiches, tea and coffee were served in the good china! The ladies enjoyed their own tailored presentation from Stephanie which generated lots of questions and discussion.  

Every participant at both events received an Act for Ag Toolkit which included an Act for Ag Handbook, Noticing Map notepad, Shared Purpose notepad, Values Cards and online resources to help build psychological flexibility and wellness.

Organisers received resounding positive feedback after both the events, with the community indicating they are very keen for more. The common theme from the feedback received was that the community valued was being connected with others in their community and looking out for each other.

$250,000 in grants awarded

FRRR’s In a Good Place (IAGP) program has awarded $250,000 in grants to 17 local organisations from remote, rural and regional Australia, for initiatives that will support and promote the mental health and wellbeing of locals in their communities.

Enterprise Partnerships WA Limited has been awarded a $20,000 IAGP grant for the Piriwa Wellbeing Project. Pictured is the Piriwa leadership team – (left to right) Monica Najmme, Mary Njamme and Kathryn Njamme.

Funded in partnership with CCI Giving, the IAGP program gives small rural communities across Australia the opportunity to access funds of up to $20,000 for community-driven projects that support vulnerable community members who are at risk of, or are experiencing, mental health issues. Since 2018, the IAGP program has helped to fund 70 mental health-focused projects across remote, rural and regional Australia. 

This year, the 17 funded initiatives include community activities to help people feel connected, training to help people identify those who are at risk of harming themselves, mental health first aid courses, and one-on-one mentoring.

Jeremy Yipp, Chair of CCI Giving, said support for mental health projects is vital for effective recovery to take place.

“In this round, we saw a notable increase in the number of expressions of interest that referenced community recovery from the accumulative economic, social and emotional impacts of successive natural disasters and the pandemic.

“We’re in a crucial period of recovery and now is the time to support mental health initiatives in rural Australia and make sure that communities have the resources they need to recover from all that’s gone on in the last few years,” Mr Yipp said.

Jill Karena, FRRR’s People Programs Portfolio Lead, said that loneliness is prevalent across rural communities and that many people are feeling disconnected from their community.

“In the applications for this round, we read about a lot of projects explicitly addressing loneliness and social isolation. For example, in the Queensland community of Stanthorpe, Happy Chat Peer Support Group will use a $20,000 grant to expand the organisation and provide facilitated support to vulnerable community members living with mental illness, helping to reduce their social isolation and loneliness, and to provide access to meaningful community-based activities.

“There is a clear need for social connection within remote, rural and regional communities and we’re grateful for our continued partnership with CCI Giving, as it allows us to provide much needed funding to help combat the loneliness we’re seeing in communities throughout rural Australia,” Ms Karena said.

Some of the 17 initiatives being funded include:

  • Community Housing – Kempsey, NSW – Treasured Insights (Mental Health – Inside Out Recovery) – Build the capacity of community housing staff and tenants to understand hording and domestic squalor disorders to assist recovery and improve the lives of vulnerable people living in social housing. $14,588
  • Sisters of Charity Community Care – Toowoomba, QLD – Dragonfly Health & Wellness Retreat – Enhance the mental health and wellbeing of rural women by providing a three-day retreat to enable participants to connect, learn self-care, and seek support. $11,000
  • Yankalilla Youth Arts – Yankalilla, SA – Sunday Sessions – Provide a creative and nurturing space for young people to engage in guided arts and theatre-based activities, with the presence of a counsellor and support therapy dog to support mental health and wellbeing. $12,260
  • Goulburn Valley Suicide Awareness Group Inc – Yea, VIC – GVSAG Walk and Talk – Support the local community to connect and develop trusted relationships that create greater understanding of mental health issues and address the stigma surrounding suicide by upskilling volunteers, establishing facilitated support groups and holding a suicide awareness walk. $20,000
  • Enterprise Partnerships WA Limited – Balgo, WA – Piriwa Wellbeing Project – Develop individual resilience, confidence, group leadership and planning skills through intergenerational activities and regular yarning circles to strengthen cultural identity, self-agency and mental wellbeing of Aboriginal women in a remote community. $20,000

To support grants like this through FRRR, make a tax-deductible donation at https://frrr.org.au/giving/.

