Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The community of Copmanhurst in the Clarence Valley in New South Wales is a strong and resilient group of around 300 people. In 2019/2020, Copmanhurst was severely impacted by the Black Summer bushfires, as well as flooding. For so many in the area this created a stressful environment. Many families were forced to evacuate and sadly leave livestock and other animals behind. Between the financial and emotional stress and hardship caused by these disasters, the community also saw a rise in mental health incidents.

For the youngest residents, stressful family situations, orange smoky skies and the loud noises from helicopters landing behind the preschool was causing a lot of anxiety.

Copmanhurst Pre-School wanted to create a space that would support the recovery of young children and provide a place nurtures respectful sharing of thoughts, ideas and knowledge. Their plan was to construct a Healing Circle that included a native garden. To help achieve this goal, the Pre-School secured a $8,650 grant through The Yulgilbar Foundation Fund.

They were able to establish the Healing Circle and also repair and upgrade a memorial of a past student. The memorial stone was moved to the Healing Circle and the family was very pleased to be included and remembered.

The garden was created under the guidance from local Elders and Ngroo, a local Aboriginal education program, to incorporate native plants and ideas for the healing circle including logs sourced from Bundjalung Country.

Since completing the project, the average day now begins around the healing circle for a talk before everyone goes off to play. This gives the children and educators an emotionally meaningful way to start the day in an area they all feel, safe, secure and supported.

Because of COVID lockdowns and restrictions, there was a delay on the opening celebrations for the new space. The Pre-School wanted to invite all the community services to the opening so they could acknowledge and thank them for all the hard work they did to keep their community safe during the fires and floods.

Earlier this year, the FRRR team heard directly from Kempsey Shire Council, who had recently received a $56,960 grant for the Macleay Valley River to the Sea Festival through the Future Drought Fund’s Networks to Build Drought Resilience program, co-funded by the Australian Government and a private donor.

The festival was a creative way to increase opportunities for diverse people and communities to participate in networking events. A series of farm gate tours was also a great way to improve regional branding and recognition of local food agri-systems. The festival built knowledge and understanding of the risks posed by drought and climate change through workshops for primary producers and broadly contributed to building a positive community culture and strengthened connections.

The Kempsey Shire Council presentation also highlighted the broader impact of floods. Having experienced 19 climate disasters in a decade, Kempsey was labelled ‘the most disaster-prone region in Australia’ by The Australian in 2019. Since then, there have been four flooding events, with three of them taking place in 2022 alone.

The Council team shared that an increasing number of farms were at risk of closure due to recent flooding events with around 45% of cattle in the lower Macleay leaving the shire due to continued wet and a 25%-35% loss of avocado trees. On top of that, there were large scale loss of oysters, flower production was impacted and mud fever, foot abscesses, slips and trips all became more common in horses.

The presentation gave a raw and up-to-date glimpse into the challenges being faced by those in the agricultural sector. It also highlighted that to be sustainable both economically and environmentally, change is needed. For agriculture to thrive, communities and agribusiness must be given the tools and resources they need to adapt.

The Macleay Valley River to the Sea Festival was a great example of this kind of opportunity in action, allowing farmers to share their stories and raise awareness around the positive on-farm diversification being achieved in environments impacted by climate change.

Montage of images from the River to the Sea conference (photo credit: Kempsey Shire Council)

27 community groups in disaster impacted areas of rural NSW and QLD to receive funding

FRRR, in partnership with Suncorp and GIO, has awarded $500,000 to 27 community groups and local not-for-profits (NFPs) to support recovery initiatives in rural communities impacted by the East Coast Australia floods in February and March 2022.

The grants, which are through the Rebuilding Futures program, range from $4,129 to $25,000.

They will be used to fund a range of projects, including equipping community facilities to be prepared for disasters, mental health training, community resilience and healing events, food security initiatives, environmental restoration, buying emergency equipment, restoring flood damaged infrastructure, developing preparedness plans and mentoring initiatives.

This is the second round of grants to come from the $1 million pledge the Suncorp Group made to FRRR to support recovery and preparedness activities in remote, rural and regional communities impacted by natural disasters.

Suncorp Group Head of Disaster Response & Customer Experience, Cath Stewart, said the diversity of applications shows the importance of responsive and flexible funding.

