Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

An innovative program drawing on the personal experience of its founder’s family is making an impact on veterans and current service personnel in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley.

Bootstraps is a volunteer-operated charity that runs a drop-in recovery centre for former service personnel who may be having difficulties connecting with family or society at large. Given the proximity of the RAAF Base at Amberley, Army Aviation at Oakey and Signals Regiment at Cabarlah, and with RSL Sub-Branches dotted through the Lockyer Valley, the organisation is well-located to offer this support.

President and founder of Bootstraps, Sam Kavanagh, was taught leatherworking by his father, who was in the air force and practised this craft as a kind of therapy. Building on this, as part of its offering, Bootstraps runs a leatherworking program to facilitate reconnection and social interaction. Ex-service personnel, current serving personnel and their families take priority, but space allowing, the program is open is open to anyone in the community.

The organisation needed some equipment to deliver the program and applied to FRRR for funding for an industrial leather sewing machine and a new computer, which they received in the form of a $5,407 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by The Sylvia & Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation.

The computer replaced a small inefficient laptop and enhances the organisation’s day-to-day communications and planning, while the sewing machine supports every level of the Bootstraps leatherwork training program. The model chosen is capable of being hand-cranked, which facilitates use by veterans with lower limb disabilities in particular, and those confined to a wheelchair.

The grant application noted, “There are not many (if any) families in the Lockyer Valley that do not have a military and/or a horse connection that could benefit from the leatherwork activities run by Bootstraps.”

Bootstrap’s new leather sewing machine

At the time of reporting, Bootstraps noted that more than 250 patrons have used the Bootstraps facilities, including the new leather sewing machine. The new IT facilities have meant better access and clearer information is available to the public about the program, via a more responsive and efficient website and communications.

These important pieces of equipment will help the program’s participants further their craft, while enabling social connection and helping veterans and the general community remain in a good head-space.

In 1979, an idea was formed between a bunch of country music loving mates over a few drinks around a campfire in the south west of WA. It became the Country Music Club of Boyup Brook (CMCBB), and before long, they were putting on a show on a regular basis.

Since 1986, the Boyup Brook Country Music Festival has been a major drawcard for this small farming community, attracting more than 10,000 visitors. The CMCBB does a lot more than put musicians on a stage though – there is a strong commitment to upskilling and training it’s volunteers and trainees in all aspects of event planning, including administration, bookkeeping, budgeting, grant writing, event management and office procedures, supporting them to gain financial literacy and job readiness skills. This benefits a core group of 20 volunteers that contribute to pre-planning throughout the year, and 150 during the Festival weekend. The Festival also provides the main fundraising event for more than 36 local community groups that participate during the weekend.

A couple of bad years recently set the club back: in 2017, flooding required the festival to be relocated; and in 2018 the club was hit by a sophisticated ticket scamming operation. On top of all this, the IT equipment available to the group was ageing and unreliable, often freezing unpredictably. Two of the computers were classed as ‘vintage’ by Apple, and the club said they could take a “very long time before they decide to boot up and one makes a noise like crickets are in the building.” This hurdle was adversely affecting the efficiencies and upskilling of the core group volunteers, not to mention the security of ticket sales and smooth running of the festival. But the tough luck the Club had run into had affected their capacity to invest in new equipment.

Daly and Sharon Winter, CMCBB’s President and Music Director, say the Festival helps a small rural community build a vibrant and sustainable community.

“It has wider audience appeal with a multiplier effect for injecting new capital into the local economy, and improves financial well-being within our community. The Festival is a celebration of our country lifestyles and community spirit. The event encourages hundreds of visitors to our state, providing a great boost to our tourism.”

Through the ANZ Seeds of Renewal program, the Club was successful in gaining new equipment. Via the Lenovo stream of the program, the Club was delivered three new Lenovo Thinkpads to support the events future operations, productivity and skill development of the group and volunteers.

The Club also plans to train staff and volunteers to scan, edit, and save photographs and documents to preserve its history as one of the oldest Incorporated Country Music Clubs in Australia and Western Australia.

Some of the volunteers use the equipment throughout the year, and under the guidance of the committee a young employee of the club recently completed her Certificate II and III in Business, plus Event Management modules. In their report, the Club wrote: “Learning new skills through the Club has led past volunteers to new employment options and keeps people living within our rural town and region.”

Nicki Jones, a volunteer, was ecstatic when the new laptops arrived, and with them, she says she achieved much more than she anticipated. 

“Not only were they efficient, user friendly and supported current applications, they had a webcam and sound!  This might initially sound silly, but in the big picture, this allowed me to join webinars and learn new software packages and how to use the computer to better capacity. I found one of the new software packages extremely useful and have now produced several documents with it for the Club. These documents are up to date, professional and easy to read.”

The experience and access to technology, she said, has built her self-esteem and confidence, and she has since been successful in seeking full-time employment, bringing her new skills to her position.

“I cannot thank FRRR and ANZ enough for making life so much easier.”