Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Roadmap workshops have been an important part of the IRCF program in each community. Each year in each of the eight participating communities, a diverse group of people from across the community sector comes together to harness each other’s knowledge and together map out what will make the greatest difference in their community.

The competitive nature of many funding and granting programs can hinder collaboration between not-for-profits. The annual IRCF roadmapping process is a space for the community to ‘un-learn’ competition and build enhanced local partnerships and relationships.

One South Coast participant reflected that, “Roadmapping was brilliant. We had a big demographic of people, and it made everything very concise and clear.”

Each roadmap developed is a unique reflection of the priorities of each IRCF community, with a few recurring themes. One of those recurring themes is engaging young people as the next generation of leadership for communities and the not-for-profit sector. This was tackled head on when young people from Ulladulla High School came together in March to develop a roadmap of their own.

The result: a ‘Youth Roadmap’ for the community with some brilliant ideas for how young people can work alongside existing community organisations, events and infrastructure to enhance them and get the next generation more involved. There is now a movement for change building in partnership with local backbone organisation, the Dunn Lewis Centre.

So why is developing a roadmap so important? They create a shared vision that can act as a map for how the community – and young people – can move forward together with greater connection and a shared vision and common goals for a thriving future.

The IRCF program is designed with roadmapping, community facilitators and capacity building at its core. In the NSW South Coast, the program is culminating in 2024, so the team took the opportunity to codesign four final roadmapping workshops using techniques learned at the Art of Hosting workshop.

A strong learning from the IRCF program around how to connect with busy volunteers who juggle many balls and wear many hats, is the art of invitation. For these workshops our invitation was ‘Lets celebrate our collective effort & explore how to continue the momentum in our community’.

These workshops embraced the opportunity for the groups to review the roadmaps, explore what else may be done, and of course to network. We took a supportive approach to enable the groups to delve into collaborative projects that will benefit the entire community – which will be the focus of the remaining funds generously provided by the Snow Foundation and Bendigo Bank Community Enterprise foundation in the communities.

Attendance at the workshops was strong, with FRRRhosting 55 people. When everyone had gathered, we opened with a check in question at each location: “Can you tell us about a benefit you have personally felt or gained from the IRCF program?”

The sharing that came from this considered question was much richer than any survey could have gathered. Carolyn Ardler, South Coast Program Manager for IRCF, said, “Using Art of Hosting techniques to delve into deeper conversations has been such a strength of the program.”

The groups shared that they now felt more connected to and aware of the NFP community. They have formed stronger relationships within this community and they can now see who is doing what and who has similar needs and common struggles. Not only that but they had formed friendships. The sharing of the skills they had gained was outstanding, with some sharing their growth following opportunities such as the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter, Regenerate residential program and the Changemakers program, all of which focussed on leadership skill building and connection.

Other learnings were the wide range of capacity building workshops and opportunities throughout the four years. The joy of getting to know people and learn so much from one another without following a cookie cutter approach was one of the biggest benefits of the place based program.

On more than one occasion, people shared that this was the “first time they had popped their head up to see what else was happening.” One Rotarian who has been involved since the beginning of the program said that, “It gave Rotary an opportunity to look at our organisation differently, as well as the opportunity to work with and support other organisations.” A lovely comment was made by a volunteer that it provided “camaraderie – that we all are striving to improve our society.”

The IRCF roadmaps all identified that the NFP sector has a desire to connect with cultural services and better understand the competency journey that comes when connecting more deeply to local first nations culture and people. A participant shared that she has now “a deeper appreciation of indigenous culture.”

The exploration of where we can build on this momentum was different in each community with some groups emerging focused on how community can collectively address important national issues such as homelessness, regional transport and deeper first nations connections, whilst other groups are building alliances across the sector to advocate for funding. The emergence of backbone organisations that support the sector is a strong theme, with one organisation already embedded deeply after four years and wanting to establish more processes and networks to support the volunteers in community.

The workshops were a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the cumulative impact that the program has had and to enable us to capture the importance of networking. It provided a space for openness and generosity of the people in the room to shine – creating the opportunity to renew connection and trust in the communities.

Recently our IRCF Program Manager, Nancy Sposato, along with representatives from Junee Community Centre, Junee Community Power and Junee Shire Council spent three joyful days learning about The Art of Hosting at a workshop led by Percolab (formerly Campfire Coop) in Bright, VIC.

They came together with 40 community leaders from across the country. Each leader brought a passion for nurturing community conversations and a desire to do it better.

For Junee members, this participation was supported by an IRCF Toolbox grant with local leaders intending to apply skills gained towards developing effective and meaningful ways to foster inclusive community engagement and to have a shared language to be able to support each other in their efforts well into the future. The Junee initiatives that will directly benefit from this investment in people include a project that engages young people in the NFP sector, the development of culturally safe services and uptake in the renewable energy transition.

