Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal
Since 2006, the Tablelands community in Far North Queensland has experienced three cyclones, floods in 2015, bushfires in 2018 and higher than average monsoonal rains – and the impacts of climate change will likely increase the frequency, duration and severity of these weather patterns and natural disasters over time. With such a small population, this community must be largely self-reliant when it comes to initial disaster responses. So, they need to ensure they are ready when the next disaster strikes.
Thanks to the support of a private donor, the Tablelands Regional Council was awarded a $25,000 grant through FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program to run a series of free workshops across the shire. Presented in partnership with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, these programs were designed to better prepare residents before and during disasters and build resilience for the recovery process.
Seven different workshops were delivered, including First Aid training, Psychological First Aid training, Leadership in Disasters Workshops, Exercise Ready2Respond and Queensland Disaster Management Arrangements (QDMA) training. The workshops aimed to support inclusive and resilient communities, build community capacity and cultivate integrated health and wellbeing. They also helped prepare the community for the impacts of climate change, including more intense weather events in future years.
The funding made it possible for 270 people across the region to participate in the training. In particular, the realistic, scenario-based Community Disaster Team exercise helped the community prepare for the upcoming disaster season. The workshops provided valuable ideas to help families, homes and businesses recover from adversity and many community members provided positive feedback.
Officer in Charge of the Atherton Queensland Ambulance Service, Terry Cumming, felt the training had not only better informed the Atherton community but also alleviated the pressures on Emergency Services during a disaster.
“The effort of getting our community involved in training, and capacity building can only strengthen community resilience and help all emergency services in times of need.”
While drought is out of the media spotlight, for many communities it is still a very real and significant issue. FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) program has just awarded $86,083 to nine community initiatives in remote, rural and regional communities across Australia still dealing with the impacts of drought.
TTTT is a long-running, collaboratively-funded program that helps drought-affected communities to access the funding and resources they need to tackle the long-term impacts of drought. This round of grants will help fund a variety of projects run by local not-for-profit organisations and community groups, including a series of art workshops for both adults and children, a community event featuring Aboriginal artwork, the creation of murals and skills training to support community members experiencing loss and grief.
Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, said that there are still many regions across Australia being impacted by drought.
“During this round of grants, the number of eligible LGAs dropped from 152 to 47. While we’re delighted to see such a significant drop in the number of communities being impacted by drought, it’s crucial that we continue to provide support. A lot of places, like remote SA, are still tackling extreme periods of dryness while others are very much still in drought recovery mode. Not to mention the fact that communities are dealing with a variety of other factors as they continue to stand strong and keep their community connected and supported.
“In this round of applications, we saw a lot of projects that are aiming to improve volunteer capacity and build a sense of social connectedness. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that our remote, rural and regional communities need volunteers and a strong sense of community in order to thrive.
“When we carried out our Heartbeat of Rural Australia survey last year, the results showed that the effects of drought, as well as the cumulative effects of multiple other disasters, have left volunteers feeling extremely fatigued, and those living in rural communities feeling isolated. That’s why we’re so pleased to be able to fund these kinds of grassroots initiatives at a time when they’re truly needed,” Ms O’Brien said.
Among the other projects funded this round were:
- Red Ridge Ltd – Longreach, QLD – Outback Fashion Festival – Canvas to Catwalk – Provide opportunities for Aboriginal artists from seven outback Queensland communities to participate in fashion print design workshops which culminate in a catwalk runway community event. $10,000
- Rattler Railway Company Ltd – Gympie, QLD – Fatigue Management Accommodation- Build the capacity, capability, and sustainability of Rattler Railway Company Ltd through infrastructure restoration and renovation to support volunteers. $10,000
- For a Better Chapman Valley (FABCV) Incorporated – Chapman Valley & Nabawa, WA – Winter Art Series in Chapman Valley – Facilitate social connection and enhance opportunities for the Chapman Valley community to participate in creative activities through the delivery of art workshops. $7,900
The full list of grant recipients and their projects is listed on the FRRR website.
The TTTT program supports drought-affected regions of Australia by giving community groups and local not-for-profit organisations access to the resources they need to respond to, and recover from, long-term rainfall deficiencies. This program has granted over $18 million to initiatives that are helping communities to tackle the tough times that come with drought.
Funding for this program is generously contributed by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Pratt Foundation, Stockland CARE Foundation, Paul Ramsay Foundation, The Snow Foundation, Henroth Group and private donors from across the nation. To join these donors, and support grants like this through FRRR, you can make a tax-deductible donation at frrr.org.au/giving/.