“The grant applications we received in this round are all the proof needed to reaffirm community leaders are best placed to understand exactly what the people in their areas need at this moment in time.

“These communities were all impacted by the same natural disaster, yet it’s very clear that they have diverse needs based on the point that they’re at on their road to recovery. We are pleased to be able to support a range of initiatives from building organisational capacity and giving locals the opportunity to develop their skills, to investing in life saving equipment and improving access to services,” said Ms Stewart.

Nina O’Brien, Disaster Resilience and Climate Solutions Lead at FRRR, said the grant recipients have shown commitment to the long-term recovery and resilience of their communities.

“People have had their lives turned upside down, yet they’re determined to work together to make sure their communities bounce back stronger than ever from the floods. Thanks to the generous support of GIO and Suncorp, we are able to offer the funding that will allow them to address their unique community recovery needs for rebuilding their future, and that’s exactly what each of the NFPs and community groups receiving funding are on a mission to do.

“Each of these initiatives, whether it be an upgrade to existing community facilities, the renewal of shared social spaces, improved community facilities, the purchase of emergency equipment or mental health support, is a practical response that will support long term recovery, which is exactly what is needed in the areas affected by floods and storms in early 2022.

“Recovery will take many years and every community has different needs and different capacity levels when it comes to tackling the recovery process. That’s why it’s so crucial that we provide these local groups with the support they need to build back better and design their own path to recovery, when they are ready,” said Ms O’Brien.

Among the 27 projects funded this round are:

  • Surf Life Saving Far North Coast Branch Inc, Byron Bay, NSW – Mental Health Training and Support – $9,650 – Build community resilience through delivering a Mental Health Training and Support program to life savers, equipping them with skills to support themselves and their community.
  • Resilient Lismore Incorporated, Lismore, NSW – Resilient Lismore – community recovery and connection events – $25,000 – Bolstering resilience to disaster by strengthening community connections and increasing mental health and wellbeing via a series of community events to be held around the anniversary of the February 2022 flood event in Lismore.
  • Wilsons Creek Community Hall Inc, Wilsons Creek, NSW – Wilsons Creek Community Hall Solar Storage Battery – $12,240 – Build capacity of Wilsons Creek Community Hall to stay in contact by purchasing a solar battery to ensure power supply during extreme weather events.
  • The Trustee for Top Blokes Foundation, Beaudesert, QLD – Building the resilience of vulnerable young men in the Scenic Rim – $25,000 – Improve the mental health and community engagement skills of at risk and disadvantaged young boys to bolster recovery in flood impacted communities.
  • Glastonbury Hall & Recreation Association Inc, Glastonbury, QLD – Rebuilding for the Future – Glastonbury Disaster Centre Hub – $25,000 – Build capacity at Glastonbury Hall to support community with adequate kitchen facilities during refuge from disasters and to support community connection activities.
  • Tansey Show Society Incorporated, Tansey, QLD – Upgrade facilities at Tansey Showgrounds – $15,000 – Boost organisational resilience and community wellbeing by repairing the flood damaged shower blocks at Tansey Showgrounds.

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

More information on the Rebuilding Futures grant program is available on FRRR’s website.