Nancy reflected, “A question that comes up time and time again is how to manage conflict and differing perspectives in a community. This is a very natural question when people are working on projects that they care strongly about and when people have invested a lot of time and energy.”

The skills gained over the three days offered efficient methods and insights into the awareness we need to have as individuals and the ways people can work together to foster positive cultures where everyone participating feels supported and included. Participants of the workshop spoke about using some of the tools they had learned immediately in work and during meetings.

Nancy and the rest of the community leaders, left with multiple techniques for having important conversations that can be applied to multiple contexts, frameworks to use for collaborative project design and creative ways to collate and share information gathered from community conversations to support greater impact and momentum.

You can check out a foundational Art of Hosting technique, the Four-Fold practice, at the link below.

Learn About The Four-Fold Practice

Four Victorian philanthropic organisations have joined forces in an exciting $5 million partnership with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) that will strengthen the capacity and resilience of communities over the next five years.

Five women standing in front of a garden
IRCF Victoria Co-funders (L-R): Ferdi Hepworth, Grants Lead of William Buckland Foundation ; Louise Kuramoto, CEO of the Jack Brockhoff Foundation ; Debra Morgan, CEO at the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust ; Natalie Egleton, CEO of the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal ; Sarah Hardy, CEO of The Ross Trust

Three Victorian communities will be named later this year, following a detailed process involving needs analysis, mapping key issues, causes of disruption and the funding landscape, and an exploration of community readiness for the investment. 

The partnership comprises the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the Jack Brockhoff Foundation, The Ross Trust, and William Buckland Foundation. FRRR will deliver the program, following the success of its similar Investing in Rural Communities Futures program (IRCF) in NSW over the past five years.

The funding will enable local not-for-profits (NFPs) to become more confident and collaborative in their approach to improving and sustaining the vibrancy, resilience, and liveability of their communities, ultimately enabling them to thrive, not just survive, especially during times of natural disasters.

“Investing in and strengthening the social and economic fabric of Victorian rural communities fosters long-term resilience,” says the CEO of FRRR, Natalie Egleton. “We know that our model can deliver these outcomes, and the multi-year model builds a whole-of-community approach.”

The $5 million funding will be used to employ local facilitators, deliver capacity building activities for the local NFPs such as governance training, volunteer development, marketing and fundraising support, and events. Funds will also be allocated to the three communities via grants for priorities and for organisational capacity building. Evaluation is central to the program.

The NSW program

The NSW program started in 2018 after FRRR recognised that many grassroots organisations were ‘locked out’ of philanthropy and often unable to access opportunities to invest in their own organisational capacity due to their size, distance, financial capacity, and lack of staffing.

“Most of the NFP work that happens in small towns is volunteer run and there just isn’t any money or resources to help them be sustainable,” Natalie said. “Local leaders know what is going to make the biggest difference in their community and we knew that supporting local solutions would be key.”

The program commenced in Junee, Leeton, and Nambucca Valley with the support of Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. The Snow Foundation and Bendigo Bank then joined to enable FRRR to take the program to Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, Nowra, and Bay & Basin. The Australian Government provided additional funding to expand the program in the Shoalhaven region and launch the program in Bega through their Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Program.

Evolution of the Victorian partnership

The plan to bring a similar program to Victoria began in late 2022 after The Ross Trust began discussions with FRRR and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust. Conversations then began with the Jack Brockhoff Foundation and William Buckland Foundation. Importantly, the leaders in all these organisations had strong existing relationships and numerous granting collaborations with each other, as well as with FRRR.

“I could see that this program was about building the skills, resources and capacity of local not-for-profits – and that it was working,” said Sarah Hardy, the CEO of The Ross Trust. “It was also clear that any Victorian partnership would need a commitment of $5 million to get off the ground. That is a lot of money for any one mid-sized philanthropic, when we all have ongoing projects.”

Sarah said the positive and trusting relationships between the five organisations meant they were able to openly discuss whether it was a project that their trustees and directors would support.

The CEO at the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Debra Morgan, said the early conversations and resulting partnership benefited from like-minded organisations working together.

“We realised early that we couldn’t do anything this significant alone, and that working together would help us to affect better and longer-term change,” Debra said. “This collaboration sets a new bar in how we work together, and it’s certainly the longest-term project we have funded under our new strategy.”

Louise Kuramoto, the CEO of the Jack Brockhoff Foundation, said that it was the first time, other than a commemorative grant, the foundation had made a five-year commitment to a project.

“The philosophy behind this program is not unusual, but the amount and duration are,” Louise said. “The solid track record of FRRR gave all four funders the confidence to invest at such a scale. It’s wonderful that we can come together to support communities and the people in them.”