The full list of grant recipients and their projects are below.
|NEW SOUTH WALES|
|Moama and District Pre-School Centre Inc||Moama & District Preschool Brings Sober in the Country to Moama |
Improve the community’s social and emotional health and encourage local involvement by hosting a community dinner and guest speaker on drinking culture and supporting healthy choices.
|Congregation of Central Western Qld UCA||Edgely Hall Improvements |
Improve volunteer vitality and support social connection by installing air-conditioning in the multi-purpose room of the Longreach Uniting Church.
|Red Ridge (Interior Queensland) Limited||Outback Fashion Festival - Canvas to Catwalk |
Provide opportunities for Aboriginal artists from seven outback Queensland communities to participate in fashion print design workshops which culminate in a catwalk runway community event.
|Rattler Railway Company Ltd||Fatigue Management Accommodation |
Build the capacity, capability, and sustainability of Rattler Railway Company Ltd through infrastructure restoration and renovation to support volunteers.
|Kumbia & District Memorial School of Arts Inc||Kumbia & District School Memorial of Arts Inc Hall Improvements |
Boost and strengthen the local economy and reduce social isolation with town beautification in Kumbia through mural art.
|Connecting Communities Australia Ltd||Let the Show Go On |
Improve volunteer vitality and support strong social connection by providing a team of volunteers to assist the Longreach Show Committee prepare and coordinate the Longreach Annual Show.
|The Isolated Childrens' Parents Association of (WA) Inc||2022 ICPA Federal Conference|
Build communities’ resilience to continue to face the many ongoing issues and uncertainties that are inherent for families living in rural and remote Australia by hosting a conference where participants connect and learn from one another.
|Busselton Hospice Care Incorporated||Increasing the Capability to Support Grief and Bereavement in our Compassionate Community|
Empower a community group by providing skills training and capacity building to further support community members experiencing loss and grief.
|For a Better Chapman Valley (FABCV) Incorporated||Winter Art Series in Chapman Valley|
Facilitate social connection and enhance opportunities for the Chapman Valley community to participate in creative activities through the delivery of art workshops.
In many rural communities, non-denominational school chaplains promote strong community connection, participation opportunities and engagement to reduce isolation and encourage better physical and mental health. While these positions are generally funded through local donations, in recent years there simply hasn’t been the money to fund them locally due to drought and, more recently, reduced tourism from COVID-19 restrictions.
Through FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together grant program, Scripture Union Queensland received $131,490 to support chaplaincy positions at Ravenswood State School, Charter Towers Central State School and Mareeba State School until June 2022. The grant was made possible through generous donations from the Sidney Myer Fund and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.
This funding ensures all programs and activities coordinated by the chaplains, including one-on-one pastoral care conversations and classroom support, are free for all children, young people, families and school staff. These activities help to reduce isolation and increase wellbeing and community participation in communities suffering from the long-term effects of drought.
Since funds were awarded in 2019, the schools have been able to implement change and growth within their chaplaincy programs. At Ravenswood State School, chaplain Anne – a much loved member of the community – was finally able to retire at 83 years old. Her position has been filled by a long term local Charters Towers resident, who works two days a week.
The chaplain at Charter Towers has been able to increase her support to two days a week and is seeing a positive response to the ‘Girls with a Purpose Resilience’ program. Twelve students completed the program in 2019 and there was general consensus among the participants that it was a special time engaging with facilitators and peers. After the COVID-19 school closure in 2020, all girls in grade 6 are now taking part in the program.
A particular highlight for the Mareeba State School has been the implementation of the Bike-Bus program to encourage regular physical activity and increase school attendance and social and community engagement. Since being established in mid-2019, the program has engaged 30 students, as well as parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers and police. It also led to the creation of the Bike Repair Club – an alternative for those who enjoy hands on learning, with all students becoming much more engaged in their education.
The principal of the Mareeba State School, Mandy Whybird, noted the program’s positive impact.
“Our school chaplain provides an invaluable source of support for the students at Mareeba State School. Aside from running friendship groups, supporting children in classes and running lunchtime activities for children who may find the playground challenging, our chaplain also assists in providing breakfasts for children in need and working with children who may have experienced loss or trauma.
“The chaplain also assists to support staff well-being. When our school was shaken by the loss of a teacher last year, our Chaplain was integral to the recovery process for staff,” Ms Whybird said.
