Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The population of the District Council of Yankalilla is 5,500, spread across 750 square kilometres within 10 small townships. Some families are geographically isolated, farmers are doing it tough and there are a number of people who are struggling with low income, drug and alcohol issues, as well as family violence. There are not many opportunities for work and no public transport options for those who don’t have a car. While some support services are available in the community, most are outreach and not located in the district. In general, anxiety levels are higher than normal across the population groups. COVID fears and restrictions have added to this anxiety. Community members who are struggling usually want to connect with someone in their district to talk things over and find out what support is available.

The Council’s plan was ambitious – establish the Fleurieu Coast Community Network (FCCN) to foster help-seeking practices and build community connectedness and strength, with a focus of improving mental health. They successfully applied for a $9,000 In a Good Place grant from FRRR, funded by CCI Giving, to launch their plan to engage a coordinator who could provide the ‘first point of contact’ role and upskill community champions to expand the service across the district.

On paper, it was straight forward – set up a network of service agencies and community organisations, create a calendar of events focused on mental health and wellbeing messages, host informal community conversations and support community leaders, by providing them with mental health and wellbeing training. What they didn’t expect was COVID and local restrictions, which changed the planning and execution of all elements of the project plan. But each hurdle was successfully negotiated.

Meetings to form the Fleurieu Coast Community Network (FCCN) were held in a blended format. They received excellent feedback and became very popular within the sector. The Network is now well established, with high levels of information sharing and collaboration across the core group of about 22 organisations, which includes more than 70 service providers, businesses, local agencies and individuals who receive regular updates on FCCN activities and come together to connect, identify community issues and mobilise resources to provide information, advice, support and training.

The original concept of an event calendar was very time consuming to deliver and was not engaging as many people as the organisers had hoped. A decision was made to embed the events and activities within the Council’s web-based calendar and event information is also shared in digital flyer format through the Network emails.

Community conversations were held bi-monthly. This group was facilitated by Skylight Mental Health and themes discussed included community wellbeing during COVID and suicide prevention support. As a result of these conversations and other events, 14 individuals registered as Community Leaders; people who could be called upon by local community members when they needed information or just a friendly conversation. They are seen as a stand-by informal ‘Crisis Response’ group – people who are willing to do what is needed when the situation arises. So far, there has been a food delivery response for people isolated due to COVID or anxiety about COVID, as well as informal support for low income parents.

Because of travel restrictions, the planned community presentations and training offered had to be redesigned. The Network partnered with Country SA Primary Health Network to conduct the Fleurieu Coast Wellbeing Expo, which was very well attended by locals. They also supported the local Gone Fishing Day, which focused on mental health and was attended by more than 80 people; Lullabies of the Fleurieu 2022 for parents engaged over 100 people; No Scaredy Cats for Parents supported 10 families with children experiencing anxiety; and the Now and Next Program for parents of children with a disability.

Excitingly, the Council funded the program from 1 January to 30 June 2022, due to the successful pilot and the impressive involvement from service providers and Community Leaders. This allowed the Project Officer to sustain the momentum and goodwill of the FCCN and facilitate Accidental Counselling Training for Community Leaders.

Claire Taylor from the District Council of Yankalilla said, “This grant has been so influential in assisting our Community Team to establish and consolidate the Fleurieu Coast Community Network. It allowed us to demonstrate that the Network is truly valuable in a small regional district where we have to rely on good connections and relationships to maximise the access to services for our residents.”

On Ngaiawang Country

The Morgan Volunteer Support Group is a not-for-profit organisation that delivers Meals on Wheels Monday to Friday including public holidays, for the Morgan, Cadell and Mount Mary areas in SA’s Riverland region. The Meals on Wheels service, which has run for more than 35 years, is invaluable for those requiring assistance to remain in their homes for as long as possible, as well as those who have problems such as a broken limb, drug rehab or failing eyesight, which diminish their ability to shop and cook. Additionally, Meals on Wheels delivery offers important social contact for people who use the service and may otherwise be socially isolated. This is of particular concern for those living in regional areas.

The Support Group has partnered with the local prison training program to cook the meals. This not only helps them gain skills for a future trade, but participants also gain satisfaction from helping the community.

In the past, the Morgan Meals on Wheels service used a car owned by Meals on Wheels SA. However, they wanted to sell the vehicle and instead have volunteers use their own cars. After some discussion, Meals on Wheels SA agreed to retain the vehicle for a further three years, to give the Morgan volunteers time to raise funds to acquire a vehicle of their own. Otherwise, the service would most likely cease.

