Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Cumulative disasters have taken a heavy toll and left local leaders in remote, rural and regional communities feeling “uncertain”, “frustrated”, and “tired/fatigued”, although hopeful, according to a study released today.

Heartbeat of Rural Australia Report Out Now

Commissioned by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), a charity dedicated to supporting grassroots community groups and not-for-profits in remote, rural and regional Australia, the Heartbeat of Rural Australia survey sheds a light on these often unseen and unheard organisations and shares their firsthand experience of how non-metro communities are faring.

FRRR CEO Natalie Egleton, says that the study is among the first to attempt to quantify the critical role these groups play in remote, rural and regional communities, as well as what needs to change if they are to continue to deliver services that sustain rural communities.

“These organisations are vital to the health, wellbeing and prosperity of these communities. In particular, they provide vital social connections; manage and maintain critical community infrastructure; deliver essential services to community members; and a range of other supports.

“These small groups, most of which are not normally eligible for either government funding or philanthropic support, are the backbone of their communities, with nearly 90 percent of respondents saying they play some kind of economic role. Many are responsible for more than one aspect of life in their community and almost all play a critical cultural or social role.

“What this study really highlighted was that if they were to fold – which some told us could occur without additional support – the communities they serve may well ‘‘wither and die”. At the very least, there would be significant gaps in services, the burden for which would move to government and the private sector,” Ms Egleton explains.

The study highlighted a lack of digital connectivity is significantly hampering rural Australia’s ability to thrive, and to maintain critical social connections.

“Access to digital technology in rural Australia really hasn’t improved in decades. Even where there is connectivity, it is expensive. While external funding often covers the hardware, there is insufficient income to cover the ongoing operational costs such as WIFI access, managing cyber security and training volunteers.”

There were also key issues raised around workforce attraction (including housing availability), mobilisation and infrastructure, which smaller and more remote communities require tailored solutions to, according to Ms Egleton.

While more than half of respondents reported that uncertainty is of greatest concern to them, resulting in “increased general stress / mental health”, by far the most detrimental effect of the pandemic has been the inability to meet with one-another, resulting in isolation, reduced wellbeing, and increased stress – especially for those also recovering from disasters.

The onset of the pandemic weakened the ability of community organisations to play their various roles in the community, at a time when, for many, demand for their services increased. Many – especially organisations with revenue of less than $50,000 – saw significant reductions in income from not being able to run fundraising events and income-generating activities and, in some instances, funders redirecting their support.

“At a community group level, the disruption has been constant, with the effects of cumulative disasters topped off by the pandemic. This has left local communities in a constant state of anxiety and uncertainty.

“It’s also meant that community groups – more than half of whom are made up entirely of volunteers – are being called on to do more, for longer. The reality is that they are not resourced to endure this level of disruption. Yet, in many smaller communities, they simply have had to do it as there is no one else. That is fatiguing; that’s the pure exhaustion that we heard – the effort to keep focusing on your town, your small business community; keeping people connected and supported – especially when there are so few volunteers bearing the load,” notes Ms Egleton.

FRRR is calling for those that are concerned about rural communities to come together to better target support for rural, regional and remote not-for-profits and community groups.

“This report gives us a great opportunity to step back and consider how we can better support and resource these organisations to do what is critical work – and work that only they are really able to do effectively because they are in and of these places. At present, the broader funding mechanisms and policies don’t value these organisations in line with the contributions that they make.

“We are still working through the findings in detail, but it certainly points to an opportunity to come together – philanthropy, government, corporations and individuals – and explore how we can better support these groups for the long-term. We need to take a coordinated approach to removing many structural barriers that are evident in this research if we want rural Australia to prosper,” Ms Egleton explains.

To explore the full report, head to www.frrr.org.au/heartbeat. FRRR has also partnered with Seer Data and Analytics to make the full dataset available online. The data can be cross-referenced with other publicly available data, enabling community groups in particular to better advocate for the support that they need to survive.