The resolution of issues causing frequent flooding of the carpark for the Burrum District Community’s Men’s Shed in Howard, QLD, has enabled more seniors to have safe access to opportunities to learn new skills with like-minded community members.
The carpark was flooding constantly due to weather issues and stormwater runoff, making access to steps and a ramp difficult for senior members, meaning some were not able to visit the shed.
A $2,200 FRRR Strengthening Rural Communities grant funded drainage and an all-weather carpark. Members also contributed by pitching in to clean up weeds – a project that need to be repeated when the project was stalled due to COVID-19 closures of the facility.
Burrum District Community Men’s Shed President Mark Wake said the facility provides a safe, friendly and healing environment with the emphasis on men’s health and encouraging social inclusion. Members can work on meaningful projects at their own pace, in their own time and in the company of others.
“The shed provides a friendly, relaxing environment that encourages men and assists with social isolation. It also provides support in times of bereavement, ill health, redundancy and other life changing events,” he said.
“The success of this project will see our shed becoming a welcoming environment in any weather as a drop-in centre for lonely, isolated men in the community,” Mr Wake said.
Among the improvements are access to the main shed during inclement weather, wheelchair access to the ramp and access to the metal work shed. An additional benefit was an increase in usable off-street parking leading to an increase in membership and community members inquiring about other services such as woodwork lessons.
Much needed boost for 17 initiatives in affected NSW and QLD rural communities
FRRR, in partnership with Suncorp Group, has awarded $200,000 in grants to 17 community groups and local not-for-profits in rural areas impacted by the March 2021 floods and storms for initiatives that will support their recovery from the disaster.
Funded through the Rebuilding Futures program, grants awarded range from $1,573 to $15,000. This funding will help with projects such as restoring damaged infrastructure, improving buildings and maintaining equipment needed for future disaster events, developing local disaster-response knowledge and skills, and providing access to services that foster recovery.
These grants are the first to come from Suncorp Group’s $1 million pledge to FRRR to support rural Australian communities impacted by, or vulnerable to, significant natural disasters.
Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said the grant recipients have showed a sense of resolve and strength when it comes to rebuilding.
“Recovery is not a quick process – not every community is going to have the capacity to take the same steps at the same time. Despite this, and the challenges of COVID-19 and volunteer fatigue, we’ve been genuinely impressed by the drive of local groups to actively seek support and funding to help their communities recover from the floods. It’s this kind of resilient spirit and motivation that will see these communities thrive once again.
“More than 50 percent of the applications we received for this round were for infrastructure and equipment, which shows not only the extent of the physical damage from the flooding, but also the long-term approach that these organisations are taking to the rebuilding of their communities,” said Ms Egleton.
Suncorp Group CEO, Steve Johnston, said these grants will enable recipients to overcome challenges and take control of their futures.
“The recipients of these grants are determined to make sure their communities recover and bounce back from the March 2021 floods. Natural disasters can turn people’s lives upside down, but the challenge has become even greater with the added pressure of the pandemic.
“Our remote, rural and regional communities know how to come together and work to rebuild their own futures. That’s why grant programs like these, that champion community-led recovery, are so crucial,” said Mr Johnston.
Among the 17 projects funded this round are:
- Bumbalong Valley Progress Association, NSW – Bumbalong Emu Project – $12,490 – Boost community connection and support the conservation of the local emu population by replacing infrastructure damaged during the March 2021 floods.
- Hawkesbury City Council, NSW – Hawkesbury Community Tech Connect – $14,836 – Enhance access to internet and mobile phone coverage with the creation of community technology hubs across the Hawkesbury region reducing isolation and supporting disaster recovery activities.
- Weemelah Hall, NSW – Beautification and Infrastructure Upgrade Project – $13,358 – Enhance community spaces with the installation of a BBQ for community use and beautification of the Weemelah Hall.
- Rathdowney and District Memorial Grounds Association Incorporated, QLD – Repair Rain-damaged Equestrian Arena and Make it Flood-resistant – $15,000 – Upgrade community infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of future flood events on the Rathdowney Memorial Ground.
More information on the Suncorp Rebuilding Futures grant program is available here.