For the Grants Lead of William Buckland Foundation, Ferdi Hepworth, the program perfectly aligns with her organisation’s long commitment to country Victorians.

“We have had a long partnership with FRRR and more recently we’ve been funding a program where FRRR distributes small grants to communities, and we had already been talking about how we could better support them,” Ferdi said. “It was very easy to say yes to being part of this partnership.

“We often see governments and big business leading change, but it’s the people in the community who best know the ingredients required to help that community thrive. This project supports those people with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to work together to achieve change.”

After many emails, online and in-person meetings, visits to NSW communities, and discussions with their trustees and directors, the four funders set themselves a deadline of June this year to see if they could raise the $5 million to commence the program in July 2025. By April, they had done it.

“For four mid-sized philanthropic organisations to raise $5 million when we already have current commitments shocked us all, but in a good way,” Sarah said.

How the program will work in Victoria

FRRR will study past granting trends and community profiles and will map issues and disruptions occurring or on the horizon, as well as the funding landscape, to select the three communities. The process will also include community consultation, with a shortlisting process that will invite expressions of interest. Given the program is grounded in deep collaboration and co-design with each community, it is vital that there is a sense of readiness to embark on the five-year partnership.

Once communities are selected, a locally based community facilitator will work with the local NFP sector to scope priorities, gaps and opportunities that will be collated into a sector roadmap. The roadmap, which will be refreshed annually, will be the framework for activating capacity building activities and funding, and for monitoring progress, celebrating change, and adjusting priorities as needed.

Natalie from FRRR said she was confident many Victorian communities would be enthusiastic about the opportunity, adding that, like in NSW, it was likely the communities would be at very different starting points.

“Success is turning out to be different in each community, which is fine because the indicators we are interested in all focus on changes in mindset and sector collaboration to drive new and better opportunities for their communities – and that has been a major success,” Natalie said.

FRRR will employ a program manager who lives in Victoria and is familiar with key concerns and issues in the state. Local facilitators will also be employed in each community. Over time, it is expected that more than 20 people will be employed in the program. Staff and volunteers will benefit from training and professional development and possibly partnerships with councils, TAFEs and universities.

Deb Samuels is the People Portfolio Lead at FRRR and will oversee the Victorian project.

“We now have five years of NSW evaluation data and interviews and the recurring theme is that people in the communities feel much more empowered to make decisions and collaborate,” Deb said. “If they know a large grant opportunity is coming up, they know who to call to say, ‘let’s pool our efforts to apply’.”

Deb cited examples of success that could be replicated in Victoria, such as one NFP leader rallying to halt the closure of a local bank branch that was relied upon by vulnerable residents, and another leader now running for mayor.

“Local leaders involved in the IRCF program have shared they would not have had the confidence to do things like that in the past,” Deb said. Young people can also engage with the program and see themselves as an important part of the NFP sector.

“One of the best things somebody said to me is that ‘the funders believed in us and invested in us, and now we believe in ourselves and what we can do’.”

Not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) across the South Coast are sharing more than $360,000 across 27 projects that will strengthen their capacity to support their local communities.

A group of people cheering, some with their arms in the air.
Roadmap workshop participants in Ulladulla gathering to co-design the community priorities prior to the 2023 grant round.

The funding comes through FRRR’s Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) program, in partnership with The Snow Foundation and Community Enterprise Foundation, which has been operating across the South Coast since 2020.

Carolyn Ardler, FRRR’s Program Manager for the IRCF South Coast program, said that the premise of the IRCF program is to encourage local groups to engage in greater collaboration, skill-building and, where possible, share resources and learnings for the benefit of the whole community.

“The IRCF program is all about helping local groups to be better able to support the communities and causes they were set up to assist. It involves a mix of grants directly to individual NFPs and workshops and training (usually led by a local group on behalf of other NFPs), all supported by a facilitator in each community who works alongside the groups. The program is entirely community driven, starting with a co-designed community roadmap that’s updated regularly, which helps FRRR and our partners prioritise where to direct investment in each community.

“Over the last three years, there’s been significant investment in strategy and planning, and now we’re seeing more projects around efficiencies, systems and processes, alongside continued investment in people and their capacity. As we head toward the culmination phase of the program, we’re also seeing communities establishing the systems and processes to sustain the networks, connections and collaborative ways of working they’ve established in recent years, so that’s exciting,” Ms Ardler said.

The Snow Foundation was the first donor partner to support the program on the South Coast and local resident and Chairman of the Foundation, Terry Snow, said that it’s so rewarding to see the long-term changes that have come about.

“While there’s still a few months until the program formally concludes, it’s been wonderful to see how well the local not-for-profit and community groups have embraced the chance to come together, agree where they could all benefit from upskilling and sharing their experiences, and to then put it into action. There are several organisations that are now much stronger and they are better able to support not only their chosen beneficiaries, but also other not-for-profit organisations. We’re delighted to have been part of this and look forward to seeing these projects that are being announced today also make an impact,” Mr Snow said.

