Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The town of Stanthorpe, in Queensland is no stranger to hardship. After years of drought and bushfires, the community was already feeling the pressure when COVID-19 hit. Like many rural, remote, and regional towns, social isolation is a huge issue, now more than ever with strict rules on social interactions and gatherings. These restrictions made it particularly difficult for visitors to come to the area and spend money at local businesses, putting more financial pressure on the community already feeling the effects of years of severe drought. It was so bad, the town was even trucking in water for residents.

The Granite Belt Art and Craft Train Inc (GBART) was determined to push through all these challenges. GBART’s purpose is to support community wellbeing and economic diversity through improving the Granite Belt’s cultural vibrancy and identity. The region stretches from the Great Dividing Range in Queensland all the way to the New England region of New South Wales. 

Thanks to a $20,000 Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) grant, GBART was able to hold the highly anticipated annual culture and tourism event, Open Studio, which took place over three days and attracted approximately 4,000 visitors.

Open Studio involved hands on workshops, classes and demonstrations, while also engaging with Australian art and craft in active, inclusive ways. The events were hosted at 27 different venues, including wineries that saw visitors stopping to taste, shop and eat.

The TTTT grant allowed GBART to fund a range of supporting resources such as the training and up-skilling of volunteers, purchasing office and IT equipment, venue hire, advertising and marketing material, COVID-19 cleaning equipment and training, plus salaries for an event coordinator, administration support, and a media consultant.

The event was a major success, bringing the community together and engaging visitors from surrounding towns. Best of all, there were little to no changes needed to their original plan. Event organisers said they were “proud of the venues, the accommodation and hospitality businesses that supported the artisans and hosted them in their venues, and we are proud of the artisans who provided the engagement that brought everyone here.”

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 regional town of Emerald, situated in the Central Highlands Region of Queensland, is having a tough time. The area is experiencing a severe drought, which is having a significant impact on the town’s economy. However, there is a potential bright light for both locals and tourists in the new Emerald Arts, Culture and Technology Precinct (ACTP).

The precinct includes the regional library, art gallery, maker space, pottery, art pods and more. As part of the precinct, the Central Highlands Science Centre (CHSC) saw an opportunity to create a first-class science discovery and learning experience for kids in the local area, and tourists from out of town looking for a fun family activity. With the town experiencing a tough drought, keeping tourism going is important as it gives the town a much-needed boost to their economy.

A $18,700 grant from the Australian Government through our TTTT program meant that the organisers of the centre could work together with key community and tourism groups and conduct a feasibility study into the potential of establishing the centre as part of the Emerald ACTP. The feasibility study investigated the opportunities and measure of success or failure of the Centre to drive an economic benefit for CHSC and the wider region.

The project was found to be feasible, and the CHSC received further funding to help with their relocation costs. While the shift has been put on hold due to COVID-19, the bigger premises mean that the CHSC has been able to stay open and continue providing education opportunities and a tourist attraction for visitors from outside of town. It is excellent to see this project making such a big difference to the long-term sustainability of the centre.

Students in a classroom with their teacher learning about science.

Gai Sypher, who is the Coordinator of the CHSC, said of the project; “Drought is far reaching across Australia and the recent rain has only given hope. Drought is part of the Australian landscape. We need to invest in our rural communities to attract visitor who will spend money to boost our rural economy.”

“Thank you for this wonderful opportunity that has funded the feasibility study. We have actioned recommendations from the study and are scheduled for a relocation in June.”

Gai Sypher – CHSC Coordinator

Red Ridge Interior, a creative community organisation that provides opportunities for learning, connection and community in Queensland’s Central West, knows how hard it can be to tackle tough times. After being drought declared for six years, the townships of Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine and Blackall really needed a boost.

With the help of a $60,000 grant from the Tim Fairfax Foundation, and community partnerships with Central West Suicide Network, Winton Neighbourhood Centre, Blackall-Tambo Neighbourhood Centre, Longreach Art and Craft Centre, Royal Flying Doctor Service, Central West Hospital and Health Service, Central West Aboriginal Corporation and Queensland Health, Red Ridge Interior was able to hold 46 workshops and three community events in these drought-stricken areas.

Each town engaged in community wearable art workshops to make costumes that celebrated the unique materials, textures and landscape of their towns. A total of 33 costumes were created, with the collection being named ‘Beauty Within the Drought.’ These costumes were then worn by performers during three performances to mark the end of the project.

People were also given the opportunity to travel to Barcaldine to participate in make-up artistry workshops, meaning that performers also had access to local makeup artists. A dance troupe of 25 young people also participated in the performance and showcase of the costume collection.

Within every workshop, layers of physical relaxation, self-care and well-being activities were integrated for participants. These layers of integrated care were individually tailored to meet the needs of the local community. A combination of creative skills development, physical health and emotional wellbeing were important outcomes.

Events were incredibly well received by the community and the costume collection has gained ongoing and widespread interest, with a number of groups and gallery spaces enquiring about exhibiting them.

Louise Campbell, manager of the project, told FRRR this was such an amazing project that would not have achieved what it did without the FRRR grant and partner donor Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.

“The grant enabled us to deliver the best project possible that exceeded all expectations. An exhibition of garments is now hosted in the Grassland Gallery in Tambo and expected to travel across the region. Additional communities have expressed an interest in being involved in future projects of this nature.”

Farmers for Climate Action know that the winds of change are upon farming in Australia – and want to do something about it.