The full list of grant recipients and their projects are below.
|NEW SOUTH WALES|
|Bermagui Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Inc||A Positive Future|
Grow the organisations capacity to support the community with the provision of a portable projector and screen to enhance the delivery of community activities and events.
|Bumbalong Valley Progress Association||Bumbalong Emu Project |
Boost community connection and support the conservation of the local emu population by replacing infrastructure damaged during the March 2021 floods.
|Hawkesbury City Council||Hawkesbury Community Tech Connect |
Enhance access to internet and mobile phone coverage with the creation of community technology hubs across the Hawkesbury region reducing isolation and supporting disaster recovery activities.
|Bilpin, Colo & St Albans||$14,836|
|Huskisson Public School Parents and Citizens Association||Huskisson Public School Community Canteen |
Boost community resilience and connection with upgrades at the Huskisson School canteen, providing appropriate cooking facilities for the community to cook, prepare and share meals.
|Kempsey Singers Incorporated||Kempsey's Bandbox Theatre Costume Conservation Project |
Boost organisational capacity by repairing and mitigating future flood impacts at the Bandbox theatre and replace a portion of costumes damaged by the March 2021 floods.
|Kendall Men's Shed||Noise Level Reduction |
Boost the service offerings at the Kendall Men's Shed with noise reducing machinery encouraging community participation and connection.
|Make a Difference PMQ Incorporated||MAD SHED |
Boost the organisations capacity to support their community, particularly through recovery with the provision of a shed to house essential equipment and machinery.
|Mission Australia||The Common Approach - A Whole of Community Response to Child and Youth Wellbeing|
Grow community connection and wellbeing by providing activities through "The Common Approach" as a whole of community response to child and youth wellbeing across the Mid Coast region.
|Unkya Reserve Committee of Management Nambucca Valley Council||Stay and Play - Unkya Reserve Playground Flood-Resilient |
Upgrade Boost access to family oriented community spaces with the repair of stairs and the installation of picnic table, bench and shade at the Unkya Reserve.
|Quambone Resources Committee Inc||Quambone Memorial Hall - Final Touches |
Boost community connection by providing enhancements to the Quambone Memorial Hall, ensuring access to a comfortably appointed community facility for all to enjoy.
|River Cares Incorporated||To Improve Emergency Preparedness and Resilience by Developing a Community Emergency Plan |
Support emergency preparedness for Spencer and surrounding areas with the development of the Spencer Community Emergency Response Plan.
|UCA - Lifeline North Coast (NSW)||Psychological First Aid Workers - First Response Volunteers |
Strengthen community members mental health and wellbeing and assist in the training of community volunteer in Mental Health First Aid to support local recovery and resilience building.
|Upper Macleay Pre-School Incorporated||Tranquil and Safe - Upper Macleay Preschool Flood Recovery Initiative |
Support flooding preparedness by enhancing the Upper Macleay Preschool with repairs to flood damaged infrastructure and better preparing for future flooding events.
|Weemelah Hall||Beautification and Infrastructure Upgrade Project |
Enhance community spaces with the installation of a BBQ for community use and beautification of the Weemalah Hall.
|Young Men's Christian Association of Sydney||The Y NSW CoastTeen Project - Empowering Peer-to-Peer Mental Health Support for Young People Living on the Central Coast |
Support community wellbeing with the delivery on the Youth Mental Health Peer Support program in the NSW Central Coast region.
|Rathdowney and District Memorial Grounds Association Incorporated||Repair Rain-Damaged Equestrian Arena and Make it Flood Resistant |
Support the mitigation of impacts of future flood events on the Rathdowney Memorial Grounds by repairing, leveling and compacting the sand arena damaged during the March 2021 floods.
|Tamborine Mountain A H & I Society Inc||Replacement of Safety Rails on Access Ramp |
Increase accessibility to the Tamborine Mountains Showgrounds Pavilion by replacing the handrails and the front of the pavilion.
The small rural town of Hannaford on the Western Downs in Queensland is battling what would seem to be an endless drought. With a town of just 120 people consisting mostly of primary producers, they have been heavily impacted by an ongoing lack of rain.
Cue the vibrant and dedicated Hannaford Club Inc – a community club founded in 1946, originally to maintain the Hannaford Memorial Hall in honour of the fallen.
These days though, this Club does far more than that. With its dedicated volunteers and committee members, this proud community organisation hosts and runs countless fundraisers both for the town and further afield. From the Hannaford Tennis competition to the Dalby Christian Youth Camp, the seemingly tireless fundraising and support efforts of this Club have, over the years, proven integral to the town’s survival – not just proving their resilience, but also showcasing their indelible ability to prosper.
