Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

In this quarter’s update for FRRR’s donor partners, read about:

  • Flood recovery – how you can help
  • The long and short of bushfire recovery – FRRR’s approach to recovery following the Black Summer bushfires
  • Case study: Recovery in action in mighty Mallacoota
  • Insights from the bush
  • Donor spotlight: The Bertalli Family Foundation
  • Progress Report
  • Partnering opportunities: Victorian expansion of disaster resilience 
  • Community partner spotlight: The Next Economy
Having worked at a community level for 5 years now, most recently as a Program Coordinator and Community Development Officer for Blackall Tambo Regional Council, Jaimee-Lee Prow has experienced first-hand the generosity and good intentions that relief agencies have when it comes to drought in remote, rural, and regional communities. However, these good intentions often don’t translate into practical and accessible support at a grassroots level. Here she shares her story.

To paint a picture of what I mean, I’ll explain a bit about what our experience has been with relief agencies within the central western Queensland drought space. Off the top of my head, I can name at least 20 organisations that offer much the same kind of assistance. This overlapping service provision is driving a state of competitiveness among these organisations and, from a community perspective, has led to a matrix of issues that prevent community groups from taking them up on their offers of assistance. This, on top of a disconnect at a community level, has meant that these relief organisations are actually hindering themselves from reaching the goals that they set out to achieve.

We rural people are a stoic breed. This over-supply of relief support has led to a lot of miscommunication, confusion, and apprehension, resulting in people abstaining from seeking assistance. Or else people become overwhelmingly confused about how to navigate the many systems with most deeming it as an added stress that they simply don’t need. Another familiar scenario is that of individuals, community groups and local-not-for-profits who don’t apply for assistance through one organisation because they’ve already applied for similar assistance through another organisation, and they fear that it will be seen as ‘double dipping’.

Beyond the confusion and burdensome processes, rural communities often feel that these relief agencies fail to properly consider the demographic that they’re dealing with. A large portion of our graziers, primary producers, small business owners and community members are over the age of 65 years with many of them either being extremely hesitant about social media or else completely oblivious to it. Yet, many of these relief organisations use social media as their main tool for promotion and one of their primary platforms for getting information out there. It’s also common that applications for grants will exist predominantly online and even requests for assistance are virtual. As a result, a large portion of our drought impacted population are missing out on the valuable financial assistance offered by the relief agencies. So, a word of advice – this generation still rely on good old-fashioned word of mouth, and mainly prefer to trust “the local bloke”.

Charities, not for profits and non-government organisations can take action to shift from their traditional roles as relief agencies and move towards becoming partners who walk in lockstep with resilient and prepared communities. These relief agencies are, of course, well-meaning but most, if not all of them, are based outside of our region. Some of them even have a strictly virtual presence. Which is why, despite the obvious devastation of drought that surrounds us, they often walk away scratching their heads at the low levels of relief uptake after briefly popping up in our communities. The lack of local coordination and sharing of information on the ground is, ultimately, failing our rural communities.

Jaimee-Lee Prow presenting at the Red Cross Drought Resilience, Relief & Recovery Forum in December, 2021. WATCH from 30:32.

So, how do we fix the problem?

The solutions aren’t necessarily innovative or complex. In fact, they’re quite simple. Below is a list of steps that relief agencies can take to provide effective support to our drought effected communities:

Step one: listen to the locals

As mentioned in the Red Cross Drought Resilience discussion paper, projects and program delivery from organisations need to be locally focused to meet the needs of the region they are working with. When it comes to providing assistance for our communities, blanket approaches simply don’t work and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution doesn’t exist.

Step two: we need more than just a plan for the future

We are really at a critical point within the community drought recovery process where we need to keep the momentum going and continue to create or maintain partnerships. Within my local community. I have recognised a shift away from the initial panic and knee jerk reactions to the disaster. Local individuals, groups, businesses, and farms are now ready to accept and explore actions they can take to prepare for future drought- something that wasn’t possible in the initial stages of drought response.

Our initial response was to flood funds upon our drought impacted communities. And this was evident in the amount of overlapping we saw in service provision from our relief agencies. Don’t get me wrong, to a degree we certainly needed it. But what we are starting to see or recognise now is that drought funding is starting to dry up, and services are beginning to wind back in our rural communities. This imbalance between community readiness and resources, and the funding now available is a major concern moving forward. In the disaster recovery and planning phase, we need the resources now more than ever to be ready for next time.

Step three: simple applications and greater flexibility

We need to ensure application processes are simplified and easy to access. This will benefit all sections of the community but is crucial if organisations want their programs to be accessible to applicants aged 65+. Secondly, because each region is different, the criteria grants need to be made more flexible so that projects can be locally defined by the communities themselves and can be used to support a cross section of activities such as infrastructure, events, training, capacity building and network development.