FRRR will host two webinars to explore the findings in more detail. The first, focused more on community groups, will be held on Tuesday 30 November, and a session tailored to funders, policy-makers and the broader sector will be held on Wednesday 1 December. Both sessions will begin at 12.30pm AEDT and be held online. Register at www.frrr.org.au/heartbeat.

More than 50 communities to benefit from Nutrien Community Grants

Community organisations across rural and regional Australia will share in more than $250,000 as Nutrien Ag Solutions, in partnership with FRRR, announced the recipients from the first round of the Community Grants Program.

Funding boosts vibrancy and wellbeing of rural communities across Australia

This year the program will deliver 57 small grants for projects, leaving a big impact in their local communities.

The funding is directed towards projects that will create long-term positive outcomes that benefit and strengthen local communities.

The projects that have been funded reflect the diversity of communities in which Nutrien Ag Solutions operates and the different needs found in each place. Some of the 57 projects awarded include:

  • Hay Inc, NSW – Hay Inc Rural Education Program: Increase access to agricultural training and mentoring through their Rural Education Program – $5,000
  • The Historical Society of Katherine, NT – Refurbish Outdoor Function Equipment: Refurbish outdoor function equipment to enhance the facilities and attract Museum visitors – $5,000
  • Central Highlands Science Centre Inc, Emerald QLD – Curiosity Club – Exploring STEAM through Engineering, Technology and Robotics: Support and foster inquisitive minds to explore STEAM through engineering, technology and robotics resources – $5,000
  • Coomandook Amalgamated Pastime Club, SA – Coomandook Community Postal Agency – Reverse cycle air conditioning unit: Boost volunteer vitality by installing reverse cycle air conditioning at the community-operated Coomandook Postal Agency – $2,685
  • Northern Midlands Radio Initiative Inc, Longford TAS – Northern Midlands Radio Initiative Inc Community Radio Development: Build organisational capacity by equipping two new community radio stations – $5,000
  • The Trustee for The MAC Trust, Mansfield VIC – No More Silent Movies: Boost access to community activities with the provision of speakers for the Mansfield Outdoor Cinema – $4,335
  • Katanning Regional Business Association Inc., WA – Summer Ready: Get summer-ready and build community resilience through disaster preparedness workshops – $2,560

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that this was one of the most popular programs that FRRR has run in recent years, thanks to both its flexibility and the strong connections that local Nutrien staff have in their communities.

“Like FRRR, Nutrien recognises the critical role that community-led groups play in ensuring access to vital services and creating dynamic and vibrant places to live and work. Most of the requests were for infrastructure and equipment, such as mowers and generators, or to upgrade community spaces, and to improve access to services and activities. These things can often be hard to fund, especially in really small communities.

“Thanks to Nutrien’s support, we’ve been able to give some really important community projects the boost they need to address local needs and take advantage of opportunities that will encourage engagement and foster community wellbeing,” Ms Egleton explained.

Carissa Buckland, Nutrien Ag Solutions Director of Corporate Affairs, said that Nutrien is proud to support the rural and regional communities that play such a central role in achievements of the agriculture industry. 

“With the ongoing impacts of disasters, including fires, floods and drought, and of course the restrictions of COVID, local fundraising has been a challenge, so we are delighted to be able to fund these important community projects, and help relieve the pressure that many groups are under,” Ms Buckland said.

“We know this seed funding will also allow community groups to leverage the grant and attract the additional funding or in-kind contributions they may need,” Ms Buckland said.

Most of the applications came from outer-regional, remote or very remote areas (75%), again reflecting the challenges in securing funding in those areas. Around a third of the communities that applied have fewer than 500 people. The average funding requested was just under $4,700 and the smallest request was for just under a thousand.

Community groups looking for similar flexible funding are encouraged to visit www.frrr.org.au/funding to explore what other grant programs are available.

If you would like to support grants like this through FRRR, make a tax-deductible donation at https://frrr.org.au/giving/.