A big part of the Hannaford Club’s fundraising efforts involve catering for all these events, which often draw crowds in the hundreds. Unfortunately, outdated and slow catering equipment was increasing volunteer workloads, as well as service time for getting food to patrons. The Club identified that an upgrade was sorely needed.
With a grant from FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, funded by donor’s Dr George Jacobs and Dr Janice Hirshorn, the Club has been successful in obtaining new equipment.
The funds were used to purchase a high-volume, gas-operated deep oil fryer, an ambient cake display cabinet, and a high-volume gas-operated BBQ. With the ever-increasing patronage at their events, this improved equipment will enable the Club to continue to support not just events hosted by them, but it will benefit the wider region, as people are welcome to borrow the equipment for their own fundraising events.
Annie Hubbard from the Hannaford Club said that the Hannaford Campdraft held in May 2021 was their first catered fundraiser since the COVID lockdowns began.
“We were so proud to be able to more than adequately cater for a huge crowd of over 300 people quickly and efficiently. The new equipment was of great use – the volunteer catering committee and all attendees benefited significantly, and it is so very much appreciated!”
For years, Central Western Queensland has been heavily impacted by the economic, environmental, and social effects of a prolonged drought. Topology, a grassroots community arts organisation, decided to tackle these impacts and empower their communities with music and performance.
Topology’s goal is to build the creative capacity of their participants and to help increase social connectedness through much needed community-based and intergenerational events. And that’s exactly what they achieved when they launched Top Up Central Western Queensland. This initiative consisted of a series of 12 workshops and a four-day creative bootcamp that culminated in a free community performance in Longreach, which was attended by 2,000 people.
Through our Tackling Tough Times Together program, Topology received a grant of $10,000, funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, as well as separate funding through the Building Better Regions Fund. This money paid the local artists who hosted workshops, as well as covering venue hire and event costs.
The Topology team said, “One of the things we are most proud of is seeing people of all ages, some with no previous experience of the arts, learn about their own potential for creativity – and to perform in public a new piece they have written and contributed to themselves. The feelings of self-accomplishment and pride achieved by the participants is a real and invaluable outcome of this program.”
The program was also the catalyst for Topology consulting with the community on the development of a Regional Creative Hub (RCH). This hub will have lasting impacts for local communities, as it will help to support and upskill rural creative practitioners and community arts organisations.
Top Up Central Western Queensland empowered, educated, and inspired the community to create, perform and tell their stories, while celebrating their community. It was a much-needed reminder of their resilience and their ability to thrive through tough times together.
In north west Queensland, there is a town called Winton. For the last seven years the town has battled the worst drought they have ever seen. To make matters worse, flooding in early 2020 ravaged the town even further, with the loss of thousands of livestock and damage to much of the surrounding area. This kind of devastation, understandably, created immense financial stress and anxiety for the residents and businesses of Winton.
To lift community spirits, the Diamantina Rodeo and Campdraft Association (DRCA) wanted to hold their annual Campdraft, an event where horse and rider combine to work cattle, but with financial pressures, it was touch and go. With the help of a $20,000 Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) grant, they were able to make it a reality. The three-day event brought together crowds from surrounding towns to watch and compete in the Draft in a show of resilience and support for the local businesses of Winton.
The Draft provided a rare opportunity for families and friends to come together to enjoy a night of sport, food and music – a welcome distraction from the grief caused by the last few years.
The funding covered the major costs for the event, including complying with regulations such as having an ambulance presence, as well as the costs to keep all animals safe and happy. Additionally, the DRCA organised DJs and extra entertainment for attendees over the three days.
The success of the annual Draft means the DRCA will be in a better situation when it comes time to organise the next event. A committee member said:
“Without this funding we would not have been able to run our annual event, so this was a great achievement not only for our organisation but the whole community.”
In the remote locality of Clarke Creek in Queensland’s Isaac Region, a community of 320 people have been doing it tough in recent years. In March 2017 Tropical Cyclone Debbie and flash flooding devastated the area, and then came the drought.
People from Clarke Creek mostly own or work on cattle stations, many run by extended and intergenerational family groups. School-aged children in the area were exposed to many impacts of Cyclone Debbie – from damage to community and family infrastructure, livestock and pet animal losses, to financial strain putting pressure on their families.
A problem-solving school
The saving grace of this community is the Clarke Creek State School (CCSS), which, in the absence of a township, serves as the community hub. It caters to the needs of 17 students from Kinder to Year 6, extends support to siblings, parents and extended families of those students, and provides a meeting place for all groups in the area, including the P&C Association.
