Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

More than $770,000 in vouchers distributed

Students and families in remote, rural and regional parts of Australia will start the 2022 school year with a little extra support, thanks to the generosity of FRRR and its donors, and the Community Foundations and groups helping to distribute the more than 15,700 Back to School vouchers across the country.

Rural communities come together to help students get Back to School

FRRR’s Back to School (BTS) program partners with community groups and Community Foundations to provide $50 gift vouchers to local families in need. The vouchers can be redeemed at select national retailers or local businesses for school essentials like uniforms, shoes, school bags or stationery.

Now in its 18th year, the BTS program has worked with community organisations in rural communities to distribute more than $10.7 million in BTS vouchers and help in excess of 216,000 students and their families get what they need to start the school year on a positive note. This includes families that have been impacted by natural disasters such as 2019-20 Black Summer Fires, flooding events, and the economic impact of the COVID pandemic. 

Sarah Matthee, FRRR’s General Manager Partnerships & Services, said that the Back to School program continues to give a helping hand to rural families doing it tough.

“The unique aspect of the BTS program is that it taps into the deep understanding and the trusted relationships that local organisations have within their communities to ensure that these vouchers go to families most in need of the support.

“For many rural families, schooling and finances continue to be impacted by the pandemic. Although fifty dollars may not seem much, that little bit of extra help can go towards easing their worries in some small way,” Ms Matthee said.

In some communities, local Community Foundations also got behind the BTS program, with FRRR and its donors offering to match local donations, dollar for dollar. This year communities raised almost $63,000 in local fundraising across the country. Thanks to this community support, together with funds from the Origin Energy Foundation, FRRR was able to provide an extra 2,514 vouchers. One hundred percent of all donations to the program go directly into purchasing a $50 voucher to support a primary or secondary school student in need.

Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation, in South Australia, has worked with FRRR since 2009 to distribute BTS vouchers to local students and their families.

Garry Downey, Chair of Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation, said that the organisation sees huge need to continue to help families start their children off well-prepared for their learning years.

“The support of the FRRR program is truly valued, and their willingness to match locally donated funds creates an outstanding opportunity for Eyre Peninsula residents and businesses to boost the impact for local kids.”

You can see the full list of recipient organisations and the more than 100 remote, rural and regional communities that will benefit from these vouchers below.

BTS vouchers are funded through the support of FRRR donor partners, which include Portland House Foundation, Perpetual Foundation – Julian Flett Endowment, News Corp Australia, Fire Fight Australia Fund, Counter Point Community Services (Cycle Recycle), Bertalli Family Foundation, UNICEF Australia and Origin Energy Foundation, as well as private and individual donors.

For more information about the program, visit https://frrr.org.au/back-to-school/.

To support grant programs like this through FRRR, you can make a tax-deductible donation at frrr.org.au/giving/.

The full list of recipient organisations are below.

OrganisationLocation
NORTHERN TERRITORY
Isolated Childrens Parents Association Northern Territory State CouncilMataranka, Daly River, New Castle Waters, Ti Tree
NEW SOUTH WALES
Community Foundation for Albury Wodonga Region LtdAlbury, Wodonga, Corowa, Howlong
Edward Public School Parents & Citizens AssociationDeniliquin
First Steps Count IncorporatedTaree, Wingham, Old Bar , Nabiac
Foundation Broken Hill LimitedBroken Hill, Wilcannia, Menindee
Mumbulla FoundationBega Valley Shire
The Southern Highlands FoundationBowral, Berrima, Mittagong, Moss Vale
The Trustee for Northern Rivers Community FoundationAlstonville, Ballina, Banora Point, Baryulgil
Volunteering Coffs Harbour IncorporatedCoffs Harbour
Walhallow Parents & Citizens AssociationWalhallow
QUEENSLAND
Biggenden Primary P&C AssociationBiggenden
Buderim Foundation LimitedBuderim, Mountain Creek, Sippy Downs, Kuluin
Cowboys Charity LimitedBadu Island, Bamaga, Boigu Island, Chinchilla
Peachester State School P&C AssociationPeachester
Tara & District Family Support Committee IncorporatedTara, Chinchilla, Miles, Wandoan
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Eyre Peninsula Community Foundation IncPort Lincoln, Whyalla, Ceduna, Streaky Bay
Foundation BarossaNuriootpa, Angaston, Tanunda, Kapunda
Fleurieu Community Foundation LtdStrathalbyn, Goolwa, Middleton, Port Elliot
Stand Like Stone Foundation LtdAllendale East, Beachport, Bordertown, Frances
TASMANIA
George Town Neighbourhood House IncGeorge Town
Swansea Primary School Parents and Friends AssociationSwansea
VICTORIA
Ballarat Foundation United Way IncBlowhard, Ballan, Bungaree, Cape Clear
Bass Coast Community Foundation Open FundWonthaggi, Waterline Area, San Remo Area, Cowes Ventnor
Donald Learning Group IncDonald, Marnoo
Into Our Hands Community Foundation LimitedWangaratta, Milawa, Oxley, Glenrowan, Moyhu, Whitfield
South West Community FoundationWarrnambool
St Arnaud Neighbourhood House IncSt Arnaud
Kaniva CollegeKaniva
Mirboo North and District Community Foundation IncMirboo North, Thorpdale, Yinnar, Boolarra
The Trustee for Geelong Community FoundationGreater Geelong, Winchelsea, Torquay, Meredith
Tomorrow Today Education Foundation LtdBaddaginnie, Benalla, Broken Creek, Devenish
Uniting (Victoria and Tasmania) LimitedMaffra, Wurruk, Longford, Seaspray
Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency Co op LtdMorwell, Moe, Wangarratta, Wodonga

