Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

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.

Volunteers cleaning dinosaur fossils ahead of the opening of the Eromanga Natural History Museum which will become an important local tourist attraction.

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.

The Taromeo Rural Fire Brigade (TRFB) are a busy bunch. While you could be forgiven for thinking their remit was fire preparedness and firefighting, this group of volunteers actually take on a significant number of emergency service preparedness and response activities, as well as community education and outreach. After an increase in fires in the area, they were in need of more trained community volunteers, particularly young people and women, to support their efforts.

Alongside the challenge of more fires in the area, the TRFB were facing challenges with engaging with younger and older members of the community. They were concerned about their understanding of how bushfires can spread and their preparedness and resilience levels if a fire was to occur.

A grant of $4,170, donated by the David MacTaggart Foundation meant that the TRFB were able to create the ‘Don’t Burn the Butt’ community engagement campaign. The TRFB worked with other community organisations in the delivery of ‘Don’t Burn the Butt’ including South Burnett Regional Council, Blackbutt Benarkin Aged Care, SES, Qld Police Service, Blackbutt Medical Centre, Blackbutt Festival and Blackbutt Benarkin Aged Care Association.

The TRFB conducted a door to door engagement campaign, with volunteers knocking on every door in the community to talk about the importance of being prepared for bushfire season, and the benefits of becoming a volunteer. They also ran workshops for community members who were interested in becoming volunteers, to teach them the skills they would need, and were able to purchase equipment that they needed to ensure that they could respond effectively to any fires that occurred.

Les Lane, First Officer of TRFB, told FRRR; “The delivery of a Community Engagement Strategy was a very positive outcome for this project. We now have an additional 4 members of the brigade with truck licenses to respond to fires. This has already proven to be of benefit to the community and the brigade by enabling more team members to be active fire fighters when needed.”

Now, more community members are equipped with the knowledge and support they need to keep themselves and their families safe for this bushfire season, and many more to come.

Freestone is a small, farming community located west of Brisbane, in Queensland. The town has been hard hit by ongoing drought, job losses and declining mental health and wellbeing among community members.

In 2015, the Freestone Memorial Hall began holding ‘Friday friendlies’ to bring community members together for social catch-ups. These events were particularly important as the drought worsened in 2018, with the economy slowing down due to layoffs. As times got tougher, the attendance at the Friday Friendlies increased.

Because of the importance of this social event, the Freestone Memorial Hall wanted to ensure the space was safe, could host the growing number of visitors, and had the updated facilities needed to ensure everyone could come together for a good time.

Freestone Memorial Hall was awarded a $10,000 grant, funded by the Australian Government, and administered by FRRR as part of the Tackling Tough Times Together Grant Program, to upgrade their facilities, install a data projector and integrated PA system and undergo renovations to fix an unsafe floor.

“Since installations and repairs have been completed, we have run five Friday Friendlies with increasing numbers at each Friendly. We are now averaging 50 people per night with a broad cross section of the community coming together to share their experiences of the month. This has proved particularly important as the drought continues,” Simon Goddard, a volunteer committee member for the Hall, told FRRR.

“We are even getting people back to the Friday Friendlies as they hear of improved facilities and increasing numbers. It is becoming self-perpetuating and has a very promising future.”

The new projector has been a popular addition for many locals, who enjoy getting together to watch live sports and tournaments. 

The grant also allowed the community group to purchase a fridge, which not only keeps their drinks cold for events, but generates some income for the Hall. This modest but sustainable income makes it possible for the community to host bigger and better events together. So far, the Friday Friendlies continues to be a success for the Freestone community, with many looking forward to attending the gathering every week.

30 communities share in small grants

Schools, sports clubs and a rural fire brigade are among the 30 not-for-profit organisations in rural and regional cotton-growing communities to receive a $5,000 boost from the Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities program.

This year marks the seventh round of the Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities program, which the Crop Science division of Bayer delivers in partnership with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR). This year’s program takes the total investment into cotton communities to more than one million dollars.