Agape Outreach IncAfter the Floods - Food Insecurity & Poverty Support - Caring for the Community
Support community members impacted by floods to access food relief in an environment of insecurity and homelessness risk.
Byron Region Community CollegeDemonstration Garden for Sustainability and Resilience
Strengthen the social fabric of Byron with a sustainable and resilient garden at the adult learning centre designed to inspire and educate community with an interactive space also supporting mental health and wellbeing.
Casino Indoor Stadium Association IncBlue Light Nights
Build community capacity of children and young people in Casino with equipment for Blue Light Night events such as discos that will develop relationships with local police and support learning event management skills.
Friends Lismore Regional Gallery IncBeyond Bricks and Mortar: The Art of Renewal in Lismore
Renew and activate the arts community in Lismore through tours of neighboring galleries, open art studios and panels to bolster regeneration of artist practice and broad community engagement.
Human Nature Adventure Therapy LtdThrive Outside: A Recovery and Resilience Project
Support young people who experienced trauma through the flood events to build resilience through therapeutic outdoor group activities.
Holding Hands UndergoundThe Grief and Gratitude Project: A Process for Collective Care and Connection in a Time of Major Crisis
Supporting community connection with an arts based event to enable collective recovery activity with themes of grief and gratitude.
Hunter Prelude LimitedHunter Prelude Supported Playgroups
Increase support to playgroups with additional allied health or teaching staff that enhance the engagement of parents and address issues of isolation and trauma within the families.
Nambucca Valley Phoenix LimitedRoof Replacement Ceramics Yurt & Kitchen
Replace damaged roofing at the ceramics yurt and kitchen annex to increase resilience of the facility's infrastructure to weather and support ongoing community activities.
Northern Rivers Community Healing Hub - Rekindling the Spirit LimitedNorthern Rivers Community Healing Hub in Action
Build capacity for piloting a transition to paid / volunteer model of community healing practices that will support holistic recovery now and ongoing with strong health partnerships.
Resilient Lismore IncorporatedResilient Lismore - Community Recovery and Connection Event
Bolstering resilience to disaster by strengthening community connections and increasing mental health and wellbeing via a series of community events to be held around the anniversary of the February 2022 flood event in Lismore.
Lismore $25,000
Surf Life Saving Far North Coast Branch IncMental Health Training and Support
Build community resilience through delivering a Mental Health Training and Support program to life savers equipping them with skills to support themselves and their community.
Byron Bay $9,650
The Big Scrub OrchestraModern Band Healing Through Songwriting and Music to Improve Resilience and Wellbeing for Young People Impacted by Floods
Build the resilience of school children impacted and displaced by flooding in Grafton, Lismore and Casino through musical workshops that will culminate in a performance at the local Jacaranda Festival.
The Colony Bees Association IncPollinate Country
Rebuilding pollinator health and habitat in the Northern Rivers, by establishing new beehives, pollinator sanctuaries and native habitats.
Volunteer Marine Rescue NSWCapacity Building for the Improved Response to Emergencies with Our Region
Build capacity of Volunteer Marine Rescue to support flood impacted communities in the future and enhance their everyday emergency operations with a trailer to transport a rescue boat.
Brunswick Heads$15,000
Wesley Community Services Limited, trading as Wesley MissionWesley LifeForce Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Resilience Project
Support mental health and reduce stigma associated with suicide through training to develop skills and understanding in the Coffs Harbour community.
Coffs Harbour$22,000
Wilsons Creek Community Hall IncWilsons Creek Community Hall Solar Storage Battery
Build capacity of Wilsons Creek Community Hall to stay in contact by purchasing a solar battery to ensure power supply during extreme weather events.
Wilsons Creek$12,240
Glastonbury Hall & Recreation Association IncRebuilding for the Future - Glastonbury Disaster Centre Hub
Build capacity at Glastonbury Hall to support community with adequate kitchen facilities during refuge from disasters and to support community connection activities.
Highfields Pioneer Village Museum and Park IncRamp It Up
Repair pathways and ramps impacted by flood waters to provide access for disabled and elderly visitors.
Kerry Memorial HallKerry Valley: Diversity, Resilience & Strength (DRS)
Upgrade historical community facilities with infrastructure materials and equipment to enable compliance for evacuation centre and to strengthen community wellbeing.
Kin Kin Community Group IncVolunteer and Emergency Response Community Hub
Build capacity through setting up local facility to support community during disasters.
Kin Kin & Como$25,000
Lowood Group State Emergency Service Financial Support Unit IncLowood Emergency Back Up Generator
Build the capacity of Lowood SES through the purchase of a generator to ensure shed operations during power outages to support crew and community needs.
Mooloolah Valley Community Association IncEmergency Power for the Community Centre
Build the organisational capacity of the Mooloolah Valley Community Centre with the purchase of a solar battery for power supply in extreme weather events.
Mooloolah Valley$25,000
Rathdowney and District Memorial Grounds Association IncorporatedCaravan Park Hot Water & Dryer
Build community resilience and organisational capacity with the purchase of a washing machine and clothes dryer to support tenants, visitors, and the community at the volunteer run caravan park in Rathdowney.
Tansey Show Society IncorporatedUpgrade Facilities at Tansey Showgrounds
Boost organisational resilience and community wellbeing by repairing the flood damaged shower blocks at Tansey Showgrounds.
The Trustee for Raise FoundationRaise Mentor Program - Pittsworth State High School
Build resilience in young people affected by floods with supported mentoring at Pittsworth State High School.
The Trustee for Top Blokes FoundationBuilding the Resilience of Vulnerable Young Men in the Scenic Rim
Improve the mental health and community engagement skills of at risk and disadvantaged young boys to bolster recovery in flood impacted communities.
Toowoomba Hospital FoundationSaving and Preserving the Darling Downs Health Museum Weather Affected Collection and Displays
Support restoration and disaster preparedness planning to save the flood impacted collection of Toowoomba Hospital Health Museum and train volunteers to respond effectively in future emergency situations.