Bay & Basin projects

In the Bay & Basin area, seven projects are sharing $76,749, thanks to the support of Bendigo Bank’s Community Enterprise Foundation. The focus in this round of funding was strongly on youth-aligned organisations and projects. This part of the South Coast is one of the more recent areas to come on board the IRCF journey, so the groups are still building connections and working closely with the local IRCF facilitator.

David Impey, CEO of the Community Enterprise Foundation, said it’s really pleasing to be able to support more projects that will strengthen the future of these local organisations and the region.

“It’s exciting to see a diverse range of projects continuing to come forward from local NFPs. This round, we are pleased to see several that focus on engaging young people, which is great to see as they are critical to ensuring a strong future in these regions. But there are also a number of projects that will enhance the capacity of these organisations, such as better systems and processes, upskilling staff or volunteers and creating assets and resources that can be shared across NFPs. This goes right to the heart of ensuring strong communities and we are delighted to be part of it.”

Nowra projects

Ten projects in and around Nowra are sharing $114,911, thanks to support from The Snow Foundation. This is the final round of grants for Nowra and we’ve seen increased networking activities and discussions about how to collaborate on projects. This tranche of projects has a strong focus on supporting people and developing systems.

Batemans Bay projects

This is also the final round of funding for Batemans Bay and five projects will share $94,946, with support from The Snow Foundation. With these grants there is a focus on creating efficiencies and most projects are collaborative, with more than one organisation benefitting.

Ulladulla projects

Thanks again to The Snow Foundation, five projects are sharing $76,125, most of which focus on enhancing administration systems and procedures to improve capacity and better support the community.

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

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
BATEMANS BAY
Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn Parish of MoruyaMoruya Commons Community Hub - Fostering Participatory Culture
Foster collaboration, reducing duplication and strengthening networks across the not-for-profit sector by providing IT equipment and governance for a shared office space.
Moruya$20,546
Arts Council of Eurobodalla IncSASI - Shared Administrative Systems Implementation
Ease volunteer working conditions through employing a co-ordinator to develop procedures and policy manuals for three organisations - Arts Council, River of Art Festival and Sustainable Agriculture Eurobodalla (SAGE).
Moruya$30,000
Southcoast Health and Sustainability AllianceGovernance In Action - Enhancing Sustainability and Collaboration for NFPs
Support organisation to proactively tackle climate change, with training for volunteer committee in financial management, governance and administrative systems.
Batemans Bay$14,400
Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening EurobodallaPolicies, Procedures and Capacity Building for SAGE Volunteers
Support development of strong local food systems, offering events and training opportunities for community, by establishing an event management / coordinator position.
Moruya$10,000
The Family Place IncBuilding a Resilient Future: Advancing Sustainable Growth through Fee for Service Expansion
Expand access to support services by growing organisation's capabilities, through increased staffing resource to enable CEO to focus on building sustainable OOHC model.
Moruya$20,000
BAY & BASIN
Bay & Basin Community Resources LimitedWork Re-Design to Thrive and Grow
Upskilling staff to re-design workflows and tasks to increase the efficiency of a community organisation.
Bay & Basin region$29,734
Changing Tide Wellness LtdCommunity Connect: Empowering Wellness
Creating an accessible, inclusive website, so those with disabilities can more easily access information about appropriate services.
Bay & Basin$5,426
Community Champions - SP&SGB IncCommunity Champions - Bay & Basin Community Growth and Empowerment Workshops 2023/24
Encourage collaborative community conversations to explore ways to better support the community across the not-for-profit sector.
St Georges Basin / Sanctuary Point$4,000
Noah's Ark Centre of Shoalhaven IncBuilding Bay & Basin
Administration support for a service provider that is focused on children with disabilities and special needs, so they can expand and embed their services.
Sanctuary Point$7,488
Sanctuary Point Community Pride IncorporatedSanctuary Point Nexus: Fostering Pride and Unity
Bolster community engagement and pride in Sanctuary Point by creating a comprehensive visual of community assets.
Sanctuary Point$5,650
Sussex Inlet Foundation for Community DevelopmentBuilding Youth-focused Services for Sussex Inlet
Encourage youth engagement and involvement in the community through the development of a Youth Advisory Group.
Sussex Inlet$9,500
yiliga-miraral Wellbeing Team Vincentia High School P&C Associationwalawaani-ngarn Into The Future
Measuring the impact of a program that provides wellbeing support to students and families to help attract additional funding, so it can continue.
Vincentia$14,951
NOWRA
Beyond Empathy LimitedBE Studios Capacity Building Project
Strengthen organisational capacity in Nowra and the Shoalhaven region by engaging someone to develop a business plan, marketing strategy and promotional materials to support employment pathways for young artists.
Nowra$14,144
Kangaroo Valley Voice IncorporatedKangaroo Valley Voice Capacity Building and Longevity Project
Enhance organisational capacity and sustainability by employing part-time staff and developing a website for The Kangaroo Valley Voice newspaper to better connect the community.
Kangaroo Valley$20,000
Noah's Ark Centre of Shoalhaven IncOur Workforce - A New Way
Boost organisational capacity by creating a tool to help a children and family service provider transition to flexible working.
Nowra$9,400
Nowra Community Food Store IncorporatedHR Plan Implementation
Strengthening operations by providing training and capacity building for staff and volunteers at a low-cost grocery store, which is run as a social enterprise.
South Nowra$7,377
Nowra Local Aboriginal Land CouncilStrong Board Foundations
Strengthening operations through training in IT, cyber-security and financial record keeping for staff and Board members to support their transition to digital record-keeping.
Bomaderry$9,500
Shoalhaven Business Chamber IncorporatedResource Hub Shoalhaven
Upgrading a website to create a central hub for policies, procedures and tools for members.
Nowra, North Nowra, Bomaderry, West Nowra$11,490
Shoalhaven Neighbourhood Services IncCreating Efficiencies: Streamlining Policies and Procedures
Creating efficiencies by streamlining processes, policies and practices to comply with current regulations.
Nowra$10,000
Shoalhaven Womens Resource Group LtdStrategic Aim 2 - Successful and Sustainable Operation of ROCC
Build organisational stability by engaging a HR consultant to review HR and WHS policies, as well as conduct team building and wellbeing activities to strengthen an organisation’s culture.
Nowra$15,000
South Coast Beef Producers Association IncorporatedUpgrading the South Coast Beef Website
Upgrading a website to handle financial transactions such as invoices and taking payments, thereby streamlining processes and freeing up staff.
Nowra$3,000
Waminda South Coast Women's Health and Wellbeing Aboriginal Corporation

