Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Freestone is a small, farming community located west of Brisbane, in Queensland. The town has been hard hit by ongoing drought, job losses and declining mental health and wellbeing among community members.

In 2015, the Freestone Memorial Hall began holding ‘Friday friendlies’ to bring community members together for social catch-ups. These events were particularly important as the drought worsened in 2018, with the economy slowing down due to layoffs. As times got tougher, the attendance at the Friday Friendlies increased.

Because of the importance of this social event, the Freestone Memorial Hall wanted to ensure the space was safe, could host the growing number of visitors, and had the updated facilities needed to ensure everyone could come together for a good time.

Freestone Memorial Hall was awarded a $10,000 grant, funded by the Australian Government, and administered by FRRR as part of the Tackling Tough Times Together Grant Program, to upgrade their facilities, install a data projector and integrated PA system and undergo renovations to fix an unsafe floor.

“Since installations and repairs have been completed, we have run five Friday Friendlies with increasing numbers at each Friendly. We are now averaging 50 people per night with a broad cross section of the community coming together to share their experiences of the month. This has proved particularly important as the drought continues,” Simon Goddard, a volunteer committee member for the Hall, told FRRR.

“We are even getting people back to the Friday Friendlies as they hear of improved facilities and increasing numbers. It is becoming self-perpetuating and has a very promising future.”

The new projector has been a popular addition for many locals, who enjoy getting together to watch live sports and tournaments. 

The grant also allowed the community group to purchase a fridge, which not only keeps their drinks cold for events, but generates some income for the Hall. This modest but sustainable income makes it possible for the community to host bigger and better events together. So far, the Friday Friendlies continues to be a success for the Freestone community, with many looking forward to attending the gathering every week.

In our fourth and final podcast in this series, journalist Cameron Wilson discovers that a shared interest in conservation and environment can be a potent driver of social cohesion. We discover how botanical art has been an unlikely catalyst for an environmental project in outback Queensland and discuss the reasons why these projects break down isolation.

Speaking with botanical artist Jenny Mace and FRRR and AEGN Board member Annie Grindrod, we learn the value of people getting involved in projects that take into consideration the wider environment, and how this can be something that relieves the pressure of land owners during tough times.

The National Remote Indigenous Media Festival is First Nations Media Australia’s major industry event celebrating achievements and supporting the training of the remote Indigenous media sector. Each year the festival location alternates between remote desert and coastal communities to make it as accessible and relevant for its participants as possible. With the annual change in locations comes the need to source funding.

First Nations Media Australia, formerly known as the Indigenous Remote Communications Association is the peak body representing and supporting the media and communications needs of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The organisation advocates for community-focused broadcasting, providing tools, networks and resources to support Indigenous media organisations and workers to upskill and build their capacity.

First Nations Media Australia secured $5,000 from FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities program, funded by The Pratt Foundation, to purchase iPads, mobile phones and software to help deliver one of the 2017 festival’s key workshops, Working with Mobile Devices.

More than 100 remote Indigenous media outlets and industry partners from across Australia gathered in the community of Irrunytju (Wingellina) on Ngaanyatjarra country – about 1,700 kilometres north east of Perth near the borders of Western Australia and South Australia for an action-packed week-long industry event.

The festival provided an opportunity for delegates to work together toward innovative solutions for the challenges faced by the remote media sector, connecting people, places and stories across the country to strengthen culture, identity, and well-being. It involved industry forums and skills development workshops led by inspiring trainers and facilitators, and in the evenings, time was spent enjoying, acknowledging and celebrating local culture and talent, including movies, music and award presentations.

Some great work was produced during the workshop, including a high-quality animation entitled 7 Sisters, which was created by trainees and showcased at the final day’s workshop presentations to much acclaim by delegates. In most cases, participants were able to work independently after the initial training.

This small grant helped more than 100 people from remote Indigenous communities and media organisations to gain meaningful training and industry knowledge from experienced trainers and Indigenous leaders. Participants left inspired, enthused and more confident about their work in the sector.

Examples of completed work can be viewed on https://firstnationsmedia.org.au/.

Content warning: this article deals with sensitive themes including domestic violence that might be disturbing for some audiences.

The effects of domestic violence on children are well documented, yet often there are no systems in place to support these kids who witness the physical and /or sexual and emotional abuse, threats, and aftermath of such incidents.

These kids are often fearful and anxious, always on guard waiting for the next event to occur. They never know what will trigger the abuse, and therefore, they never feel safe. And children who grow up with abuse are expected to keep the family secret, sometimes not even talking to each other about the abuse.

FRRR’s Innovation for Community Impact (I4CI) program supports innovative responses to domestic and family violence, mental health, education disengagement, criminal behaviour, and unemployment in NSW. It is a unique partnership between philanthropy, local communities and government to tackle some of NSW’s most pressing social issues.

Speak Out 4 Kids project, coordinated by the Kempsey Family Support Services in the Nambucca Local Government Area, received a $45,000 I4CI grant to help deliver an eight-week program called Kidz Group for children aged between 8-12 years who have experienced living with or being exposed to domestic violence and are no longer in that environment.

Whether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in domestic violence situations. Because they’ve grown up in an environment in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way, children learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems.

With this understanding, it’s easy to see how the cycle is perpetuated.

Over the course of 12 months, 20 children and their caregivers attended the Kidz Group program and engaged with specialist staff to address the impacts of domestic violence.

Four programs, each 8 weeks long, delivered intensive therapeutic support, helping the children to learn protective behaviours and safety strategies, and build their self-esteem, confidence and resilience. They were also encouraged to explore and share their feelings and thoughts on the impacts of domestic violence, and most importantly, have fun and meet new friends in a safe environment.

The families of these children were offered support and referrals to external agencies as identified, and provided with ongoing support while their children were engaged in the groups.

At the end of the program, the feedback from participants was overwhelming. One 10 year old boy said, “Coming to this group has made me realise I can be myself, and not act the way my dad did towards my mum.” Another 9 year old boy said, “If I didn’t come to this group, I wouldn’t be able to talk about my feelings.”

Unanimously, one of the biggest learnings for the kids was that it’s ok to say how they feel.

This grassroots program is a great example of a support service that was needed specifically in this area. For the 20 families participating in the program, it has made a real impact on their day-to-day lives and created a more positive outlook for the future. The behavioural changes that resulted from the program were also noted by caregivers, with one grandmother commenting, “X has really enjoyed going and I have seen a huge improvement in his attitude towards me, school and his siblings.” Another mum said, “I feel my child has realised his behaviour towards me is not ok.”

The partnerships with existing services across the Nambucca LGA were strengthened with the Speak Out 4 Kidz team, with particular focus on the Nambucca / Bellingen Family Support Services and the local education units and the Nambucca Valley Domestic Violence Monitoring Committee.

This project has resulted in enhancement of the capacity for local services to deliver support to women and children impacted by domestic violence, thanks to improved information flows, referrals and new partnerships and training for local staff, which will enable the project to continue after this funding cycle.