Step four: recognition of the role that local organisations play

Local organisations are the backbone of remote, rural, and regional communities. Therefore, programs need to be modelled around their goals and needs. In order for partnerships to be successful and meaningful to our communities, agencies must be personable within the community, and the program itself must be driven by the community that the agency is working with.

During my time working at Blackall Tambo Regional Council, I have worked closely with FRRR on a number of drought resilience initiatives. FRRR have championed solutions that have been led by our community and that are driven by the needs and abilities of those living in our region. I believe that this approach to disaster recovery is the way of the future.

Step five: events and projects should be led by trusted locals

This is the valuable way to connect, respond, recover and plan ahead. While some are of the belief that the community barbecue or the local arts and cultural workshop are a band-aid solution to relieving the impacts of drought, those from rural communities would actually beg to differ. We come from significantly isolated areas. These types of community events, particularly during drought, are a necessity for creating touchpoints, social check ins, networking opportunities, and they keep our communities connected.

Some of the most brilliant ideas for future proofing and planning are sprouted through general chitchat amongst like-minded people at these types of events. We are already seeing some relief organisations which have come into our region, begin to recognise these events and spaces as the perfect platform for informal networking and building a rapport with our community members. As a result, partnerships have become stronger, and we find that these organisations who take these extra steps have a better understanding of our community’s needs which results in a greater uptake of their services.

Step six: continued government and philanthropic support

As I’ve already mentioned, it’s crucial that relief agencies don’t simply pull the plug and let funding dry up. Our rural communities are now more than ready than ever to prepare and build resilient regions through planning and projects. We just need the continued commitment to fund and provide resources.

Step seven: build local champions

As an NFP, charity and non-government organisation you should be an active collaborator, but you should essentially be led by locals. Start building your local champions in the communities you were working with. They will be your best investment.

Finally, I’ll finish with something I heard once that I believe perfectly sums up the attitude we must approach the future with if we’re going to continue to build prepared and resilient communities: “You don’t need to be strong to survive a bad situation. You just need a plan.”

In this quarter’s update for FRRR’s donor partners, read about:

  • Heads up on the findings of the Heartbeat of Rural Australia study
  • BE INSPIRED: Thallon ‘back from the brink’
  • Donor Spotlight: Pinnacle Charitable Foundation
  • Insights from the bush
  • Our progress, with your support
  • Partnering Opportunity – Supporting volunteers through SRC
  • Grants in Action: Bermagui’s collective approach to preparedness
  • Community Partner Spotlight: Housing Matters Action Group
Donor News - November 2021

Ngangganawili Aboriginal Health Services (NAHS) is an Aboriginal community controlled organisation that plays an integral role in health service provision for the highly mobile population in the Central Desert Region. It delivers more than 10,000 episodes of health care per annum to up to 4,000 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clients on Martu country in remote Western Australia. NAHS is a critical first point of contact between the community and the WA health care system, operating since 1993 over an area of some 184,000 square kilometres.

The Community Paramedics operate under a model unique to Western Australia: they not only provide traditional emergency ambulance care, but they provide in-home extended care services, so that patients are able to receive high quality health care in the home without needing to go to hospital. This also facilitates the ongoing review of patients’ conditions that would normally need to be managed in an in-patient setting or via multiple trips to a clinic.

Through the support of FRRR and its donor partner the Kapikarnpi Community Fund, NAHS was able to upgrade the response bags in both of the NAHS emergency ambulances. The bags in use were ageing and inconsistent with a mismatch of brands and styles, and they feared this could lead to confusion in an emergency when working in the different ambulances. They were also problematic to clean, cumbersome and not designed with ergonomics in mind, increasing the risk of injury to paramedics through manual handling incidents.

The $4,333 grant enabled the purchase of modern, fit for purpose ambulance kit bags. The new ergonomic bags have an internal layout which allows equipment to be laid out in a logical manner that protects the contents and allows easier access. Most importantly they are designed in accordance with AS4146-1994 Australian Standards for Laundry Practice, which allow for the cleaning of pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis and vegetative organisms. This new equipment assists in the provision of safer services for the community of Wiluna.

Community Paramedic Wade Bloffwitch said that, “Grants such as this are vital to the operation of community-controlled, not-for-profit health services across the country and NAHS thanks FRRR and its donors for their commitment to the community”.

In this quarter’s update for FRRR’s donor partners, read about:

  • Grants in Action: Bootstraps working to strengthen community social fabric
  • FRRR launches Heartbeat of Australia Study
  • Partnering Opportunity – Building resilience to drought
  • Donor Spotlight: Portland House Foundation
  • Insights from the bush
  • Community Partner Spotlight: St Paul’s Carcoar Community Facility Ltd.
  • Our progress, with your support

In this quarter’s update for FRRR’s donor partners, read about:

  • Grants in Action: Sitting together and speaking up in WA’s mid-west
  • Partnering Opportunity – Building resilience to drought
  • Donor Spotlight: Thankful4Farmers
  • Insights from the bush
  • Community Partner Spotlight: Foundation Barossa
  • Our progress, with your support

An innovative program drawing on the personal experience of its founder’s family is making an impact on veterans and current service personnel in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley.