Blak Cede Social Enterprises - Pathways to Cultural Employment
Supporting a social enterprise to create pathways to cultural employment for First Nations women, by funding training workshops, supporting work experience and creating mentoring opportunities.

Terara$15,000
ULLADULLA
Growing Together South Coast IncorporatedGrowing Stronger Together
Support skills development with training in market gardening and first aid, developing an e-commerce platform and sourcing funding streams for new NFP growth.
Milton$14,900
Safe Waters Community Care IncASES Accreditation for Financially Sustainable Homeless Services in Ulladulla
Build expansion of homelessness service, allowing access to longer term government funding with formal Australian Service Excellence Standards (ASES) accreditation and policies and procedures update.
Ulladulla$16,565
South Coast Bookclubs IncorporatedGrowth of Services
Foster literacy, social connections and engagement by collaborating with three organisations, pooling resources, and providing local book access.
Ulladulla$7,200
StoryFest IncorporatedStoryFest Sustainable Schools Program
Encourage youth to develop a love of reading and writing, by building an ongoing sustainable financial model to host the Annual Literacy Festival for school students.
Milton$15,000
The Dunn & Lewis Youth Development Foundation LimitedConnected Space
Develop youth employability / life skills via inspiring stories / achievements, through creating a communication strategy and building a website.
Ulladulla$22,460

By Deb Samuels, People Portfolio Lead

With the rates of volunteering on the decline, how will we replace these tireless volunteers with a new generation of community leaders? It’s encouraging to know the Australian Government is making an investment in the future of volunteering. The recent press release from Minister Andrew Leigh’s office ‘Getting more young people back into volunteering’ provides some targets and strategies for engaging with and encouraging more youth volunteering and developing an open source ‘playbook’ for the sector.

ABC Heywire Summit 2023 presentation
ABC Heywire Youth Summit 2023
Photo credit: Bradley Cummings

For rural, regional and remote communities, harnessing the energy and social consciousness of young people represents an incredible opportunity – and unique challenges – to do things differently when it comes to local community leadership and volunteerism. The work we do at FRRR supports so many volunteer-run groups providing critical services across these communities that may not otherwise exist. As the Government funded work unfolds to inspire future volunteers, developing a targeted strategy for engaging young people living in rural, regional and remote contexts will be so important to ensure the viability of these essential volunteer-run resources.

My work at FRRR provides an up-close view of the hopes, dreams and frustrations of young people living in rural, regional and remote Australia, through our partnership with the ABC Heywire, Takeover and Trailblazer programs. Young people who care deeply about fairness, diversity and equity, who are keenly aware that they will be emerging into adulthood in a world suffering the impacts of climate change, and who have grown up with technology and access to instant information at their fingertips. Young people who have lived their formative years impacted by a series of traumatic events – bushfires, drought, floods and a global pandemic – missing much anticipated milestones and often feeling unsure about what opportunities might still be open to them in the future. Young people who want to make sure the voices of diverse and marginalised people are heard, and who value flexibility and investing in wellbeing. Young people who, when given the opportunity and voice, are a source of innovative and practical solutions to some of the biggest challenges Australia’s rural, regional and remote communities are facing.