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

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
In a Good Place - Round 7 - 2023
NEW SOUTH WALES
Community Housing LimitedTreasured Insights (Mental Health - Inside Out Recovery)
Build the capacity of community housing staff and tenants to understand hording and domestic squalor disorders to assist recovery and improve the lives of vulnerable people living in social housing.
Kempsey$14,588
Key Assets The Children's Services Provider
NI-Connect Child and Family Wellbeing Unit
Norfolk Island Youth Centre Project
Providing basic furnishings and equipment to facilitate the development of a local youth focused space promoting mental health and wellbeing and providing access to preventive and supportive programs.
Norfolk Island$19,998
Narrabri & District Community Aid Service IncorporatedR U OK Day and Suicide Prevention Business Evening
Increase community awareness of mental health and reduce the stigma associated with help seeking behaviour by providing a community event with a guest speaker and take home resources.
Narrabri$4,720
Queer Family IncResourcing Our Youth
Increase community understanding and improve the confidence of young queer people to respond to homo/transphobia through the development and distribution of posters and local LGBTQIA+ mental health resources.
Mullumbimby$13,000
Rotary Club of Iluka Woombah IncorporatedMental Health Warriors: Building Resilient Preteens
Cultivate confidence and resilience in primary school children by supporting the development and delivery of a locally facilitated program to enhance student social and emotional wellbeing.
Iluka$5,334
Southern Women's Group IncorporatedRecovery Sanctuary
Support the development of facilitated creative workshops and provision of materials to enable trauma informed workshops to take place in a safe and appropriate environment, supporting mental health, wellbeing and trauma recovery for women.
Bega$11,000
QUEENSLAND
Little Sparklers LtdMental Health First Aid Training for Peer Support Volunteers and Volunteer Leaders
Increase the knowledge and skills of rural-based peer volunteers, and increase the capacity of the organisation, by enabling Mental Health First Aid and Instructor training for those who provide phone crisis support for families during the postnatal period.
Various$17,673
Sisters of Charity Community Care LimitedDragonfly Health & Wellness Retreat
Enhance the mental health and wellbeing of rural women by providing a three day retreat to enable participants to connect, learn self-care, and seek support.
Toowoomba$11,000
Support Groups Queensland Inc
Happy Chat Mental Health Peer Support Group
Happy Chat Mental Health Peer Support Stanthorpe - Building a Safe and Happy Place for People with a Lived Experience of Mental Ill Health
Increase the capacity of a peer support group to expand and provide facilitated support to vulnerable community members living with mental illness to reduce social isolation, and to provide access to meaningful community based activities and nutritious food.
Stanthorpe$20,000
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Tumby Bay Area SchoolTumby Bay Area School G.E.M. Festival
Build knowledge of, and community engagement with, the Gratitude, Empathy, Mindfulness (GEM) personal resilience initiative through a school based community event to highlight positive mental health and wellbeing.
Tumby Bay$13,274
Yankalilla Youth Arts IncorporatedSunday Sessions
Provide a creative and nurturing space for young people to engage in guided arts and theatre based activities, with the presence of a counsellor and support therapy dog to support mental health and wellbeing.
Yankalilla$12,260
TASMANIA
Highways and Byways Ltd
Free2b Girls
Free2Fly
Support isolated, vulnerable and disadvantaged young women to be confident and resilient through a one to one tailored mentoring program.
St Helens$20,000
VICTORIA
Castlemaine Safe Space IncStrengthen and Grow the Castlemaine Safe Space
Increase organisational capacity and community awareness of available local mental health and social support by providing mental health training for lived experienced volunteers and increased promotion of the Castlemaine Safe Space.
Castlemaine$13,000
Goulburn Valley Suicide Awareness Group IncGVSAG Walk and Talk
Support the local community to connect and develop trusted relationships that create greater understanding of mental health issues and address the stigma surrounding suicide by upskilling volunteers, establishing facilitated support groups and holding a suicide awareness walk.
Yea$20,000
HALT Hope Assistance Local TradiesOlder Adults Matter Too
Increase the capacity and confidence of local community groups to better understand what a developing mental health problem or crisis looks like in older males and to have the skills and confidence to offer help-seeking information in an effort to reduce the incidences of suicide.
Castlemaine$18,000
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Enterprise Partnerships WA LimitedPiriwa Wellbeing Project
Develop individual resilience, confidence, group leadership and planning skills through intergenerational activities and regular yarning circles to strengthen cultural identity, self-agency and mental wellbeing of Aboriginal women in a remote community.
Balgo$20,000
Newdegate Community Resource Centre IncMen's BBQ Masterclass Workshop
Enable men living in two farming districts to come together through a BBQ cooking demonstration and shared meal to hear a mental health presentation designed to reduce isolation and encourage open discussion about the importance of mental health self-care.
Newdegate$16,153

