Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

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.”

When the opportunity arose to provide the locals in Longreach and surrounding areas with leadership development and networking opportunities, Red Ridge Interior jumped at it – particularly, if it could be done in a way that allowed people to participate regardless of their financial means. Three years on, and the program is more successful than ever.

Leadership development is much more than learning how to run a meeting and pitch an idea. It involves building skills in developing positive interpersonal relationships, managing change and conflict, giving and receiving feedback, values-based actions and being open, honest and trusted. These skills are important for everyone, and they allow more individuals to support each other, particularly when times are tough.  

Thanks to a $14,500 grant from the Tackling Tough Times Together program, which was co-funded by Qantas Foundation and Friends of FRRR, Red Ridge Interior was able to ensure that everyone could access leadership development and training and build these important skills. This grant allowed Red Ridge Interior to hire a space, provide catering and pay for a leadership coach and facilitator to come to Longreach for three days to deliver the program. Twenty people participated in the program.

Participants spent three days covering a number of leadership theories and putting them into practice. Some of the topics they covered included Colour Spectrum model of leadership, values in action, understanding change, communication and deep listening, time management, goal setting and more.

Participants also had the opportunity to attend an ‘alumni’ day which brought together participants from the past three years of the program to meet, discuss what they had learnt and the real-world applications. This also gave them opportunities to connect with other leaders in their communities that were experiencing similar challenges and offered opportunities for mentorship.

Participants got a great deal out of the workshops. One said of the experience, “I have learnt about who I am as a leader, where my strengths are and where I need to work harder. I have learnt so much and have gained so much for myself, my family, my work and hopefully my community.” 

Another said: “I learnt about my strengths and weaknesses and knowledge of each individual having their own strengths and weaknesses. Leadership is utilising everyone to achieve.”