What I’m also seeing in our place-based capacity building programs, like Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF), is that the volunteers who have been the backbone of small community organisations for decades are now looking to retire and pass the baton. They are exhausted because so much of the recovery work, from the series of disasters in recent years, has fallen on their shoulders. They know the answer lies in engaging young people as the next generation of leaders but are often not quite sure how. We also see that young people want to connect and help, but they struggle to see themselves in the same roles their parents and grandparents have held, doing things the way they have always been done.

Instead of inviting regional young people to take a seat at the existing community leadership table, what if we first co-design a new ‘table’ with them? To hear and really listen to the ways they are inspired to connect. I couldn’t agree more that taking on a volunteer role can be empowering and career building for young people, but first we need to make sure we get the ecosystem right.

Could some volunteer opportunities be done remotely or more flexibly? Could a broader model of shared leadership be adopted? Could some traditional volunteer roles become paid or partially paid roles, so that young people without the means to donate their time, can still be involved in their community in meaningful ways and become inspired for a lifetime of connection to the sector? And definitely not to be left out – how can we make sure there’s a healthy dose of fun in volunteering?

There is sometimes an assumption made that because they are not showing up in familiar ways, young people don’t want to show up for community. What I see and hear is the exact opposite. Young people in regional communities are looking at complex problems, with fresh eyes, and coming up with entrepreneurial solutions. Like the volunteer Youth Leadership Committee at Heywire grantee Human Nature, who shaped their alumni program with the flexibility for young people to participate in activities that interest them and suit their personal life goals. And like the Regional Education Support Network (RESN), a youth volunteer-led organisation that has connected 1,400 school students with over 400 online peer tutoring volunteers across regional NSW and Victoria.

As young people imagine their futures, wouldn’t it be great if they had a career with a social impact focus on their radars as an exciting and viable one? To see staying in their rural, regional or remote community as a first choice to do work that aligns with their values, and not one that comes with a long list of compromises.

It brings me so much joy in my work at FRRR to know that we are committed to deeper engagement with regional young people. We are adding meaningful opportunities for their powerful voices to be present and truly heard in decision making that values their knowledge and reflects their values. This year, with generous donor support, we are embedding paid youth advisor roles to work alongside NFP’s implementing youth-designed projects funded through the Takeover Mildura program. We have also shifted a volunteer ABC Heywire Youth Internship role to a paid position, along with offering an honorarium for our Youth Advisory Panel who assess grant applications. This will ensure that all eligible young people have the opportunity to take a leadership role in deciding what projects best meet the needs of young people.

We never want to lose the opportunities for unpaid volunteering. However, when we are asking young people to share their expertise and lived experience, we need to make sure those unique skills are valued. Re-imagining how small volunteer-centred NFPs in remote, rural and regional communities might survive and continue to operate as vital community resources and services in the future is no small challenge. The answer lies with the young people who will both lead and need these programs and services. They are the solution, so let’s take every opportunity to listen and learn.

Regenerate Bega Valley and Regenerate Shoalhaven – two leadership development programs designed in response to the 2019-20 bushfires – are currently open for applications.

Leaders of local not-for-profit organisations in the Bega Valley and Shoalhaven region are invited to apply for locally-delivered leadership development programs, designed to build their capacity to help with ongoing bushfire recovery and response.

There are 24 scholarships offered in each location for local leaders who’ll get access to some of the best leadership thinking and practice available, plus practical tools and skills via experiential learning.

The Australian Government’s Black Summer Bushfire Recovery grants program is funding the programs, to be delivered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) in partnership with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR).

FRRR’s Acting CEO Sarah Matthee explains they’re part of FRRR’s Investing in Rural Community Futures program which aims to build confidence, ability, skills and longer-term sustainability of the region’s NFPs.

“We know local not-for-profits are often leaned on significantly, especially in the event of a natural disaster as was the case with the Black Summer bushfires,” she says.

“Pressure on programs, services and volunteers is leading to fatigue and a depletion of local resources. From our work over the last few years in both these communities, we’ve seen an overwhelming appetite for cross sector collaboration and planning within the community. The ARLF leadership programs will help boost their capacity and impact.”

ARLF Chief Executive Matt Linnegar says the Regenerate Shoalhaven and Bega Valley programs will help local leaders to collaborate, build networks and lead community initiatives.

“When future emergencies, or opportunities occur, this network will be invaluable. They won’t be just names and positions; they’ll know and trust each other and be able to work through the challenges in front of them, to build resilience.

