Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Supporting capacity of organisations in Victoria’s bushfire-impacted communities

FRRR has announced a multi-year partnership with the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust (HMSTrust) and the Sidney Myer Fund to build the capacity of local organisations playing a central, coordinating or networking role in the recovery of Victorian communities affected by the 2019/20 bushfires.

New partnership backs community-led recovery

The Bushfire Recovery Fund will award grants of up to $90,000 to community groups and local not-for-profit organisations working in Victorian fire-affected regions. The program will fund initiatives that enhance, improve or sustain operations of these keystone organisations for up to three years, and therefore strengthen community-led recovery over the medium and long-term.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that the partnership is a result of a shared vision for aligning funding and support to community-led solutions that build resilience and continued viability and vitality.

“FRRR and our generous donor partners HMSTrust and the Sidney Myer Fund have come together to help local groups to be more viable, resilient, and sustainable. The program is designed to help address organisational needs, and strengthen capacity to adapt and respond to the changing or emerging needs of communities.

“FRRR’s role will be to act as a facilitator, to encourage and support these community groups so that they can continue to do the work that is so important to the ongoing recovery of their communities,” Ms Egleton said.

HMSTrust Executive Officer Lin Bender said that the Trust believes the key program goal of building organisational capacity is critical to ensuring local groups can operate in what are challenging economic, emotional, and ecological conditions.

“By supporting applicants that are deeply engaged with their communities to sustain or adapt their model or way of working, we aim to ensure more viable, resilient and sustainable organisations that can support ongoing recovery efforts,” Lin said.

Sidney Myer Fund CEO Leonard Vary said the broader intent of the program is to inform disaster recovery best practice by understanding and addressing the needs of critical community ‘backbone’ organisations.

“The capacity to manage normal day-to-day operations along with the demands of recovery has been identified as a challenge for many organisations in bushfire-affected communities,” Mr Vary said. “By engaging directly with these organisations, we can facilitate and fund not only the development of locally relevant, multi-year projects that build capacity and resilience but potentially identify new approaches to long-term community recovery.”

To reduce the burden on potential applicants, a shortlist of organisations from declared fire affected areas in Victoria, identified through broad stakeholder consultation, will be invited to apply for funding. The first successful grantees are expected to be announced in October 2021. Organisations who consider this opportunity to be aligned to their situation should contact FRRR to discuss their needs.

More information about the program can be found here.

It’s hard not to smile when entering George Town Neighbourhood House. The community centre is a vibrant place, buzzing with people working to fight structural disadvantages in the area. With a couple of full-time staff and around a dozen loyal volunteers, this Neighbourhood House exists to create a safer and more inclusive and resilient community by supporting disadvantaged people and families.

But maintaining their high level of engagement and attracting new visitors was a challenge for their small team. They needed an extra pair of hands, someone who could help them reach the right people and promote the programs throughout the community. They submitted a brilliant application to the Strengthening Rural Communities program and, thanks to the Sidney Myer Fund, received $10,000 in grants to help cover the wages for their new communications officer.


But then came the next challenge – COVID-19. Suddenly, many of the community-engagement activities they had planned for the new staff member were impossible, or even illegal, to execute. This could have thrown a real spanner in the works for George Town Neighbourhood House… but nay! Instead of crumbling under the new restrictions, they found ways to adapt – and even thrive – in spite of them.


“We had to change how we interacted with the community from the end of March this year … We had to cease all face-to-face contact,” a staff member said. And it worked! They connected with residents online, engaged in collaborations with other organisations and even scored some airtime on the local radio station.


The highlight, the team agreed, was their Online Family Baking project. With Port Dalrymple School donating a big batch of ingredients, the Neighbourhood House could provide a baking-kit for 20 families in the community, complete with video instructions on how to bake delicious chocolate crackles. “We had a very good response and,” they told us. Following the success of this first bake-off, the Neighbourhood House were able to offer a second round of baking for the families who missed out – this time for Anzac biscuits.


In the end, this little community centre managed to positively benefit some 1,500 people with their grant, including the 40 families who participated in the baking project.
“We are very proud with how we were able to adapt, and still engage and extend to our community, in-spite of all the current COVID-19 issues,” a support worker said.