The community group I’m Not Afraid To Talk (INATT) partnered with the University of South Australia (UniSA) to deliver a mental wellbeing program through Greater Flinders and Eastern Eyre football leagues / clubs to help adolescent and adult men in rural communities to improve their mental health and reduce the risk of suicide.

Working around COVID restrictions, cancellation of the football season, harvesting and extreme weather events, workshops were held in Kimba, Tumby Bay and Cowell, with a joint follow up session via Zoom. The workshops were supported by a $19,900 In a Good Place grant that was funded by CCI Giving.

Each four-hour workshop featured local key speakers sharing their lived experienced, followed by a series of activities that focused on how men may be perceived by others and how they perceive themselves, share experiences, and the importance of ongoing open conversations about mental health. A Toolkit Resource was collaboratively developed by UniSA and INATT after the workshops to guide clubs in planning activities to promote mental wellbeing.

The steps and strategies listed in the resource are based on community development principles and give clubs ideas on how to get started with planning mental wellbeing activities. This was introduced during the follow up session and made available to each group.

Due to the changes to the program, there was an underspend of funds. With the permission of FRRR, INATT ran an additional workshop for women in Kimba. This was a great success with approximately 80 women attending from Kimba and surrounding communities.

The workshops were the greatest success of this project as was evident by the high praise received by participants. The workshops assisted in improving attitudes towards mental health and help seeking. Participants also reported an increase in confidence and comfort in discussing mental health. Some of the comments included:

  • “Mental health discussion rarely starts without a major poke”.
  • “Probably will never be comfortable to do this but more equipped to have a go”.
  • “Eye opening and is going to help myself and community”.
  • “Very well done to get tough blokes thinking and talking”.
  • “We don’t have many supports, apart from each other at the moment”.
  • “Reassuring to know you not alone, great advice on how to deal with mental health”.
  • “Was a great night, confronting at times but that made it so worthwhile and a good laugh at the end”.

The achievements of this project have been numerous with the strengths of both collaborators on this grant put to best use. INATT has extremely strong links with the Greater Flinders and Eastern Eyre communities which was evident by their excellent leadership and facilitation of the workshops and the level of attendance.

Grants up to $20,000 on offer

Remote, rural and regional communities across Australia can apply now for grants up to $20,000 for community-driven mental health and wellbeing projects, through FRRR’s In a Good Place (IAGP) program.

Youth Affairs Council Victoria Inc received an IAGP grant in 2019 for their Deadly Yarning & Learning: Our Mental Health project.

Community groups are invited to apply for up to $20,000 to support activities that empower locals to talk, connect, learn, participate and foster help-seeking behaviours.

FRRR and CCI Giving are offering $250,000 in IAGP grants, a boost of $50,000 on prior grant rounds, thanks to a new five-year partnership.