“This leadership network will guide and empower communities to address bushfire recovery priorities aimed at rebuilding and growing their local economy.”

For Carina Severs, manager at Eden Community Access Centre and chair of the Eden Recovery and Resilience Alliance, resilience is about knowledge.

“I’d like people to know what’s available, to know the ‘capability and capacity’ of frontline emergency services, as well as the support services such as Red Cross, CWA have. Resilience is about learning skills and being able to look after yourself as best you can, but it is also about showing care for those around you – your neighbours, friends and others.”

Also welcoming the Regenerate programs, Kangaroo Valley community champion Nat Harker reflects: “No lives were lost, but our community has changed. Some people have since left, most are still carrying trauma but we are working closely together to build resilience for the future – to strive, survive and then thrive.”

Applications for the Regenerate Bega Valley and Regenerate Shoalhaven leadership programs are now open. Each program is open to volunteers or employees in the not-for-profit sector. There will be two four-day residential sessions starting in August. For more details and to apply, visit rural-leaders.org.au (regional programs). Applications close on 18 June.

Local NFP leaders invited to join a roadmapping workshop

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and Bega Valley Shire Council are pleased to announce the start of a new initiative under the $1.3 million Australian Government Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program.

Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) Bega Valley – Resilience Connection and Place Project builds on the work done over the last year through FRRR’s Investing in Not-for-Profit Capacity in Regional NSW (INFPC) program.

IRCF Bega Valley will support not-for-profits (NFPs) by strengthening their capacity to service local communities through a mix of on-the-ground support, using local facilitators and access to workshops and training.

IMAGE: IRCF Facilitators Leah Szanto and Bree Morgan. TITLE: IRCF Bega Valley project begins to roll out.
Leah Szanto and Bree Morgan

Bega Valley Shire Council is hosting two part-time facilitators, Leah Szanto and Bree Morgan. The facilitators will be connecting with groups across the shire to identify ways in which the local NFP sector can strengthen and adapt to changing community needs in order to thrive. NFPs will be invited to participate in a collaborative planning process aimed at building their capacity and ensuring the sustainability of individual organisations and projects through networking, skill development and community-led initiatives.

The IRCF model is currently being implemented in seven other communities across NSW. A key element is a road mapping process where goals and priorities are decided by the community, for the community. Work has already been done on this through the INFPC program over the last 12 months and now a roadmap will be designed at a workshop in Bega on Tuesday 14 March at 9:00 am. All local NFP leaders are invited to attend and registration is essential via https://frrr-bvsc-workshop.paperform.co/.

FRRR’s IRCF Program Coordinator, Carolyn Ardler, said this locally co-designed program will help the Bega Valley become even stronger than it was before the bushfires.

“It’s been great to see support being channelled into Bega Valley communities following the Black Summer bushfires, but we have also heard that it’s been overwhelming in many respects,” Ms Ardler said. “This new program will allow NFP community organisations and local leaders to work together to identify gaps in their capacity that may be hampering their ability to make the most of the funding and support that they have access to.

“It will also strengthen connections between NFP organisations and other communities where it operates. We’ve seen groups collaborate on projects that are truly transformational for their community, so it’s exciting to see the program kicking into gear.”

Council’s Community Development Coordinator, Chani Keefer, said it was great to be partnering with FRRR on this program.

“The goal of IRCF Bega Valley isn’t just to recover from the bushfires, but also to make our community stronger for the future,” Ms Keefer said. “This model will allow local community leaders to prioritise where they need to build their skills and capacity so they can work collectively towards a socially, economically and environmentally stronger Bega Valley.

“Having local facilitators on-the-ground has proven to be critical in other communities where this model has been implemented.”

To find out more about the IRCF program or to get involved, visit ircf.frrr.org.au/Bega or contact FRRR Carolyn Ardler, IRCF Program Coordinator – South Coast on 1800 170 020.

FRRR announced today that they have appointed two facilitators in the Shoalhaven region to support the ongoing delivery of their Investing in Rural Communities Futures program.

These positions are being funded using part of the $1.3 million investment made by the Australian Government, through the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Program, which FRRR announced in November 2022.

The Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) program has operated in the Shoalhaven and South Coast area since 2020, thanks to support from The Snow Foundation and Bendigo Bank, through their Community Enterprise Foundation. It is designed to help increase the capacity of the myriad of not-for-profit organisations who are so critical to the sustainability and vibrancy of the area.

Over the last three years, not-for-profits in Nowra, Ulladulla, Bateman’s Bay and more recently the Bay and Basin communities have come together to develop a roadmap of the assistance and skill-building that will help local NFPs to prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters, as well as the opportunities in the community. The most recently Federal Government funding means that support can now extend to Lake Conjola and Kangaroo Valley, areas that were severely affected by the Black Summer Bushfires.