This was also an opportunity to purchase a newer, more reliable, efficient and safe vehicle, as the car they were using was more than 10 years old. The Morgan Volunteer Support Group undertook a lot of local fundraising and secured a $10,000 grant through FRRR’s SRC program, thanks to the support of the Kellogg Australia Charitable Foundation. With COVID causing supply-chain issues, demand for second-hand vehicles was high but after much searching, they purchased a second-hand Toyota Camry Ateva. It met most other requirements – most importantly room for hot boxes, baskets and eskies.

In addition to using it for Meals on Wheels delivery, the group is also seeking to expand their delivery services. They also have plans to make the vehicle available at other times to offer transport solutions to the community, raising additional funds for the Support Group, at the same time as offering a valuable service for those who can’t drive or don’t own a car.

The group is rightly proud of what they achieved, on time and on budget.

“We had help from many different groups – Waikerie Men’s Shed, Waikerie Woolworths, Morgan Friendly Grocer, Morgan Roadhouse, Morgan Home Hardware, Morgan Commercial Hotel, Morgan Cadell Golf Club and hundreds of individuals.

“The car has been operational since March 2022 and is working well. We have been delivering meals for Meals on Wheels and for Morgan Activity Centre. Current customers can be assured of an ongoing service,” said Jakob Gamertsfelder, Secretary / Treasurer of the Morgan Volunteer Support Group.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

On Ngadjuri, Peramangk and Kaurna Country

The Barossa Valley in South Australia is a renowned wine-producing region northeast of Adelaide. When the COVID pandemic hit, tourism and wine exports significantly decreased, which placed a big financial stress on families in the Barossa. With the added pressure of drought, the region was seeing distressing numbers of mental health incidents and homelessness impacting the community.

Not-for-profit organisation Foundation Barossa has been working hard in the region since 2002 to encourage and support philanthropy to build and nurture their own community’s strength and assets. In recent years, Foundation Barossa has worked closely with several schools in the area where extra support is needed.

Foundation Barossa has been a big supporter of FRRR’s Back to School (BTS) program for a long time, and liaise with school principals and school welfare teachers to ensure that families in need receive the extra support they require.

Five hundred and fifty vouchers worth $50 were distributed to 13 schools, both primary and secondary, for the 2022 school year, thanks to the Fire Fight Australia Fund and a private donor who support FRRR’s BTS program. Students could use these vouchers to purchase school supplies like uniforms, stationery, lunchboxes and anything else that would make their education experience easier and relieve some of the financial pressure from families.

Together with matched funding provided by the Origin Energy Foundation through FRRR and local sponsorship from Barossa Real Estate, a further 203 vouchers were distributed, bringing the total to 753; the Foundation’s highest number to date. The success of the voucher rollout has been measured through an increase in student attendance and retention, and in general an improvement in student wellbeing. The Foundation has also noted a big benefit to the teachers at these schools who would sometimes become distressed or concerned for their students.

Here are some of the happy testimonials:

  • “I would like to say thank you very much for choosing our family to receive the vouchers from Foundation Barossa. I lost my job back in October and am a sole parent. My pride was allowed no place when my boys handed them to me. Having only found a part-time job in the last week means the vouchers were very much appreciated and unexpected.” – Parent, Nuriootpa High School & Flexible Learning Centre
  • “Teachers were very grateful and expressed they felt better going into the school holidays knowing that students had access to vouchers.” –  Nuriootpa Primary School
  • “Thank you so much for the Kmart voucher. My daughter purchased a new pencil case and pencils for schools. She thought Christmas had come early!” – Parent, Tanunda Primary School
  • “We had a family arrive at our school at the beginning of term 2 who were homeless and living in a caravan with family members. On the first day when we met the mum, we gave her a voucher for each student to help get them some school supplies. She was so thankful that she was brought to tears, as she said they needed new school bags and she would now be able to get those.” Kapunda Primary School

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

The Loxton region of South Australia is the central hub of the grain producing area of the Northern Murray Mallee but also produces a range of other crops including citrus, wine grapes and almonds, as well as livestock. However, this productive region experienced three years of drought between 2017-2019 and, at the time this project was put forward, was in its fourth year of drought, with more than 2,000 farming business affected.