Jeremy Yipp, CCI General Manager, General Insurance Claims and Chair of CCI Giving, said that since partnering with FRRR in 2018, CCI Giving has seen the direct impact made to 53 mental health-focused projects funded across remote, rural and regional Australia. 

“Seed funding is critical for the smaller community projects so that they can develop a proof of concept for their activity model and see what works and what doesn’t, and why. Without assistance from grant programs, such as In a Good Place, these projects may never have the opportunity to really get off the ground and reach their full potential,” Mr Yipp explained.

Jill Karena, FRRR’s People Programs Portfolio Lead, said that, now in its sixth year, the In A Good Place program continues to provide vital funding to support the mental health and wellbeing of communities across remote, rural and regional Australia.

“Projects funded through the In a Good Place program typically bring people together, sometimes to heal, always to learn.

“The program has a definite and important role to play in supporting rural communities in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and help-seeking behaviours. It helps to bring mental health and wellbeing out in the open – making it OK to talk about and OK to reach out and ask for help,” Ms Karena said.

Applications opened on 12 April 2023. There is a two-stage application process. To get started, a brief Expression of Interest must be submitted no later than 5pm AEST, Wednesday 17 May 2023. Full details are available on FRRR’s website – https://frrr.org.au/in-a-good-place/. Applicants can also call 1800 170 020.

The population of the District Council of Yankalilla is 5,500, spread across 750 square kilometres within 10 small townships. Some families are geographically isolated, farmers are doing it tough and there are a number of people who are struggling with low income, drug and alcohol issues, as well as family violence. There are not many opportunities for work and no public transport options for those who don’t have a car. While some support services are available in the community, most are outreach and not located in the district. In general, anxiety levels are higher than normal across the population groups. COVID fears and restrictions have added to this anxiety. Community members who are struggling usually want to connect with someone in their district to talk things over and find out what support is available.

The Council’s plan was ambitious – establish the Fleurieu Coast Community Network (FCCN) to foster help-seeking practices and build community connectedness and strength, with a focus of improving mental health. They successfully applied for a $9,000 In a Good Place grant from FRRR, funded by CCI Giving, to launch their plan to engage a coordinator who could provide the ‘first point of contact’ role and upskill community champions to expand the service across the district.

On paper, it was straight forward – set up a network of service agencies and community organisations, create a calendar of events focused on mental health and wellbeing messages, host informal community conversations and support community leaders, by providing them with mental health and wellbeing training. What they didn’t expect was COVID and local restrictions, which changed the planning and execution of all elements of the project plan. But each hurdle was successfully negotiated.

Meetings to form the Fleurieu Coast Community Network (FCCN) were held in a blended format. They received excellent feedback and became very popular within the sector. The Network is now well established, with high levels of information sharing and collaboration across the core group of about 22 organisations, which includes more than 70 service providers, businesses, local agencies and individuals who receive regular updates on FCCN activities and come together to connect, identify community issues and mobilise resources to provide information, advice, support and training.

The original concept of an event calendar was very time consuming to deliver and was not engaging as many people as the organisers had hoped. A decision was made to embed the events and activities within the Council’s web-based calendar and event information is also shared in digital flyer format through the Network emails.

Community conversations were held bi-monthly. This group was facilitated by Skylight Mental Health and themes discussed included community wellbeing during COVID and suicide prevention support. As a result of these conversations and other events, 14 individuals registered as Community Leaders; people who could be called upon by local community members when they needed information or just a friendly conversation. They are seen as a stand-by informal ‘Crisis Response’ group – people who are willing to do what is needed when the situation arises. So far, there has been a food delivery response for people isolated due to COVID or anxiety about COVID, as well as informal support for low income parents.

Because of travel restrictions, the planned community presentations and training offered had to be redesigned. The Network partnered with Country SA Primary Health Network to conduct the Fleurieu Coast Wellbeing Expo, which was very well attended by locals. They also supported the local Gone Fishing Day, which focused on mental health and was attended by more than 80 people; Lullabies of the Fleurieu 2022 for parents engaged over 100 people; No Scaredy Cats for Parents supported 10 families with children experiencing anxiety; and the Now and Next Program for parents of children with a disability.