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

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
NEW SOUTH WALES
Ardlethan Ariah Park Mirrool Football ClubThe Long Lunch - An Event by Northern Jets
Boost community connection and general wellbeing with a Long Lunch event for the Ardlethan, Ariah Park and Mirrool communities.
Ariah Park$5,000
Barellan Working Clydesdales

Ride-on Lawnmower
Support volunteer vitality to maintain the Barellan Showgrounds by purchasing a ride-on mower ensuring an attractive, well-manicured facility for the community and travellers to utilise.

Barellan$5,000
Belltrees Public SchoolRegenerative Agriculture - Immersion Excursion
Increase access to educational experiences for the children and community of Belltrees and surrounds through the delivery of the Regenerative Agriculture - Immersion Excursion to the Armidale region.
Belltrees$5,000
Binnaway P A H and I Assoc IncorpSupporting Volunteers and the Upkeep of Community Infrastructure through the Purchase of a New Mower for the Binnaway Showground
Boost volunteer vitality through the provision of a ride-on mower for the Binnaway PAH and I Association to support maintenance of the community showgrounds.
Binnaway$5,000
Coolabah United Citizens IncorporatedCoolabah Bushfire Hazard Reduction & Beautification
Boost volunteer vitality and community spirits with the provision of a ride-on mower enabling locals to maintain community assets.
Coolabah$5,000
Coonamble Pre School Association IncCoonamble Preschool Physical Education Addition
Support school readiness and fine motor development of children with the installation of monkey bars at the Coonamble Pre School.
Coonamble$4,030
Deniliquin District Cricket AssociationFence Off Public Playground
Enhance community safety with the construction of a perimeter fence around the newly installed playground at the Deniliquin Memorial Park.
Deniliquin$5,000
Do It For Batlow IncorporatedOrigin Pathway
Enhance local identity with the installation of the Origin Pathway, celebrating the birth of locals at the Old Batlow Hospital, which was tragically lost in the Black Summer fires.
Batlow$4,512
North Star Memorial Hall & Park Committee Gwydir Shire CouncilSupply and Installation of Eight Ceiling Fans
Improve usability at the local hall through the installation of ceiling fans at the North Star Memorial Hall.
North Star$4,500
Hay IncHay Inc Rural Education Program
Increase access to Agricultural training and mentoring with the provision of training resources and equipment and catering of a mentoring dinner for participants.
Hay$5,000
Inverell Show SocietyInverell Show Society Upgrade to the Public Address System at the Inverell Showground
Boost organisational capacity with the installation of an upgraded public announcement system at the Inverell Show Grounds.
Inverell$5,000
Muswellbrook South Public School P & C AssociationSupporting Sustainability Project
Purchase equipment for school recycling and sustainability programs to provide students with hands-on sensory experiences along with many learning opportunities that are inclusive of students with varying needs such as emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioural.
Muswellbrook$4,732
Peak Hill Pony Club IncMulti-use Grandstand for Community Events
Grow community participation with the provision of a transportable grandstand for the Peak Hill Community at the Peak Hill Showgrounds.
Peak Hill$3,924
Rankins Springs Golf Club IncorporatedKitchen Delivery Entrance and Disabled Entrance
Build community resilience through upgrading kitchen and disability access.
Rankins Springs$4,321
Tenterfield Show Society IncorporatedTenterfield Showgrounds BBQ Shed Refurbishment
Upgrade community infrastructure for Tenterfield by contributing to the BBQ shed refurbishment.
Tenterfield$5,000
West Wyalong Branch The United Hospital Auxiliaries of NSW IncWest Wyalong Hospital Auxiliary Provision of Additional Medical Equipment (Medical Patient Wight Scale) for the Local West Wyalong Hospital
Increase capacity of medical facility to accurately measure and weigh patients improving medical outcomes and staff conditions.
West Wyalong$2,918
Woodstock and District Progress AssociationRestoring Ghost Signs in the Woodstock Village Precinct
Build community resilience through restoration of signage that has historical significance to the Woodstock district on buildings within the main precinct of the Woodstock village.
Woodstock$5,000
NORTHERN TERRITORY
The Historical Society of Katherine NTRefurbish Outdoor Function Equipment - The Katherine Museum
Enhance tourism destinations by supplying new outdoor tables and chairs at the Katherine Museum.
Katherine$5,000
QUEENSLAND
Burdekin Potters IncPurchase of Three Electric Pottery Wheels
Increase organisational capacity with the purchase of three pottery wheels for the Burdekin Potters, enabling access to opportunities for self-expression through the arts for the community.
Ayr$4,475
Bymount East Primary P&C AssnBymount East School 75 Year Reunion
Boost community spirits and sense of belonging by providing support for the 75th Anniversary Celebrations for the Bymount East Primary School.
Bymount$2,000
Central Highlands Science Centre IncCuriosity Club - Exploring STEAM through Engineering, Technology and Robotics
Support and foster inquisitive minds across the Central Highlands through the provision of STEAM resources at the Centre Highlands Science Centre.
Emerald$5,000
Murgon P A & H Society IncBuilding Connections from the Ground Up
Build community resilience through upgrading facilities at the Murgon showgrounds to improve access and capacity for revenue raising.
Murgon$5,000
Pikedale Community Inc"Sip and Socialise" By the Screen
Build community resilience through funding home theatre equipment for community screenings and get togethers in Pikedale.
Pikes Creek$4,988
Taroom Shire Cancer & Palliative Care Group IncNew Lift Chairs & Knee Walker
Support palliative care patients living in their homes in Taroom and surrounds by providing access to lift chairs and an additional knee walker, increasing patient comfort and reducing stress for carers.
Taroom$4,095
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
South East Youth Development Project T/as Noorla Yo-Long Blue Light SA Inc