Farmers and regional communities more broadly, face numerous barriers to accessing traditional forms of mental health support, due to reduced access to health professionals in rural areas, long waiting lists, stoicism, stigma around mental health and a tendency to minimise problems. There is often distrust of many health professionals and hesitancy in engaging with mental health services, who farmers perceive as not understanding their way of life.

Given these issues, and the significant impact that long-running dry had on the whole community, wellbeing had been a significant focus in the Loxton community. For example a sell-out musical, ‘Kick Off Ya Boots’, written by local farmer John Gladigau, and performed by locals, had successfully started conversations about mental health and wellbeing. The success of ‘Kick Off Ya Boots’ prompted Dr Kate Gunn, Clinical Psychologist, Founder of ifarmwell.com.au and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Rural Health at the University of South Australia (UniSA), to continue working with locals, including the ‘Kick Ooff Ya Boots’ team, to implement what became known as the Vocal Locals project. In addition to providing a way for the community to better support one another, it was also an opportunity to further research the uptake of health and mental-health promoting behaviours within communities, especially as droughts are expected to increase in their frequency and intensity in coming years.

Supported by a $148,250 grant through the Future Drought Fund’s Networks to Build Drought Resilience program, this project was co-designed locally to enhance drought resilience by strengthening the capacity of professional, social and community networks in Loxton. The aim was to support mental health in local networks by training local ambassadors (i.e. the Vocal Locals) at events and via the freely available ifarmwell modules, and then supporting them to pursue their own wellbeing goals with a local wellbeing coach, and post about what they were doing for their wellbeing on social media.

In addition to drawing on many years of research in this field, conducted by Dr Gunn and her team, the approach built on the local success of a musical written by Loxton farmer John Gladigau, who agreed to act as the Program Coordinator. His musical ‘Kick Off Ya Boots’ celebrated rural life, explored challenges commonly faced by farming families (e.g. succession planning) and with guidance from Dr Gunn, incorporated wellbeing messages and tips to cope with difficult circumstances. The logic was that it would be powerful if individuals from the region saw similar wellbeing messages being reinforced by multiple local people they know.

There were five parts to the Vocal Locals project:

  1. Training: Ten ‘Vocal Locals’ and 17 other community members participated in a half-day mental health knowledge and skills workshop. A further half-day session for the Vocal Locals helped orientate them to how the Vocal Locals campaign would work, including how to brush up on their social media skills. The Vocal Locals also completed the five, freely available online ifarmwell modules, a tool for reducing distress and improving mental wellbeing among farmers, and encouraged others to do the same.
  2. Wellbeing coaching: Vocal Locals each completed eight wellbeing coaching sessions designed to help them pursue their own wellbeing goals, and post about them on social media.
  3. Social media posting: The local volunteers posted roughly once a week on social media about their wellbeing journey, and there was a public Facebook group created which attracted 870 followers, with 6,800 people reacting to, commenting on, or sharing the posts.
  4. Communications campaign: A broad communications campaign included a flyer drop to 2,500 households in Loxton, a two-page spread in the Riverland Football League match day program, interviews on local community radio, articles in The Murray Pioneer and the Stock Journal. The ifarmwell team also supplemented Vocal Locals’ posts on the public Vocal Locals Facebook page, with posts communicating six key wellbeing messages in different ways.
  5. Campaign dinners: Vocal Locals attended three dinners with the project team, with the last also involving family members and support people, and representatives from local organisations and government.

In an article written by ABC Digital, John Gladigau said it had been great to continue the conversations sparked by his musical.

“While these are not taboo subjects, we don’t talk a lot about mental health and wellbeing,” he said. “However, people are willing to [share] if they have the opportunity to.”

Mr Gladigau said he and Dr Gunn had been impressed with how open the participants had been in talking about their struggles.

“Even some of the really tough times… people have related to that and have jumped on and talked about their own experiences and encouraged each other. I think it’s about normalising those conversations,” he said.

Dr Gunn explained that the campaign was designed to operate at two levels.

“At an individual level, the initiative provided the Vocal Locals with the opportunity to learn more about mental health and wellbeing, and strategies that can help improve it, and to work towards their own wellbeing goals. At a community level, the initiative was designed to share practical, evidence-based strategies to help community members improve their wellbeing, increase their understanding of how to achieve positive mental health and wellbeing, and normalise talking about mental health and wellbeing and supporting others to improve their wellbeing.