Excitingly, the Council funded the program from 1 January to 30 June 2022, due to the successful pilot and the impressive involvement from service providers and Community Leaders. This allowed the Project Officer to sustain the momentum and goodwill of the FCCN and facilitate Accidental Counselling Training for Community Leaders.

Claire Taylor from the District Council of Yankalilla said, “This grant has been so influential in assisting our Community Team to establish and consolidate the Fleurieu Coast Community Network. It allowed us to demonstrate that the Network is truly valuable in a small regional district where we have to rely on good connections and relationships to maximise the access to services for our residents.”

Jeremy Yipp and Lauren Clair from our partners at CCI Giving recently joined one of our team meetings as part of an overview of the CCI Giving / FRRR partnership, which supports mental health in remote, rural and regional Australia, to discuss the “awesomeness” that is the In a Good Place (IAGP) program.

IAGP is a national program that focuses on place-based, grassroots mental health and wellbeing. It supports community-driven projects, services, activities or initiatives, and targets vulnerable community members who are at risk of, or are experiencing, mental health issues. Like other FRRR programs, it supports communities doing it for themselves. Projects typically bring people together, sometimes to heal, always to learn. The program helps to bring mental health and wellbeing out into the open – making it OK to talk about, OK to reach out, OK to ask for help.

CCI Giving is a foundation established by Catholic Church Insurance in 2017, and in its relatively short history, has already distributed more than $1.8M in grants, to over 200 projects right across Australia.

A large part of these funds have been distributed via the IAGP program, which began as a five year partnership in 2018, distributing $200,000 annually. We were very pleased to jointly announce a continuation of the partnership earlier this year, with a subsequent agreement in place for a further five years, and distributions increasing to $250,000 each year.

In the session, Jeremy shared one of his favourite projects with us, which was a $20,000 grant awarded to Kanyini Connections. They have developed an equine-assisted therapy program specifically for young veterans, run by a qualified equine therapist who is a young veteran herself, with lived experienced of PTSD. Funds will support two 12-week equine-assisted therapy programs to provide intensive support to 48 young veterans.

HEADING: Partnership helps put communities 'In a Good Place'. IMAGE: Hoofbeats Sanctuary sign.

Jeremy said, “It’s projects like these that need seed funding behind them to prove up their model, to see what works and what doesn’t, and why. Without assistance through programs such as the In a Good Place program, these projects may never have the opportunity to really get off the ground and reach their full potential, or it would take a lot longer for them to do so.”

The In a Good Place program has a definite and important role to play in supporting rural communities in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and the importance of promoting and supporting good mental health and wellbeing. While applications have closed for this year, perhaps now is the time to start planning your community’s project for the 2023 round.

Fourteen mental health initiatives across remote, rural and regional Australia will share in $204,607 in grants awarded through FRRR’s In a Good Place (IAGP) program.

Thanks to CCI Giving, the charitable foundation established by Catholic Church Insurance (CCI), these grants will support grassroots, community driven projects that increase social participation, help to reduce social isolation and encourage community members who are at risk of, or are experiencing, mental health issues to seek help. FRRR and CCI Giving are now in the fifth year of their partnership.

This year, the grants range from $8,000 for an initiative that will build the confidence of primary school children in Mount Murchison, QLD to $20,000 for a project that will help various communities in the Northern Territory to better understand what a developing mental health problem or crisis looks like, and respond appropriately.

Jeremy Yipp, CCI Chief Risk Officer of CCI and Chair of CCI Giving, said that the sustained interest in the program is a sign of how essential it is.