Noorla Yo-Long Blue Light Adventure - Replacement Climbing Equipment
Increase access to activities for Rendlesham and surrounds with the replacement of climbing safety equipment for Noorla Yo-Long Blue Light Adventure.

Rendelsham$4,337
Coomandook Amalgamated Pastime ClubCoomandook Community Postal Agency - Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning Unit
Boost volunteer vitality by installing reverse cycle air conditioning at the community operated Coomandook Postal Agency.
Coomandook$2,685
Jervois Football Club IncInstallation of Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning to the Jervois Combined Sports Club Venue
Improve community facility with reverse cycle air conditioning installation at local sports club.
Jervois$3,490
Keith and Tintanara District Show Society IncKeith Showgrounds Paved Access Area
Improve facilities for safety and access at the Community Hub Building at the showgrounds.
Keith$4,991
Kyancutta Ramblers Golf Club IncorporatedEquipment Upgrade (Mower)
Boost volunteer and community vitality with the provision of a ride-on mower to support volunteers in maintaining community assets in Kyancutta and surrounds.
Kyancutta$5,000
Lameroo Forward IncorporatedLameroo Country Arts Events 2022
Enable access to develop a culturally vibrant community through funding for culture program including a disability choir.
Lameroo$5,000
Lions Club of TintinaraReliable Power for the Tintinara Lions Club Catering Caravan, Community Events and Emergency Use
Purchase a trailer mounted generator which will give the Club the ability to take our catering caravan to any event regardless of the availability of power & also to give us a reliable power supply at community events and for local emergency and natural disaster management.
Tintinara$5,000
Penneshaw CWA Penneshaw Progress Association IncorporatedReinstate Penneshaw Community Health Centre Facilities
Improve access to health services by upgrading disabled toilet facilities and installing a split system air conditioner at the Community Health Centre to support the reinstatement of Penneshaw Community Health Services.
Penneshaw$5,000
TASMANIA
Flinders Island Show Society IncThe Flinders Island Show
Increase organisational capacity to support community events with the purchase of marquees for the Flinders Island Show Society.
Whitemark$4,804
Huon Valley Police & Community Youth Club IncHealthy Cafe and Cooking for Seniors
Enhance community facilities for older people through a youth training healthy cafe enterprise.
Huonville$5,000
Lower Barrington Community Hall IncLower Barrington Hall Disability Friendly Bathroom Project Stage 1
Improve community access to facilities via the upgrade of bathroom facilities and infrastructure.
Lower Barrington$5,000
Meander Liffey Resource Management Group IncMeander Forest Picnic Ground
Enhance community facilities by providing four shaded picnic tables at the Meander Forest Picnic Grounds.
Meander$5,000
Northern Midlands Radio Initiative (NMRI) IncNorthern Midlands Radio Initiative Inc (NMRI Inc) Community Radio Development
Build organisational capacity by equipping two new community radio stations in the Northern Midlands.
Longford$5,000
VICTORIA
Bahgallah Memorial Hall IncorporatedBahgallah Memorial Hall External Upgrade
Support volunteer vitality while ensuring the longevity of the Bahgallah Memorial Hall by restoring and painting the external of the building.
Bahgallah$4,416
Boort Resource and Information CentreUpgrade Three Computer Hard Drives in the Front Office at the Boort Resource and Information Centre
Boost volunteer vitality with the replacement of outdated technology at the Boort Resource and Information Centre.
Boort$5,000
Cavendish Recreation ReserveMulti-Purpose Community Events Space and Storage Facility
Multi-Purpose Community Events Space and Storage Facility - development of new community facility.