The appointment of the two facilitators is the latest stage in the roll out of the funding from the Australian Government. That funding is also being used to support leadership and skill development, such as participation at the Art of Hosting workshop which is underway at Willinga Park in Bawley Point this week.

Meg Stratti will be working with communities in Nowra and Kangaroo Valley. She has lived in the Shoalhaven for the last 10 years, working to support local communities primarily through roles in adult education.

Kate McBride, who will work with Bay & Basin communities has lived on Yuin Country for around 20 years, and brings more than 15 years’ experience in capacity building and community engagement within not-for-profits (NFPs), grassroots community organisations and local government sectors.

Meg and Kate join Monique Carson (looking after Ulladulla and surrounds) and Jules Klugman (Batemans Bay) in working with community groups across the South Coast.

FRRR’s IRCF Program Coordinator for the South Coast, Carolyn Ardler, says that the additional Government support is a great opportunity to build upon the work they have been doing in the local communities with the support of philanthropic partners through the IRCF program.

“This workshop is the first chance that we’ve had to bring the facilitators together with local community leaders. All of them are attending the Art of Hosting workshop, which will enhance everyone’s ability to engage in conversations about the issues that matter. Together with the roadmap, this will ensure we’re all on the same page and can continue to work together to ensure local leaders have the tools they need to work towards their goals and priorities.

“This session is just one example of how we will continue to use this program to make sure the communities themselves are leading the conversation when it comes to their recovery,” Ms Samuels explained.

Matt Dell, President of Business Milton Ulladulla and Community Connect Southern Shoalhaven, says it’s rewarding to see the funding having such a direct benefit on the Shoalhaven communities.

“Enormous progress has been made in our local areas to recover after the devastating Black Summer fires. The IRCF program has been vital in supporting the community to rebuild and reconnect. It is absolutely essential the ICRF program continues with additional resources to empower our recovery and future resilience.”

Other upcoming initiatives include a leadership training program, which is being led by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, plus other sessions prioritised by the local community.

To find out more about the IRCF program in your community or to get involved, visit ircf.frrr.org.au or contact FRRR on 1800 170 020.

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal today welcomed the expansion of the place-based Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) program to the Bega Valley, thanks to an injection of $1.3 million through the Australian Government’s Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Program.

IRCF is a grassroots program aimed at building and supporting the capacity of not-for-profits so they in turn can support social, economic and built environment recovery. By working locally over the next two years, it aims to strengthen local not-for-profit (NFP) organisations and ultimately enable them to thrive, which in turn will have a positive impact on community wellbeing and sustainability. It is based on a mix of local on-the-ground support, access to workshops and training and collaboration with local community groups.

The IRCF Bega Valley – Resilience Connection and Place Project builds on the Investing in Not-for-Profit Capacity program, which FRRR has been running in Bega over the last 18 months.

The investment will allow for two community development project officers to be appointed – one full time, one part-time – in partnership with the Bega Valley Shire Council. They will work closely with local NFP organisations and community groups, including the three Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC’s).

An important part of the program will be to develop a ‘roadmap’ for the local not-for-profit and community sector, to identify common areas of interest, shared assets and needs for capacity building. Once these needs are identified, the IRCF Community Development Project Officers will develop relevant resources and help facilitate training and other support to help NFP’s to maximise the impact of their work. They will also provide support in accessing other grant funding for the various groups that get involved.

The program will also deliver leadership training into the community, thanks to a partnership with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.

FRRR’s People Programs Portfolio Lead Deb Samuels says that this really is a collaborative, community-driven program.

“FRRR has worked hand in hand with community groups over the last 20 plus years, so we know that locals are best placed to know what they really need. Our role is simply to help facilitate the support that they need – and that’s exactly what this program is going to do.

“We’ve rolled out this model successfully now in seven other locations across NSW, so we know that this approach of bringing local NFPs and community groups together really works, especially when you combine it with on-the-ground facilitators. Together, they can identify common issues and opportunities and collectively prioritise where investment is needed, and what form it should take – including paying particular attention to ensuring it’s inclusive and culturally appropriate – to build their capacity as a sector.

“We’ve seen some fantastic spin-off investment and leveraging of resources and we fully expect the same to happen in Bega Valley communities. We’re really excited to get started!” Ms Samuels said.

Applications are now also open for the two facilitator roles, with details on the Bega Valley Shire Council site.

Designing and tailoring the IRCF program is a highly collaborative process. The next step is for FRRR, Bega Valley Shire Council and Australian Rural Leadership Foundation to meet with some key local leaders and start to map out how to harness this opportunity to build on what is already happening in the Bega Valley.

To find out more about the IRCF program or to get involved, visit ircf.frrr.org.au/Bega or contact FRRR Carolyn Ardler, IRCF Program Coordinator – South Coast on 1800 170 020.