“Each year, we receive applications and expressions of interests that really highlight the gap in funding when it comes to flexible grants that are geared towards grassroots mental health programs and services. The goal of this program is to help fill that gap and offer rural communities a say in how their mental health resources are used. After all, they are the people who are being directly impacted,” said Mr Yipp.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said this program is particularly crucial now because of the increase in mental health struggles in rural Australia stemming from pressures of the pandemic and other natural disasters like floods, bushfires and drought.

“The last few years have seen remote, rural and regional communities facing challenges like never before. Often these events occur one after the other – or even at the same time. This has meant that many people in rural communities have been unable to access mental health services or support at a time when they need it most.

“In this round, we were delighted to see an increase in applications from the Northern Territory. Remote communities are often the places with the most limited access to mental health services, so it’s great to be able to help fill that gap. We also saw more requests for funding to support initiatives focussed on young people, and again, we are pleased to be able to support several of those projects to help equip them with the skills and strategies to cope with the many challenges they face,” said Ms Egleton.

Some of the 14 initiatives being funded include:

Zoe Support Australia received funding for their Mentally Healthy Mothers project to employ a case manager to provide support wrap around support for young mums who are struggling with their mental health.
  • Trustee for St Francis Xavier Primary, Lake Cargelligo – Lake Cargelligo, NSW – Earlymind – $9,062 – Develop resilience, a positive mindset andawareness of self by implementing and embedding The Resilience Project School Partnership Program to support the social and emotional health and wellbeing of students and the broader community.
  • Bluearth Foundation – Ltyentye Apurte, NT – Active Leaders Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) – $13,000 – Develop the confidence, resilience and self-awareness of senior students to enable them to create and guide physical activity and wellbeing programs for the primary school students to encourage and promote physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Kanyini Connections Ltd – Doonan, QLD – Young Veterans PTSD Program – $20,000 – Support a tailored equine therapy program by providing funds for essential program materials, equipment and consumables to assist 48 young veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who have not responded to other therapy options.
  • Lameroo Forward Inc – Lameroo, SA – Southern Mallee Mental Health Presentations – $10,000 – Grow community understanding of mental health and increase awareness by bringing in a guest speaker to share vital tips and advice at two community presentations.
  • Zoe Support Australia – Mildura, VIC – Mentally Healthy Mothers – $20,000 – Augment the current support for vulnerable young mothers by employing a case manager to provide support wrap around support, connections with community supports and knowledge around mental health for those who are struggling with their mental health.
  • Tradies IN Sight – Dubbo region , NSW  The Real Reconnections Tour $10,000 – Support tradies in rural communities to connect and develop trusted relationships that support, empower and encourage gain better understanding of mental health issues and break down stigma around dealing with emotional struggles.