Bootstraps is a volunteer-operated charity that runs a drop-in recovery centre for former service personnel who may be having difficulties connecting with family or society at large. Given the proximity of the RAAF Base at Amberley, Army Aviation at Oakey and Signals Regiment at Cabarlah, and with RSL Sub-Branches dotted through the Lockyer Valley, the organisation is well-located to offer this support.

President and founder of Bootstraps, Sam Kavanagh, was taught leatherworking by his father, who was in the air force and practised this craft as a kind of therapy. Building on this, as part of its offering, Bootstraps runs a leatherworking program to facilitate reconnection and social interaction. Ex-service personnel, current serving personnel and their families take priority, but space allowing, the program is open is open to anyone in the community.

The organisation needed some equipment to deliver the program and applied to FRRR for funding for an industrial leather sewing machine and a new computer, which they received in the form of a $5,407 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by The Sylvia & Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation.

The computer replaced a small inefficient laptop and enhances the organisation’s day-to-day communications and planning, while the sewing machine supports every level of the Bootstraps leatherwork training program. The model chosen is capable of being hand-cranked, which facilitates use by veterans with lower limb disabilities in particular, and those confined to a wheelchair.

The grant application noted, “There are not many (if any) families in the Lockyer Valley that do not have a military and/or a horse connection that could benefit from the leatherwork activities run by Bootstraps.”

Bootstrap’s new leather sewing machine

At the time of reporting, Bootstraps noted that more than 250 patrons have used the Bootstraps facilities, including the new leather sewing machine. The new IT facilities have meant better access and clearer information is available to the public about the program, via a more responsive and efficient website and communications.

These important pieces of equipment will help the program’s participants further their craft, while enabling social connection and helping veterans and the general community remain in a good head-space.

Did you know that some schools in remote Australian communities might have as few as 15 books in their library?

That discovery in 2017 prompted Corey Tutt to start sourcing and supplying resources himself, initially from his personal library. DeadlyScience Limited was established in 2020, and is now a registered charity. Through DeadlyScience, Corey is seeking to inspire a new generation of scientists.
It focuses on providing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and early learning reading resources to remote Australian schools to help increase engagement.

The initial priority is schools with a high proportion of Indigenous children. Where possible, and appropriate, DeadlyScience sources materials from Indigenous authors, artists, and translated versions in Indigenous languages. In the three and a bit years since inception, DeadlyScience has had more than 110 schools requesting resources.

They have delivered more than 16,000 books, 500 telescopes (and basic science kits), 80 educational resources and six greenhouses (plus seeds, and educational materials to support food production projects) to more than 100 Australian schools and/or communities.

This growth looks set to continue as the organisation gains more momentum and profile. Another key activity involves maintaining a website to support teachers in remote schools with access to high quality scientific research and relevant experts in their fields (also of Indigenous background, where possible). 

In 2020, DeadlyScience partnered with FRRR to set up a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account, allowing them to attract tax deductible contributions from a broad range of donors to expand their activities and support the overall capacity and operations. 

You can add your support by donate securely online, or check out the DeadlyScience website to learn more about their work.

To learn more about opening a Not-For-Profit fundraising account, get in touch with Jo Kemp.

About 70 km north of Roma, in Queensland’s Maranoa district, there is a crossroad, a place that most people pass by. It’s not a barren area – it has its own sense of beauty, but it is not an easy place to live either. It’s known as Roughlie.

In the five years from 2014, this small part of the world experienced pretty much everything the elements could throw at it. They endured floods, fires, severe drought conditions and decreasing commodity prices. But they are a resilient bunch of people.

During these hardships, two farmers – a husband and wife team – offered a parcel of their land to the community for the purpose of establishing a not-for-profit community centre.

As Lexene Spreadborough, Treasurer of Roughlie Community Centre explains, they saw a need to have a place where the community could come together for physical, emotional and mental wellbeing through social interaction and community involvement.

“[We needed] a place for members of our community and district to come together for mental and moral support is vital during droughts. A community space allows drought-affected farmers and graziers to support each other – improving community connectivity and in turn build a stronger community.

“The Roughlie Community Centre Inc. was established in July 2014, and by the October we had 40 members forming the working committee. All members and the community were volunteers with no paid staff.

TTTTRoughlie Community Centre

“Our vision was to have a centre to be used for social functions, sporting and recreational activities and to provide a venue for industry groups for workshops, seminars and field days. But we needed somewhere to meet, as there was no community meeting place in our district,” said Ms Spreadborough.