Local cotton growers nominated each of the not-for-profits that are receiving funds, which will help strengthen community resilience and positively impact the wellbeing of cotton-growing communities. 

FRRR CEO Natalie Egleton said a consistent theme across nominations this year was a strong desire to boost morale and maintain community spirit in the face of drought.

“Local cotton-growing communities, already dealing with the stresses of sustained drought, have told us of the additional strain caused by COVID-19 restrictions. For these groups, normal fundraising activities have been turned on their head with local businesses, already struggling to survive, unable to lend their support to these community organisations,” Ms Egleton said. 

“It’s wonderful to have partners like Bayer to be able to help to alleviate some of their fundraising challenges as they work hard to keep their communities connected and address critical community needs.

“There are so many not-for-profit groups and local charities doing wonderful things to make cotton-growing communities great places to live and work. This year we’ve seen many groups seeking support to develop and build organisational and community resilience. Their determination to see their communities thrive, despite the challenges they face, is inspiring,” Ms Egleton said. 

Bayer Crop Science Head of Customer Marketing for Australia and New Zealand Tony May congratulated the winners and said the funding will assist in bringing people together again after being disconnected by COVID-19 restrictions.

“Many of the projects being funded will ensure cotton-growing communities can interact and connect with one another safely during the pandemic,” Mr May said.  

“The grants will help build community gardens, upgrade facilities for digital learning and enhance outdoor areas to foster connections.”

Gogeldrie Rural Fire Brigade in central north Riverina NSW, was a recipient of one of the 30 Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities grants. The brigade plan to use the grant to invest in suitable gym equipment to ensure the safety of its users. Currently gym users are improvising, including dragging around spare tyres tied on with rope.   

On hearing they had been successful, Gogeldrie Fire Brigade Captain David Pike said it was fantastic news and would make a big difference to their small community.  

“Providing appropriate gym equipment will be a nice reward for our volunteer fire fighters and motivate our farmers to come together and put their health and wellbeing first, more often,” Captain Pike said.