The Clarke Creek P&C Association knew it was critical to support children through all this, and that school can help facilitate healing by providing the sense of normality that’s needed after a disaster. Since residents of Clarke Creek had to travel up to 230kms to access health and professional services, the P&C Association knew that, for help to be constructive, it would need to be brought into Clarke Creek.
The school had previously gained the services of a chaplain directly though the National Schools Chaplaincy Program, however the school could only afford one visit per fortnight without outside funding. By late 2018, it was clear that there was a need for ongoing disaster support for families. With so many pressures affecting the ability to fundraise locally in the tiny community, the P&C Association applied to FRRR’s In a Good Place program. A grant of $10,000 funded by CCI Giving essentially doubled the chaplain’s visits to weekly from July 2019 until March 2020, when the Department of Education funding applications opened.
Chaplaincy support proves vital
In small schools, the school chaplain is often the welfare provider, and plays a key part of the school support team.
The chaplaincy support at CCSS started shortly after the school and community were devastated by cyclone Debbie, and proved to be highly valuable to students, staff and the broader community, in their ongoing recovery and general mental health and wellbeing. The chaplain attends the school one day each week, working with the children in groups and one on one sessions. She provides emotional support and fosters leadership and kindness in the classroom, playground, and at school events.
“Chappy’, as she is fondly nicknamed, has been imparting those crucial life skills to the children and helping them to deal with the many challenges unique to living in a remote community in an isolated context.
It was a crucial time to bring in extra support, and the P&C Association don’t make light of the importance of Chappy’s role. Throughout COVID-19, the chaplain helped children deal with changes to their learning and became a central figure of stability for parents and the wider community.
The CCSS Principal notes how important the chaplain is in helping students transition through their education.
“I think the older students love the way she makes sure they all know that they have a voice and that someone cares enough to make the time to listen. She helped prepare older students for boarding school, and taught younger ones to be engaged in learning and practising kindness.”
The chaplain attends school and community events, and works with other schools in the cluster, thus creating support networks in the broader communities and creating an inclusive atmosphere and strengthened sense of community. But it’s the flow-on effects from the children’s gains that have the greatest power, as described in the final report:
“Our greatest achievement has been just stabilising our community. Oddly, this was really achieved through the children coming home from school with this positive energy and outlook from their time with Chappy, rather than working direct with parents and community. When the parents knew the kids would be ok and had someone strong to lean on, it was like a weight lifted and the school became the place of ‘normalcy and support’. Things picked up from there.
“In a small school and community, we have to stick together. Chappy has fostered this sense of belonging and caring in our children and it emanates from there.”
Located 1,000 km from Brisbane in the southwest of Queensland, Eromanga has a big claim to fame. The rural town, hidden deep in the outback of Australia, may only be 119 residents – but the biggest by far is Cooper, a 30 metre long and 6.5 metre high Dinosaur.
Eromanga is Australia’s furthest town from the ocean, and was drought declared for 13 years out of the 18 years to 2018. The many challenges brought on by a long drought, paired with the limited access to the town, have made increasing tourism a top priority for the local community.
Until recently, tourism around the region was almost non-existent, until the first dinosaur genus was found in 2004. From then, the Outback Gondwana Foundation founded the Eromanga Natural History Museum (ENHM), and since 2008 has been collecting and processing the fossils found in the area for locals, scientists and tourists to view.
The museum features fossils that have been preserved for more than 95 million years, however being located in a remote area has meant little foot traffic. Visitors faced long travel times to and from the museum, making day trips nearly impossible.
To overcome this obstacle, the Museum opened their own on-site accommodation, bringing more business to the area by allowing visitors to stay longer. Cooper’s Country Lodge offers four-star rooms, and thanks to a recent grant from FRRR, now has new kitchen and laundry facilities for their guests to enjoy.
The team at ENHM received a $20,000 grant through FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, funded by Australia Post, which allowed them to purchase equipment and fit out their onsite kitchen, laundry and support services. There is also a commercial kitchen featuring a microwave, griddle, deep fryer and new cookware, together with dining furniture and outdoor table & chairs.
The investment is already paying off. Despite the lockdowns and travel restrictions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of the ENHM and Cooper’s Country Lodge has only increased, as Queenslanders have spent their holidays travelling in their own backyard. In 2020, the ENHM received the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award, meaning the Museum is in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.