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 or contact FRRR Carolyn Ardler, IRCF Program Coordinator – South Coast on 1800 170 020.

Plus workshops scheduled re fundraising for NFPs and strengthening local connections

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal today shared that a $1.3 million funding boost for the Shoalhaven region to further enhance the capacity of local not-for-profit organisations to support their communities has already started to roll out.

The funding is thanks to a partnership with the Australian Government, through the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Program.

The additional investment means that even more of the ideas and initiatives identified through the Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF) program to continue the ongoing recovery following the Black Summer bushfires can be implemented across the Shoalhaven region. Thanks to support from The Snow Foundation and more recently Bendigo Bank through their Community Enterprise Foundation, FRRR has been working with communities in the Shoalhaven and South Coast area since 2020.

FRRR People Programs Portfolio Lead Deb Samuels says that this funding will benefit communities across the Shoalhaven region, all of which were impacted by the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires.

“This generous funding means that FRRR and our partners can continue to work with local community groups and not-for-profits to enhance their capacity to support their communities. We’ve already started by reviewing the roadmaps that were created previously and refreshing them in light of the bushfires and more recently flooding and the ongoing impacts of COVID.

“Practically, it means that FRRR can keep our facilitators on the ground in the Shoalhaven, so they can work directly with community groups to maintain the momentum that has built up over recent years through the IRCF program. They will continue to bring the community together and to implement the roadmaps identified for each of the participating communities.

“Perhaps most excitingly, it means that we have also been able to expand our support to Kangaroo Valley and Lake Conjola – again, two areas that were significantly affected by the fires.

“We recently funded 20 places at the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that matter in Bundanon. This three-day training session has equipped more local people with the skills to facilitate conversations that can lead to coordinated action and positive change. We will be further supporting local not-for-profit leaders the opportunity to attend Art of Hosting in the Southern Shoalhaven on 8–10 February 2023.

“Each of the initiatives that will be supported in future address issues or opportunities that local groups have already identified and prioritised. For example, in partnership with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, we’ll be delivering a tailored year-long leadership program to 24 participants from across the community, thereby strengthening the leadership base for the future.

“All of these initiatives are designed to help local community groups to better support their communities and so we are extremely grateful for this additional support through NEMA,” Ms Samuels explained.

The Art of Hosting workshop certainly made an impact on participants. In one of the closing sessions, in response to a question about what they are taking from the event, one person said “Excitement & hope we can continue to collaborate in the Shoalhaven to nourish our communities”, while another commented “Feelings of respect and admiration for all, different expressions of experience and life stories, strengthened by sharing in the collective”. This additional funding will hopefully mean more of these sorts of sessions.

Registrations are also currently open for two more workshops that respond to local priorities – namely around fundraising, and building and strengthening connections and networking across not-for-profit. Representatives from any not-for-profit or community group are welcome to attend, but registration is required:

Ulladulla Session – Wednesday 23 November, 9-12 pm, Ulladulla Civic Centre –

Nowra Session – Thursday 24 November, 9-12 pm, Nowra School of Arts –

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

On Gumbaynggirr Country

The Nambucca Valley in NSW was one of the first participating communities in the Investing in Rural Community Futures Program, which FRRR has been running with the support of VFFF since 2019. The program aims to help local not-for-profit organisations build their capacity so that they can better support the communities they serve.

One such group is Mujaay Ganma Foundation, which was established in memory of two strong, proud Gumbaynggirr women – Mardi Walker, Mujaay and Florence Ballangarry, Ganma. The Foundation grew from the need to bring back cultural strength and trust to people and families who are dealing with cancer. But it’s grown to offer far more than that, supporting Aboriginal people and their families with culturally friendly, emotional, physical and spiritual support. Through culture and sustainable practices Mujaay Ganma also endeavours to support a healthy lifestyle in the modern Nambucca Valley.