Cavendish$5,000
Birch Group of Fire Brigades Country Fire Authority - Head OfficeFCV Response Equipment Fundraising
Boost community and volunteer safety through the purchase of a chainsaw, power supply and lighting for the area command vehicle of the Birch group of CFA Brigades.
Creswick$2,515
Hopetoun & District Neighbourhood House IncHopetoun Community Gym - A Comfortable Climate for the Whole Community
Installation of air conditioners to support community gym use.
Hopetoun$5,000
Mitchell Community Radio IncorporatedBroadford Monthly
OKR FM conducts a live broadcast from the Broadford Living and Learning Centre on the third Thursday of each month from 1pm to 3pm. It costs $160 per month for room hire, 4G device recharge and Audio Technician. OKR provides all the necessary equipment. The grant would allow 10 months.
Broadford$1,600
St Arnaud Neighbourhood House IncSt Arnaud House and Shed Garden
Build community resilience through the construction of a vegetable garden at the St Arnaud Neighbourhood Centre.
St Arnaud$1,703
The Leongatha Men's ShedAblutions Infrastructure - Leongatha Men’s Shed
Contribute to the development of a new facility with purpose built ablutions infrastructure.
Leongatha$5,000
The Trustee for The MAC TrustNo More Silent Movies
Boost access to community activities with the provision of speakers for the Mansfield Outdoor Cinema.
Mansfield$4,335
Walpeup Memorial HallWalpeup Memorial Hall Renovations: Stage 3
Build community resilience through extensive maintenance work at the Walpeup Memorial Hall, supporting community activity and memorabilia display.
Walpeup$5,000
Woodleigh Hall Committee IncWoodleigh Hall Toilet Extension
Build organisation capacity through installing disability access toilets and complete an upgrade of the hall facility.
Woodleigh$5,000
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Wally Foreman Sports Museum Committee Bruce Rock Community Resource Centre IncWally Foreman Sports Museum
Preserve and promote community sporting heritage by employing a curation contractor to identify and develop a curation plan and train committee members at the Wally Foreman Sports Museum.
Bruce Rock$5,000
Dardanup Bull and Barrel Festival IncA Storage Shed Will Save Our Backs and Time
Increase storage capacity for the Dardanup Bull and Barrel Festival Inc. by building a shed to store community equipment.
Dardanup$5,000
Gardiner Street Arts CollectiveHarmony Room Refurbishment
Increase access to community facilities that foster creativity and connection by repainting and refurnishing the Harmony Room at the Gardiner Street Arts Collective.
Moora$5,000
Katanning Regional Business Association IncSummer Ready
Build community resilience through disaster preparedness workshops for the women of Katanning
Katanning$2,500
Napier Progress Association IncReplace Napier Hall Eaves
Improve community facility with the replacement of eaves, enhancing patron comfort and utility.
Napier$5,000
Ongerup Sporting ComplexInstalling Café Blinds on the Veranda At the Ongerup Sporting Complex
Increase usability of community infrastructure with the installation of Café blinds at the Ongerup Sporting Complex.
Ongerup$5,000
Ravensthorpe Community Resource Centre IncHR Help for Our Local Heroes
Grow community volunteerism with human resources support for local not-for-profit organisations throughout Ravensthorpe region.
Ravensthorpe$5,000
Shire of CunderdinYouth Wellness Project
Build community resilience through wellness program targeted for youth mental health including parents' education.
Cunderdin$5,000
W.A. Bush Fire Museum and Heritage Group IncPurchase of Laptop Computer for W.A. Bush Fire Museum and Heritage Group
Purchase of laptop computer with software for the recording of documents, photos and artefacts for W.A. Bush Fire Museum and Heritage Group.
Bridgetown$998