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

Jump to : NSW Communities | QLD Communities

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
NEW SOUTH WALES
Darling River Food & Fibre (Bourke)
Bourke & District Children’s ServicesEnhance community identity and connection through the installation of a culturally relevant outdoor space.Bourke$5,000
Gwydir Valley
Moree & District Historical SocietyDevelop organisational resilience and capacity through the installation of solar panels.Moree$5,000
St Philomenas Catholic School Moree P & FSupport school engagement and enhance learning outcomes through the construction of an outdoor classroom.Moree$5,000
Lower Namoi
Wee Waa Branch Country Women’s Association of NSWIncrease community inclusion through construction of a safety ramp to support access to the CWA hall.Wee Waa$5,000
Wee Waa Rotary Club IncSupport organisational capacity through the purchase of a portable coolroom.Wee Waa$5,000
Macquarie
Trangie Country Women’s Association – Country Women’s Association of NSWIncrease community inclusion through the installation of safety railing to a newly installed ramp at the CWA hall.Trangie$5,000
Warren Central SchoolSupport life long learning through the establishment of a kitchen garden program.Warren$5,000
Warren Youth Support Group IncorporatedFacilitate positive engagement and support of young people through the installation of a permanent gazebo and outdoor furniture.Warren$5,000
Mungindi Water Users
Mungindi Junior Rugby League Club IncFoster social wellbeing and connectivity through a kitchen upgrade.Mungindi$5,000
Southern Valleys
Coleambally Central School P&C AssociationEnhance educational opportunities through the construction of a covered area linking classrooms and providing a safe all-weather play area.Coleambally$5,000
Gogeldrie Rural Fire BrigadeSupport individual and community health and wellbeing through the purchase of gym equipment.Gogeldrie$5,000
Griffith Public School Parents and Citizens AssociationIncrease educational opportunities through the purchase of readers for junior classrooms.Griffith$5,000
Hillston Billylids IncEnhance educational opportunities and social skill development through the purchase of digital learning resources and upgrade to play area.Hillston$5,000
Country Education Foundation of Coleambally-Darlington Point Incorporated (CEFCPD)Support lifelong learning, education and training through the support of a grants program that enables young people to complete post secondary education.Coleambally$5,000
Murrumbidgee Shire CouncilFoster community health and wellbeing through fencing of a community garden.Coleambally$5,000
Upper Namoi
Carroll Community Bus IncorporatedFoster community connectivity and resilience through repairs to the community bus.Carroll$5,000
Ooranga Family Mobile Resource Unit Assoc IncProvide access to diverse learning environments through the replacement of the existing kitchen.Gunnedah$5,000
Spring Ridge Public School Parents and Citizens AssociationEnable participation in educational opportunities through support of an annual student trip to Canberra.Spring Ridge$5,000
QUEENSLAND
Central Highlands
Rolleston Cricket Club IncBuild community resilience through the purchase of a defibrillator and ice making machine.Rolleston$5,000
Darling Downs
11th Light Horse Darling Downs Troop Inc.Support the preservation of local history by upgrading facilities that house historical memorabilia.Highfields$5,000
Cecil Plains History GroupSupport organisational resilience and the promotion of local history through the installation of a rainwater tank and purchase of display stands.Cecil Plains$5,000
Friends of Jondaryan Woolshed IncEnhance the preservation and promotion of local history through exhibit fencing to protect historical artifacts.Jondaryan$5,000
Rotary Club of Dalby IncIncrease organisational capacity through upgrade of existing catering trailer.Dalby$5,000
Wheatlands Primary P&C AssocEnhance student learning opportunities and support community connection, through the provision of a protected outdoor space.Wheatlands$5,000
Dawson Valley
Theodore Bowls Club IncorporatedDevelop organisational resilience and capacity through the provision of a ride on mower and outdoor vac.Theodore$5,000
Dirranbandi
Dirranbandi Arts Council IncorporatedIncrease volunteer comfort and safety through the installation of meeting room air conditioning and security cameras to community spaces.Dirranbandi$5,000
Macintyre Valley
Lundavra Primary P&C AssociationSupport student wellbeing and community resilience, through the purchase of a water tank to maintain school grounds.Lundavra$5,000
Macintyre Ag Alliance Inc.Support environmental outcomes through the purchasing of weed spraying equipment.Goondiwindi$5,000
St George
St George Tourism and Museum Association Inc.Support community resillience and raise community morale through restoration of a historical building.St George$5,000
Northern Australia (North of Latitude 21.15 degrees South)
Cowboys Charity LimitedSupport learning opportunities for Indigenous students through fit out of boarding room accomodation.Townsville$5,000

In our fourth and final podcast in this series, journalist Cameron Wilson discovers that a shared interest in conservation and environment can be a potent driver of social cohesion. We discover how botanical art has been an unlikely catalyst for an environmental project in outback Queensland and discuss the reasons why these projects break down isolation.

Speaking with botanical artist Jenny Mace and FRRR and AEGN Board member Annie Grindrod, we learn the value of people getting involved in projects that take into consideration the wider environment, and how this can be something that relieves the pressure of land owners during tough times.

The Boulia Shire, located in Central West Queensland, has been in drought since April 2013. With a total population of 426, Boulia residents are turning to community groups to stay active and connected.

These not-for-profit groups are relying on events – such as BBQ fundraisers – to sustain their activities. But it’s not easy. Without access to commercial BBQ equipment, fundraising opportunities are limited. Some groups choose to use privately owned BBQ’s, but these are clunky to move, and raise concerns about volunteer safety.

The Boulia Shire Council is the main employer in the area and supports 12 local community groups. To provide better fundraising opportunities across all groups, the Council set a new objective in 2018 – to source a multi-purpose BBQ unit.