One of Mujaay Ganma Foundation’s goals is to create the Yuraal Guunumba Ngurraay: Gumbaynggirr Native Foods Community Garden Project, which will improve the wellbeing of local Gumbaynggirr Country and community. The garden will be a space where Elders can share cultural values and pass on traditional knowledge and skills to younger generations. It will also encourage students and youth to learn about native forest and riverbank regeneration and ecosystems. There is also a plan to help young people learn the identification and properties of native plants needed for regeneration of degraded country, seed collection and propagation and nursery management skills. Ultimately, this will ensure the passing on of cultural knowledge from Elders and promote its value to the wider community. In addition, the hope is that the garden will help to connect young Gumbaynggirr people to Country, strengthen a sense of community and build the skills of local community members, leading to meaningful employment and freedom from welfare dependence, which contributes to community wellbeing. Importantly it will contribute to a healthy lifestyle, culturally, physically and collectively.

Ultimately the project aims to build the capacity of young Gumbaynggirr people, encouraging them to contribute to a more collaborative and cohesive community. This will be achieved by strengthening the passing on of cultural knowledge between Elders and the younger generations, strengthening pride in culture and in the identity of the young.

Furthermore, the wider Nambucca Valley community would have the opportunity to learn from the custodial people enabling more respectful appreciation for the original culture and abundant natural resources, so sustaining a healthy environment into the future.

However, with only being established in 2019, the organisation recognised that it needed to build its capacity before it could embark on such an ambitious project. By training local Gumbaynggirr coordinators, the project will support community leadership. These trainees could become well versed in project management and able to constructively give back to community in the future. These trainee project coordinators could learn these contemporary skills through being mentored by experienced project managers, learning how to negotiate resources, funds and engaging with other organisations by working with their mentors, learning ‘on the job’, at the same time as being supported in their culture by the custodial Elders of Country. This approach was chosen, as successful learning experiences for community people have involved learning while observing and engaging in doing.

This fit well into the priorities of the IRCF program, which included people, strategy systems and structure and sector efficiencies. They therefore applied to FRRR for a grant to enable them to hire and mentor two Gumbaynggirr people as trainees, who could then take on management of all the complex logistics involved in implementing the Yuraal Guunumba Ngurraay garden project. This was also an opportunity to help ensure that young Gumbaynggirr people are safe, connected to Country and have meaningful work.

With the support of a $38,443 FRRR IRCF grant, funded by VFFF, two trainee project coordinators were recruited and have been learning on the job. Their work has included:

  • learning about workplace expectations and creating a culturally safe working environment;
  • strengthening their connection to Country and culture, with Elders taking them on Country and experiencing ceremony;
  • setting up systems and administrative work, including writing policies and keeping records of the planning and implementation of the many components of this complex project;
  • creating a food garden under guidance of a horticultural mentor with experience working in the Aboriginal community at Miimi Aboriginal Corporation, where they learnt about garden preparation, irrigation, planting seeds and transplanting seedlings in preparation for establishing the Yuraal Garden;
  • learning about caring for Country from a Traditional Custodian with land management skills; and
  • managing a successful Golf and Bowls Day fundraising event, which was successful not just in raising money but in creating an event where community could come together, learn more about Mujaay Ganma Foundation and have a good healthy time together.

The training of the coordinators and the future establishment of the Garden is highly collaborative and involved several community organisations, including:

  • Miimi Aboriginal Corporation, who provided continual support of resources and consultation;
  • Earth Trust and Yarranbella, with support from Miimi, who mentored the trainee coordinators as they learnt to negotiate and navigate between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal systems, between organisations and students and teachers;
  • Bowraville Innovative Social Enterprise Precinct (BISEP) who helped them negotiate Western institutions and regulations;
  • Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative who provided continual support of resources and consultation, in particular around language and culture;
  • Gagu Land Services will took participants onto Country to help learn about caring for Country and land regeneration;
  • Yarranbella Environment Services who provided the horticulturist and registered teacher, who will help develop the training package needed for the garden to be created; and
  • Nambucca Valley Council who provided land for where the garden project will occur.