Sid Plant is a fifth-generation cattle farmer in Darling Downs, Qld. It is an old family business and Sid intends to keep it that way for as long as possible.

Over the past five generations a lot has changed for farmers. There are the obvious things – the internet, better farming technology etc. But there is also climate change. Sid knows that if his father had done things exactly the same as his grandfather, and he had done the same as his great grandfather, they would no longer be in the cattle farming business. Science, technology and being open to new ways of doing things is essential. Which is why Sid is a passionate member of Farmers for Climate Action. He has studied climate change for many years so that he can engage with other Australian farmers about it – explaining to them the impacts on agriculture and their livelihoods whenever the chance arises.

Farmers for Climate Action is a not for profit organisation that works with farmers, scientists and other experts to find ways to make farming more sustainable in a world where climate change is having an impact on Australia’s agricultural industries.

FRRR’s Not-for-profit Fundraising account helps FCA achieve it’s goals

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal and FCA have entered into a partnership to establish a not-for-profit fundraising account, for people who wish to donate to FRRR, obtain a tax deduction, and indicate that their preference is that their donation supports Farmers for Climate Action. This account is primarily concerned with the ‘scale up’ of Farmers for Climate Action, such as expanding their operations around Australia, hosting educational events, running fellowship programs, and spreading the word to ensure that Australian farmers can connect with experts and advocate for change to create sustainable farming practices that will serve Australians well for many years to come.

In the first seven months since commencing the partnership, FRRR granted out over $250,000 to FCA. FCA have encouraged donors to donate to FRRR, and have received hundreds of donations – ranging in size from $5.00 to large philanthropic sums. FCA CEO Verity Morgan-Schmidt says ‘without the support of FRRR through its Not-for-Profit fundraising account, we would not have been able to receive the same scale of funds from large philanthropic donors [who must give to a DGR-1 organisation] as we have. Being able to direct our supporters to donate to FRRR to receive a tax deductible receipt has widened our pool of prospective supporters.’

Through Farmers for Climate Action, Sid and his family have worked with leading scientists and researchers to pioneer new sustainable research practices to cope with climate change in their area. They have also assisted with revealing how to best apply climate science and forecasting to agricultural planning and risk management.

Farmers for Climate Action works across rural Australia to put those on the frontline of climate change front and centre in creating climate solutions. We’re building the capacity of farmers across Australia to understand and manage climate risks, transform our energy systems, restore carbon in natural and farming landscapes and adopt climate smart agriculture farming practices.

Recently, they raised money to send two young Australian farmers to a climate conference in Paris. Anika and Joshua travelled to Europe so they could learn about sustainable farming efforts around the world and bring the knowledge back to Australia’s farming community.

Without this work, farming in Australia is at serious risk. Climate change poses a huge threat to how our farmers and our farming communities operate, continue to support themselves, and continue to provide Australians with fresh produce.

Donate to Farmers for Climate Action.

Image credit: SBS (

One local organisation that is very active around Lake Eacham, 100 km west of Cairns in Queensland, is Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands (TREAT), a community-based tree planting organisation of some 600 volunteer members. Members work together to revegetate degraded lands and create corridors for wildlife on the Atherton Tablelands.

Volunteers key to success of organisation

TREAT has a wonderful working relationships with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (Restoration Services), as well as with landholders and local landcare and community groups. Up to 60 or so members (come along each week to prepare seeds, pot or re-pot seedlings, and perform other necessary jobs before enjoying morning tea together. Their efforts peak each wet season, up to 240 volunteer hours a week tree planting at various private or public revegetation sites.

Grant enhances safety of operations

TREAT received a $3,000 grant, funded by the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation, via FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities program to retrofit purpose-built rack stands to the existing hardening off bays at their rainforest tree seedling nursery. The new racks have made the working height more comfortable, so older volunteers can work safely without bending down.

TREAT President, Angela McCaffrey, said that these ergonomically designed pipe racks that support the bays of seedling trays have made such a difference to the use, comfort and safety of the volunteers. 

Photo courtesy of TREAT website.

In 2012 the Lockhart River community voiced a need for male health initiatives and thanks to funding from FRRR’s Small Grants for Small Rural Communities program the Lockhart River Men’s Cooking Program was born. Lockhart River is a remote Aboriginal community located on the east coast of Cape York, approximately 800km from Cairns (a 12 hour drive on primarily dirt roads), with a population of 542.

The grant of $2,243 provided much needed cooking equipment, nutrition education resources, promotional materials and healthy food to cover the cost of the cooking sessions. The program was a joint project between Apunipima – Cape York Health Council and Disability Services Queensland and was delivered by Apunipima Dietitian Rob Tyson.

Poor nutrition contributes to the high rates of chronic disease amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The program created an opportunity for disengaged men and those with disabilities to take part in regular healthy cooking and nutrition sessions at the Lockhart River men’s shelter.

The program focused on developing the participant’s skills and knowledge in preparing economical and nutritious meals using ingredients available from the Lockhart River retail store. Throughout 2012-2013 the men’s skills and confidence with preparing and cooking meals improved and the feedback about the program was very positive. 

Some quotes from the 2012-2013 participants.

“It was wonderful, I appreciated it and everyone who went there learnt something.”

“It was good and I will keep coming along.”

The success of the program will see 2013 sessions held during the Men’s Group meetings in order to encourage more men to attend the sessions.    

Given the positive feedback and good results of the program Apunipima – Cape York Health Council will continue to support the program throughout 2013-14.