The Council receieved a $26,000 grant from the Tackling Tough Times Together program, funded by Tim and Gina Fairfax, to purchase their new Chill’n’Grill BBQ trailer. The trailer included a fridge and safety equipment, which would allow community groups to transport and operate it safely.

Since its arrival in January 2019, the BBQ trailer has been widely used in the Boulia community. It was first fired up for Australia Day celebrations, which was a big hit on all accounts. Later in the year, the Central West Hospital and Health Services used it for its ‘Health & Wellbeing’ visits and for the Man with a Pram’ Father’s Day function. The BBQ trailer quickly became a popular meeting spot at these events, as attendees could gather around it to share a snack, socialise and show support for neighbours experiencing hardship.

“The trailer has made our working times so much more enjoyable,” said one group organiser. “Great resource. Easy to use, very clean and also easy to clean.”

The Boulia Shire Council is proud of its new fundraising equipment. They are committed to covering ongoing costs for the trailer and are confident their local groups will continue to use it. “This is the start of a domino effect,” a Council representative said. “Better experiences for organisers mean a better chance of more activities, events and functions for the community.”

Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN) is a member and volunteer based, multi-generational, not-for-profit organisation for women from, or supportive of rural, regional and remote (RRR) areas, across all sectors and industries. Their focus is on building strong and diverse communities through connecting, developing and inspiring RRR women.

In 2018 they received $5,000 from FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities program, funded by the David Mactaggart Foundation to fund a history project as part of their 25th anniversary, which was celebrated at the QRRRWN annual conference in Kingaroy.

The project paid tribute to the QRRRWN women whose vision 25 years ago helped shaped the organisation as it stands today, as well as the communities they live in. Interviews were conducted with past and present QRRRWN women, and featured their stories, wisdom and achievements in a series of videocasts. These snapshots of the life of the organisation were launched at the QRRRWN 2018 Conference as part of an exhibit featuring memorabilia from the last 25 years.

There is also now a history page on the QRRRWN website, with a series of videocasts that members, prospective members, as well as the general public, can view. This history webpage hosts the previously hidden collections of QRRRWN history that can be viewed as slideshows: https://www.qrrrwn.org.au/history-project/.

Project lead and QRRRWN board member Dr Cecily Jensen-Clayton said that years of drought, economic downturn, cyclone damage and the shrinking of rural communities have led to a loss of energy and motivation in leadership.

“The greatest success from my perspective was the performance and effectiveness of the history project team. What I am most proud of is that these outcomes are enduring, these outcomes being legacies that continue to energise leaders, their communities, and the QRRRWN organisation.”

One significant benefit of the history project was that it showcased to younger members the greater capacity and capabilities of the organisation. One millennial board member has now gone on to take up an executive position this year, and other participants were gifted with new and different ways to think about using their voice as leaders, commensurate with the objectives of the organisation.

For the residents of Mission Beach in Queensland, there was a lack of safe water play facilities in the area, due to no community swimming pool and the presence of deadly marine stinging jellyfish in the local beach during the summer months.

The Rotary Water Park/Splash Pad project was developed to provide a special place for the children of Mission Beach to play with their families and friends. It would also offer an opportunity for visitors to experience the Water Park/Spray Pad facilities at the Mission Beach beachfront, bringing much-needed tourism to the area.

The project also was also a part of the Cyclone Yasi recovery initiative for Mission Beach. Yasi caused major destruction in the community in 2011. The Rotary Club of Mission Beach opened a Fundraising Account with FRRR in 2014 to enable keen sponsors to receive a tax deduction for any donations.

In December 2018, the Club reached their fundraising target and began construction early the following year. A project five years in the making has become a reality and been a huge success for the Mission beach community. You will now find the Water Park filled with families, with children enjoying the new water-play facilities.

One of the project managers who helped deliver the water park advises other community groups to “never give up”, as persistence was integral to their success.

The Mission Beach community await to see the impact of the Water Park on local tourism for the Summer holiday season but expect to see the same great outcome it has had for locals.