The Foundation was able to leverage the grant to secure wage subsidies and additional funding that meant the trainees have, with guidance, developed job descriptions, run recruitment information sessions, established a viable workplace for new recruits and learnt to supervise new staff.

Janette Blainey, Project Manager says they are proud to still be operating and to have succeeded in expanding.

“This grant we received under FRRR’s IRCF funding gave us the support and improved capacity to successfully apply for a further grant to establish a Native Seedbank and to train other young Gumbaynggirr people in custodial land management.

“While we still face challenges from the impacts of dispossession, racism and continuing colonising attitudes within the community, Mujaay Ganma Foundation has become stronger and better able to contribute more to the community. Our young trainee coordinators are growing in confidence and have pride in their culture and community, and are learning more about their culture and their Country. They are ready to step up when needed. Other young people have acquired knowledge, skills and a positive attitude to gardening an extensive food producing garden for the community to access. We also have two employees who are gaining project coordination skills. It’s also great to see improved relationships between Elders and younger community members.”

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

In response to the recent impact of drought, bushfire and COVID, Bombala Preschool in NSW wanted to increase resilience and strengthen intergenerational connections. They decided to work collaboratively to codesign and construct a community garden space, at the same time as enhancing permaculture skills.

Their idea was to collaborate with the local high school, Public School, St Joseph’s Catholic School and 11 associated organisations to create and maintain a community-based urban and Indigenous agriculture project and recovery program on land adjoining the preschool.

The aim was to create and integrate a nature-based play space and permaculture garden for the preschool with an inclusive intergenerational program, involving seniors, staff, parents, teenagers and the preschoolers in growing and sharing food, as well as showcasing sustainable practices. Blended into this, they were hoping to include culture, arts, bushfoods, a fire ceremony and a language program to celebrate the region’s Indigenous heritage.

The concept was to have the whole project overseen and aligned to a mental health plan to assist the region in its recovery from drought, bushfires and COVID. The link between improved mental health, increased community connectedness and resilience through community gardens is well documented.

Thanks to support from FRRR through a $15,000 SRC grant, funded by Jeunesse Kids Foundation, plus funding from other donors, it started out strongly. Despite COVID, Project Manager Dan Bakker and Cultural Advisor Nathan Lygon, were appointed in Winter 2020, with preliminary site works completed by May 2021.

Community involvement ebbed and flowed. While a DIY lasagna-garden (a no-dig, no-till organic gardening method) workshop, thermal composting demonstration and formal project tour were convened in late 2020, they were poorly attended due to the escalation of the pandemic anxiety at the time, but there was still strong support to keep the project moving forward. The involvement of students and staff from Bombala High School and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School led to both schools committing significant efforts. All year groups of St Joey’s eagerly and actively attend the fortnightly double-day sessions, with the high school having established a core group of over 15 students, each of whom now have assumed operations roles in the patch.

Students, staff and volunteers (often hand-in-hand with preschoolers) diligently worked together on activities including:

  • Extensive excavation, shaping and lasagna-garden building of soils;
  • Haulage of all hardwood materials, aggregates, fertilisers and construction materials;
  • Significant terrace, path and congregation areas preparation;
  • The creation of more than 75 square metres of seasonal garden bed;
  • The trench digging and placement of a 200 bush-pole perimeter fence;
  • Reconstruction of a pre-existing garden shed;
  • Building an outdoor multi-purpose work-bench / kitchen;
  • Commenced construction of cultural fire circle;
  • Full replacement of the adjoining fence line with KidSafe approved permeable pool fencing;
  • Arterial irrigation system installation;
  • Initial laying of 45 metres of arterial path paving;
  • The construction of a walk-in chicken coop and 25 square metre chicken run; and
  • Peri-secure sheep fencing of one acre block opposite.

Daniel Bakker, Project / Events Manager from Bombala Preschool reported that some 18 months into the venture (and in the face on unprecedented challenges), the project’s initiation has been viewed a considerable success with construction activities, social / cultural events, seasonal planting and systems-integration unfolding ahead of schedule and beyond the standard expected in the drafting of the project.

“Preschool staff and students have established a deep and caring connection with the garden. Almost all planting and harvesting has involved children. St Joey’s ‘big-buddies’ students have bonded with many of the preschoolers, giving agency for respective students to assume mentor roles. Likewise, high schoolers (mostly male) have exhibited caring capacities rarely seen by their teachers,” he explained.