Calling all not-for-profits in rural Australia

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) is calling on leaders of not-for-profit organisations and community groups across remote, rural and regional Australia to tell it like it is in the Foundation’s inaugural Heartbeat of Rural Australia study.

Make your voice heard in the Heartbeat of Rural Australia study

Established in 2000, FRRR is a charity dedicated to connecting the genuine local needs of remote, rural and regional people and places with the good will of government, business and philanthropy. Since 2000, FRRR has distributed more than $115 million in grants to more than 11,000 rural projects.

Working deeply in rural communities over the past 21 years means that FRRR is acutely aware of the critical role that small not-for-profit organisations and community groups play in keeping their communities vibrant and resilient.

However, Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, says that not everyone outside of these rural communities knows or understands it.

“Many organisations find it tough to keep going at the best of times, but we know that many places have been heavily impacted by drought, fires, floods, the mouse plague and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – often in succession – and the cumulative impacts are really significant. But how significant? What does it mean for their future?

“There is funding and support being channelled to these communities, but is it getting to the right places? Is it delivered in the right way? What exactly has the impact been of events like the bushfires and COVID on community groups? How are they getting funding to keep going? How are they resourcing themselves, given the volunteer fatigue?

“Our day-to-day work means that we know that without these volunteer-led groups, there would be a lot more gaps in the critical services that sustain remote, rural and regional communities across Australia. But because there is not really any hard data to measure the value of the work they do, and the challenges they face, it’s nearly impossible to quantify the important economic, social and cultural role of these groups.

“We have lots of anecdotal evidence to answer these questions from the thousands of grant applications we’ve seen in the last 18 months and our day to day conversations, but the reality is that is only a snapshot.

“That’s why we have commissioned this study. We need some hard data to inform policy and ensure that funding gets where it’s needed,” Ms Egleton said.

For this survey to be meaningful, FRRR needs as many local community groups as possible from remote, rural and regional communities to participate.

“We’re encouraging responses groups and organisations working with and representing the diversity of the people and places that make up country Australia to ensure we are telling as much of the story of remote, rural, and regional Australia as possible.”

The results of the study will be shared widely with government, philanthropy and business, to inform and influence policy. The report will also provide local groups with the evidence they need to successfully advocate for their community and to tell their stories.

“This survey will be a great tool to provide you and the people you live alongside, with the help and assistance that you need. So, it’s important that you make your voice heard, tell your story and help to shape the future of your community,” Ms Egleton said.

To complete the survey and share it across your community, go to https://frrr.org.au/heartbeat.