The ‘It started with a Shed’ project was borne, as part of the first stage in their shared vision.

“We received a $9,990 grant through FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program to build a Shed for the community to come together to fundraise and plan the centre. The money, which we know came from the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, was a catalyst for further funds, with substantial additional donations being made to connect the power, install a rain tank, a BBQ and stainless-steel benches. Another successful application to the Maranoa Regional Council’s ‘Community Grant’ program provided half the cost of fencing of the land, with the remainder being funded by members and residents. And we’ve gone on from there, since securing other grants and we now have a new Community Centre.

“The Shed – the first building on our land – started it all. It’s led to families coming together to connect with other members of our district. We have held card afternoons, club meetings, theme nights and other events. Before this some people had very little social interaction.”

Kara Spreadborough works as a Clinical Nurse Consultant at the local hospital. She has a young family, and to her, the Shed offers a special place of connection and sense of community.

“[In my role], I see the importance of that interaction and connection for the community, so I provided a letter of support just to say that working in the outback for the last 8 years, I’ve seen the importance of coming together as a community and the mental health aspect of it. Just sharing stories, sharing a cuppa, really does help people process things, because there’s that aspect of people being a bit more lonely, a bit more isolated in the bush.

“The whole process of applying for the grant was seamless. Although these things seem daunting, once you get going and talking to people… And the fact that we got what we asked for, we were blown away, but we were so appreciative. Doing this for the community, people would stop us in the street and say how amazing it was that we got this building, because it is amazing.”

Lexene Spreadborough said that while they’ve only just started using it, they have had a lot of people enquiring about it now, but mostly for workshops, seminars, information and industry-related training days.

“It’s also used socially for anyone in the district, sometimes we have a Friday night get together here, we have our meetings here, rural fire brigades have their meetings here, and Anglicare has a monthly children’s playgroup,” she said.

President of the Roughlie Community Center, John Frith, said, “I think it’s a real positive to the area to bring people together more regularly, and the guys obviously share similar challenges and successes. They can get together more regularly than they otherwise would with this facility here, which I think is important on two fronts; socially, and the potential to bring industry forums to the actual doorstep.”

And while the finishing touches to the Community Centre were only made in December 2020, the venue has already hosted a number of community gatherings, and a workshop is scheduled in July for community members to gain an understanding of soil carbon sequestration practices to mitigate climate change and move towards better land management and agricultural practices.

Schools are an important place for building cultural and environmental connections, and Gondwana Link Ltd realised that enhanced learning could only come from a curriculum relevant to the local context. Some of the schools and staff in the Gondwana Link region (1,000 km of south Western Australia) had no exposure to the culture of Indigenous Australians, and therefore teaching lessons with an Aboriginal perspective was very difficult for them.

The FRRR ANZ Seeds of Renewal grant program supported the Nowanup ‘Bush University’ Schools Program with a $12,500 grant for professional development for teachers and staff, deepening cross-cultural awareness and building Noongar language and cultural activities into the Australian National Curriculum.

Gondwana Link Ltd used the grant to engage Noongar Elder, Eugene Eades, and an education consultant to develop and implement a trial Professional Development opportunity for teachers and support staff from local primary schools.

Professional development was provided for 20 teachers and support staff within the Gondwana Link region in the format of a two-day Camp-on-Country at Nowanup.

The intention of this program was two-fold:

  1. To enable educators from the surrounding regions to develop a better appreciation of local Noongar cultural and heritage values, and to deepen their understanding of Noongar perspectives on management of the land, or Boodja, in the context of contemporary sustainable land restoration as practiced at Nowanup and throughout the Gondwana Link project.
  2. To have schools actively commit to improving their policies and procedures to be more responsive to Noongar cultural frameworks, thus presenting the ‘Indigenous content’ of the Australian Curriculum in a manner sensitive to the local Noongar context, and also better engaging with the local Noongar community.

The funding enabled two such camps to be designed, implemented and reviewed, and Gondwana Link Ltd now has a viable model to work from to move forward with future camps. The feedback was extremely positive and will also contribute to planning for the next series of professional development camps.

“I have learnt many things about the Noongar culture that I did not know. Their connection to the land is pivotal in their lives and spirit. This has made me think about my own connection to the land and how I can incorporate this into my classroom. I have found the inspirational stories of past teachers interesting and am constantly thinking about things I can change or incorporate to ‘make a difference’ to the students in my class.”

“I learnt an appreciation of the importance of incorporating local knowledge (both Noongar & white culture) into the curriculum.”

“I feel so privileged to be able to participate in such an incredible camp. I loved all of it but particularly the music and the stories. Seeing all the amazing things that are happening out here is so inspiring and beautiful, and I hope to be more involved in future. I really enjoyed seeing the breakaways and the artefacts and some of the beautiful places out here.”