Several key inclusive events have been convened, doing much to extend and lift the social profile of the facility. River Cottage Aust Chef and ABC South East presenter, Paul West, worked with students to make a meal using produce from the patch and contributed to a Solstice Fire Mandala with students and preschoolers, before co-initiating the ceremonial Indigenous fire with Nathan Lygon. The first spark was tindered using traditional Indigenous fire making techniques graciously shared by Nathan. Lanterns prepared by the preschool outlined the fire mandala, which was attended by 65 family members.

In preparation for this event, a cultural name was chosen for the project – Ngulla, meaning ‘plant-based food’ in the language of the Ngarigo region. This name was offered by an Elder of the Country and secured by the Cultural Advisor, Nathan, through culturally sanctioned channels.

Shortly thereafter, they hosted ABC Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis for a day of site tours, recovery and sustainability themed workshops and a panel discussion. The discussion was MC’d by local journalist, Sophie Longden, with both Costa and local identities providing input on the topic of social resilience, regenerative agriculture and environmental recovery. More than 100 locals attended the event, something unprecedented in the history of the preschool.

While COVID hampered the project significantly and in multiple ways, the project has been a great success and the groundwork is laid for ongoing projects and partnerships. With lock-up and full systems integration approaching, the facility is looking well-placed for staff to safely allow children to freely explore and integrate with the playscape, giving the project increased formal and informal education capacity.

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

The small, rural town of Mooral Creek is around 260 kms north of Sydney. Following the devastation of the 2019/20 bushfires, the Mooral Creek Hall & Progress Association Committee embarked upon a project to bring the whole community together to connect, reflect and support each other through the bushfire recovery process.

With the help of a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, supported by the Fire Fight Australia Fund, came Creative Spark – an arts project aimed at encouraging creative expression and developing confidence and skills in a range of artistic forms. Through a series of visual and performance arts workshops in 2021, the project brought together the people of Mooral Creek and neighbouring communities. The project culminated in an uplifting Showcase event that celebrated the community’s achievements.

Project organisers coordinated the delivery of 14 different workshop series over 55 sessions, all while negotiating the difficulties of local flooding and COVID restrictions. More than 75 community members participated in at least one workshop.

Participants benefited from the skill, enthusiasm and encouragement of 11 local facilitators who aimed to shift focus from loss and trauma to positivity and inspiration. The facilitators themselves benefited from being able to share their knowledge, expertise and creative skills, while strengthening their community relationships. Sadly, the Fire Chief passed away during the project, however his wife found solace in delivering her painting workshop, and old and new friends were able to journey with her through grief and creativity.

Some of the resulting artworks from the many workshops directly reflected the subject of the bushfires and gave the town many beautiful keepsakes. In one workshop, participants painted the windows of Mooral Creek Hall with a stained-glass effect. They depicted their homes surrounded by colours, lines and shapes that evoked fire, smoke, landscape and nature. The overall effect for the Hall was transformative – creating a vibrancy and cathedral-like space, which can now be appreciated from both inside and outside the hall. The result of another workshop was a painting on a nearby utility pole – a simple memorial of the Black Summer Bushfires, in recognition of the work of the RFS and particularly, their Fire Chief. It depicts a koala, a goanna and a crimson rosella, some of the local fauna that suffered from the impact of the fires.

Other workshops had a stronger focus on coming together to learn physical skills, with a focus on mental wellbeing, such as ‘The Magic Circus’, Tai Chi and drumming workshops. The Middle Eastern Dance workshop saw women of all ages develop skills and collaborate over many weeks to choreograph a belly-dancing performance. The performance, titled Out of the Ashes, was described by many at the Showcase event as the best thing they had ever seen at the hall.

As well as exhibiting the artworks created during the workshops, the Showcase also displayed photographs taken during and immediately after the fires. This proved very thought-provoking, with many locals using them as a talking point to share their experiences of the bushfires. Also on display were several portraits commissioned from a local artist, which recognised community members who experienced significant loss from the bushfires, and were gifted to the sitters following the event.