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

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
NEW SOUTH WALES
The Rural Woman Co-Operative LtdMental Health Matters - Circles of Support
Enhance the mental health and wellbeing of rural women by providing a series of professionally facilitated and moderated online groups and a training program to enable participants to connect, learn, seek support and thrive.
Armidale$14,100
Tradies IN Sight IncThe Real Reconnections Tour
Support rural communities to connect and develop trusted relationships that support, empower and encourage gain better understanding of mental health issues and break down stigma around dealing with emotional struggles.
Dubbo, Tullamore, Narromine, Coonamble, Parkes$10,000
Trustee for St Francis Xavier Primary, Lake CargelligoEarlymind
Develop resilience, a positive mindset and awareness of self by implementing and embedding The Resilience Project School Partnership Program to support the social and emotional health and wellbeing of students and the broader community.
Lake Cargelligo$9,062
NORTHERN TERRITORY
SabrinasReach4Life IncHeads Up
Increase the capacity and confidence of local communities to better understand what a developing mental health problem or crisis looks like, and develop the skills and confidence to offer and apply help offering behaviours to reduce the incidences of suicide.
Darwin, Jabiru, Litchfield, Katherine$20,000
Bluearth FoundationActive Leaders Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa)
Develop the confidence, resilience and selfawareness of senior students to enable them to create and guide physical activity and wellbeing programs for the primary school students to encourage and promote
physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa)$13,000
QUEENSLAND
Chinchilla Family Support Centre IncEating With Friends in Chinchilla
Increase social connection and awareness of support services by initiating an Eating With Friends program to improve the mental health of isolated members of the community, particularly older people and
FIFO workers.
Chinchilla$11,950
Kanyini Connections LtdYoung Veterans PTSD Program
Support a tailored equine therapy program by providing funds for essential program materials, equipment and consumables to assist 48 young veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who have not
responded to other therapy options.
Doonan$20,000
Mount Murchison State SchoolGame Changer: helping Students Achieve their True Potential
Cultivate confidence in primary school children to cope with life and change by supporting five schools to implement a locally facilitated program, including staff development, to foster positive learning environments and enhance social and emotional wellbeing.
Mount Murchison$8,000
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Lameroo Forward IncSouthern Mallee Mental Health Presentations
Grow community understanding of mental health and increase awareness by bringing in a guest speaker to share vital tips and advice at two community presentations.
Lameroo$10,000
VICTORIA
Crossenvale Community Group IncYarn in the Park
Create a safe, welcoming space for locals experiencing mental health issues to attend weekly support group sessions to receive support, connection, information and resources.
Echuca$18,295
Zoe Support AustraliaMentally Healthy Mothers
Augment the current support for vulnerable young mothers by employing a case manager to provide support wrap around support, connections with community supports and knowledge around mental health for those who are struggling with their mental health.
Mildura$20,000
Let's Talk Foundation LtdLETS TALK, Woolshed to Clubhouse
Build community engagement with the LETS TALK initiative through a series of local presentations that encourage helpseeking behaviour, and raise the level of community competence in supporting
someone with mental health issues.
Terang, Hamilton, Port Fairy$15,225
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Northam Senior High SchoolNortham Senior High School Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Program
Improve the knowledge, skills, and selfefficacy of Northam SHS staff and parents/caregivers to teach, model and support social and emotional competencies to students, and support students to
improve their own social and emotional wellbeing.
Northam$20,000
York District High SchoolSocial and Emotional Learning Programs 
Improve the social and emotional wellbeing of K-Year 10 students through teacher training and purchase of resources to support the implementation across the school curriculum.
York$14,975

There are many elderly residents living there in aged care in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales who have limited financial support. In fact, the community-owned Harbison Memorial Retirement Village – which provides up to 50% of their residential places to residents who can’t afford to pay for their care and accommodation – receives no government funding for wellbeing, or capacity building programs. 

In 2021, Harbison initiated the Grand Friends Pilot Program, an inter-generational community initiative connecting elderly residents with Kinder to Year 2 students, their families and the wider community. Partway through, the program was suspended due to COVID and a lack of funding. But the Southern Highlands Community Foundation – an organisation fostering local philanthropy to support community needs and initiatives – auspiced a grant application on behalf of Harbison, and received $20,000  through FRRR’s In a Good Place (IAGP) program to complete their pilot.

Through the generous support of CCI Giving, this IAGP grant helped restart Harbison’s pilot program, which concluded in December 2021 following a short suspension. And with benefits for both aged care residents and children alike, the program has now begun to roll out to other local schools.

The weekly program involves Kinder, Year 1 and Year 2 classes hosting their Grand Friends, with everyone participating in structured activities, conversation and a shared morning tea. In between visits, the children write letters, make cards, rock friends and complete activities to prepare for the next Grand Friends visit – Grand Friends become part of the day-to-day discussions and activities in the classroom. Residents reported reduced loneliness and incidences of depression, improved memory, mood, confidence and mobility, and an increased sense of meaning and purpose in their life.. The program also saw evidence that participating children develop empathy, social confidence and language skills.

Harbison resident, Harold Griffin, believes it is a gift to be able to visit his junior class each week.

“I get a thrill out of attending the school visit. The energy and excitement the kids have, created by our group attending their school, is wonderful,“ Harold said.