Portland House Foundation (PHF) is a family foundation based in Melbourne. They first connected with FRRR in 2013 when they donated to BlazeAid’s not-for-profit Fundraising Account held with FRRR. In the last few years, PHF has supported FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities and Back to School programs, including bushfire streams. In total, they’ve generously donated more than half a million dollars to support Victoria’s remote, rural and regional communities.

In this Q&A, Paula Thomson, Philanthropy Manager at Portland House Foundation shares their appreciation and understanding of the challenges that disadvantaged members of remote, rural and regional communities can face, and their belief that small grants are often the seed funding needed to support an idea that will make a big difference to local people and their livelihoods. PHF has a history of collaboration, in fact they see it as the key to funding. 

Can you tell us a little about Portland House Foundation, its background, and what impact you’re seeking to achieve through your generosity?

Portland House Foundation (PHF) is a Melbourne family’s giving vehicle, and began operating in 2004. It has a charter that’s aimed at moving people out of disadvantage. 

Why do you believe that it is important to support remote, rural and regional communities?

While there are many aspects of rural and regional living that exemplify community and connection, we understand there can also be disadvantages in living long distances from major cities. Services and specialist health care are often scarce, meaningful employment opportunities for young people can be rare, and the smaller populations means there are fewer people to support community projects. We recognise that responsibility often falls to the same people in small communities to get great ideas off the ground, and they often just need seed funding to help them on their way. These small grants go a long way in places where volunteers and in-kind support are plentiful.PHF funding is generally focussed on Victoria, and on the importance of maintaining the vibrancy, health and wellbeing of the small communities that provide food, fibre and cultural fabric of Australian life. Where we can, we like to co-fund too.

Since 2013 Portland House Foundation has donated more than half a million dollars to FRRR to support rural, regional and remote communities. Can you tell us more about who else you’ve partnered with and what impacts that has had?

PHF has a history of giving through community foundations, and the devolved giving has extended our reach in various communities from inner city to regional areas.

PHF has partnered with Northern Rivers Community Foundation, Border Trust and Inner North Community Foundation. The impact of all these funding relationships is the closer understanding they have of their local communities, which we could never achieve from our Collins Street location.  These organisations give us eyes and ears on the ground, and local acumen which is worth so much in attracting the right projects and tracking the outcomes for locals.

FRRR was a natural fit when we sought to benefit rural Victorians, and particularly to support bushfire recovery. In the beginning, it was the understanding that FRRR really has the best reach into smaller remote and rural communities. We’ve been able to support a wide range of projects that we might not be able to fund directly, such as:

  • the refurbishment of Corryong Youth Hall, so they are better equipped to support the community during emergency events such as the Black Summer bushfires; and
  • enabling the Mallacoota and District Historical Society to repair damaged grounds from the fires and create a native bush walk.

More broadly funds have been used to support local arts programs; healthcare equipment; software that helps aged care residents connect with their families to reduce social isolation and many more.

Over the years, Portland House Foundation has contributed to several collaboratively funded grant programs run by FRRR. Do you see benefits in collaboratively funded programs?

PHF is pleased to have funds pooled and projects shared with other funders, collaboration will always be key in funding. Many hands make light work. For example – we have been contributing to FRRR’s Back to School and Strengthening Rural Communities programs including their additional bushfire streams. It’s so heartening to know that this year PHF’s contribution supported 1,054 students and families with $50 Back to School vouchers in places affected by the Black Summer bushfires. The distribution of these vouchers is assisted by local community organisations and community foundations, ensuring they get to the children and families who need a helping hand. It would be very difficult for a family foundation like ours to have such far reach and support so many without collaboration.

A great example of this is when our funds were combined with The Ross Trust to enable the Centre of Participation to purchase a coffee machine and other accessories for their ‘Harmony Van’. It is used to provide hospitality and food handling training to migrant women and disabled youth across the Wimmera Southern Mallee region.

How would you describe your relationship with FRRR / If someone asked you about working with FRRR, what would you tell them?

We would recommend FRRR to any donor wishing to reach small communities in regional Australia. The aspect of FRRR that allows funding of non DGR projects is a distinct advantage, as is the reach into areas that metro based entities cannot easily achieve. We have found the FRRR team flexible and accommodating in recommending projects that fit our charter, and importantly meet the needs and priorities of local communities.

Finally, do you have any advice to other philanthropic organisations / individuals when choosing a not-for-profit to partner with?

Philanthropy is such a great way to learn about the world around us, so don’t wait until you’re an expert. Seek out experts like FRRR and reap the benefits of their networks. Work with people you trust, who have access to projects you could never reach and enjoy the learning that comes from branching out.