The benefits of the Creative Spark project were far-reaching and effectively assisted the community to work through the trauma and experiences of living through the bushfires. Many residents were able to be involved in different ways – whether as a workshop facilitator or participant, having their portrait done, or as an audience member at the Showcase event. The breadth of arts activities and incredible scope of the project created a vibrant energy in the community and residents were amazed at what they were able to achieve. Several activities have continued throughout 2022 – evidence of the ongoing benefits of the project.

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

On Jukembal, Kamilaroi and Bundjalung Country

The TenterLIFE Suicide Prevention Network was formed in 2019 in the northern NSW rural community of Tenterfield. By bringing members of the community together to talk and learn about suicide prevention, the organisation hopes to reduce the number of suicide and suicide attempts in the area.

Tenterfield has been through many traumas over the past few years. Drought, fires and more recently COVID have taken their toll on the community. The effects of the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires are still being felt by the community, with the landscape still blackened. This affects people’s mental health.

Tragically, there were 154 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths reported in NSW from 1 January to 28 February 2021. This is similar to the number of deaths reported within the same time period in 2019 and 2020, so this is an ongoing issue that needs dedicated focus.

Chairperson of TenterLIFE, Lexie Sherren, explained that the numbers for the Inverell / Tenterfield area are among the highest in the state.

“By informing communities of the drastic need to be more aware of the situation, hopefully these numbers can reduce,” she explained in their application.

The compelling case, plus the support of a range of local stakeholders, including health, allied health, education and charity sectors, plus community members with first-hand experience of mental health and suicide impacts, coupled with their track record, saw TenterLIFE awarded a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant, thanks to the support of a private donor. The funds went toward printing flyers, purchasing t-shirts and windcheaters to be worn on their public walks and running Suicide Prevention First Aid training. Having spent less money on the shirts and jackets, FRRR approved a variation that meant they also purchased a PA system to use at events, rather than borrowing from one of the members.

The group has held regular ‘Walk ’n’ Talk’ events, marked White Wreath Day where they remembered those lost to suicide, as well as participated in Stress Down Day, where there was a talk on stress management and then the group sang and blew bubbles.

“All the comments were positive and I don’t think I’ve seen everyone attending smile and laugh so much. We played People Bingo, had an A-Z Scavenger Hunt and played lots of games.

“These events instil a sense of belonging for community members. Knowing someone cares can provide relief for a person who may be suicidal. Giving voice to their thoughts and expressing their feelings aloud, knowing someone is there to listen, can be truly lifesaving. Isolation or feeling alone can also increase suicidal tendencies, while connection with another person can have the reverse affect,” Ms Sherren said.

The group has more activities planned throughout the year.

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

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) will host two free capacity building workshops for volunteers, Board members and paid staff members of community groups and not-for-profits in Taree and Wingham, as part of the Investing in Not-for-Profit Capacity in Regional NSW (INFPC) program.

The program, which is funded by Paul Ramsay Foundation, aims to enhance the capacity of local grassroots not-for-profit organisations, helping them to respond and thrive in the face of current challenges, including recovery from the fires, floods and impacts of COVID.

These workshops have been specifically created based on input from community groups at workshops last year. The two sessions will focus on building the confidence and capacity of community group Board’s, exploring practical solutions for success and sustainability and engaging strategies for recruitment, retention and management of volunteers.

Workshop 1:
Governance Skills: Build your Board’s confidence & capacity
Date: Tuesday 29 November 2022
Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (catering included)  
Venue: The Auditorium, Club Taree,
121 Wingham Road, Taree
Workshop 2:
Engaging & Sustaining Volunteers: Recruitment, retention & management strategies
Date: Wednesday 30 November 2022 
Time: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm (catering included)
Venue: The Auditorium, Club Taree,
121 Wingham Road, Taree 

The sessions are free but places are limited, so attendees are encouraged to register now. These highly interactive workshops will be facilitated by Nicole Weber, who has 25 years’ experience as a manager of teams, in mostly Human Services organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sector.

For queries about the workshops, email or call 1800 170 020

Investing in Not-for-Profit Capacity in Regional NSW is an 18 month place-based program running in three bushfire affected communities, being Bega, Taree and Wingham, and Glen Innes. For more information visit

In December 2021, FRRR awarded five grants totalling $150,152 to a range of community groups in Taree and Wingham. Projects responded to many of the issues raised during previous workshop sessions, including strategic and operational planning, marketing, revenue strategy and digital solutions to support volunteers and not-for-profit organisations.