“We have also been blown away by the creative ways that Vocal Locals used their role to get messages about mental health out into the community. They shared information about the initiative in their workplaces, sporting groups, farming systems groups, and agricultural bureaus for example. One Vocal Local who is also an egg producer, printed short messages on his eggs to raise mental health awareness – for example, one message was “give it a crack”. Another Vocal Local who included a photo of his ram wearing a Vocal Locals hat on the front cover of his ram sale catalogue spoke about the campaign to an audience of 80-100 local farmers just prior to the ram auction. The initiative has had such a profound impact on another Vocal Local that he pitched a radio segment to local community radio, to bring people together to share stories and talk about the ups and downs of being human. We are really proud of the impact that it had.”

Dr Chloe Fletcher, Research Associate, UniSA added that, “Our evaluation of the impact of the project in the Loxton community showed that there were statistically significant increases in the number of conversations people were having with others about mental health and wellbeing, their comfort in speaking to others about mental health, and their engagement in wellbeing activities.”

WATCH THIS VIDEO to see what the group said about the experience.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

In the last few years, bushfires, floods and other extreme weather events have become more common in parts of Australia. In South Australia, people living in metropolitan and remote, rural and regional areas have become more accustomed with these types of events hitting their communities. Preparation and planning is key to ensuring minimal damage to human life and infrastructure. But for people living with a disability preparedness can sometimes be tricky – especially if important messaging isn’t accessible.

As of 2015, there were nearly 200,000 people in South Australia living with deafness or hearing loss (2015 National Health Survey, ABS). In times of emergency when clear communication is vital, there is a large window for confusion when first responders are unable to communicate with residents in disaster-affected areas. To close this gap, Deaf Can:Do developed the Talking Hands for Frontline Responders project.

Using a $25,000 grant through the FRRR News Corp Bushfire Fund program, the aim of the project was to provide training to South Australian Country Fire Service (SA CFS) volunteers across the state to effectively communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing community by teaching them basic AUSLAN skills and other ways to communicate.

Unfortunately, COVID and an active fire season meant SA CFS had reduced capacity to help co-design the learning content. With permission from FRRR, Deaf Can:Do redirected a portion of funding to purchase a Learning Management System authoring tool. Staff were upskilled in the use of this tool, so that learning design and course builds could be completed internally. The tool allowed for the sharing of content and proposed course materials via a simple link that updated in real-time, which led to ease of communication around changes required, and ultimately supported tailoring content for the target audience. The co-design process greatly benefited from this. The course was finalised internally at Deaf Can:Do, and then exported into CFS’s own learning management system with their support.

During the consultation and content development period, the CFS identified that volunteers would benefit from communication skills and strategies training as well as Auslan language training, so the scope of content was broadened to include this identified need. CFS also provided feedback around specific needs of volunteers, English literacy considerations and accessibility to information.

As a result, the seven module course introduces learners to some simple Auslan that has been tailored to the needs of the CFS, and covers which skills and strategies are most appropriate for different community members, as well as some common mistakes to avoid. The training includes Auslan videos, interactive quizzes, interactive simulations and more to guide learners through the course, as well as links to further resources.

The e-learning course now features on the CFS’s learning management system, and is available to all volunteers across the service. The training, which can be completed at any time, provides basic but important skills that allow CFS volunteers to successfully communicate relevant and important information to the deaf and hard of hearing community. This successful project will have several positive impacts on South Australian communities in times of disasters. Volunteers can now confidently communicate to people living with hearing impairments, and it will also build relationships between these community groups and help spread useful information to other people. The program can also be rolled out to CFS groups across the country which will play a major role in disaster preparedness nationally.

Feedback was collected from the volunteers who participated via a survey link embedded in the course. The response was a strong “Very Useful”, while others felt that the practical advice like using a mobile phone to write was very helpful too.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

The restoration of an historic jetty trolley has had unexpected benefits for men’s shed and community members on Kangaroo Island. The trolley was first used in the 1840s to transport basalt along the jetty onto waiting ships. The Kingscote Men’s Shed restoration project has seen the revival of rare trade skills using tools that were used 100 years ago to make the trolley, and the formation of new connections in the community.

The Men’s Shed received a $3,683 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by the Waislitz Family Foundation, in partnership with Australian Community Media, to support recovery from the 2019/20 bushfires that devastated much of Kangaroo Island. This project is one of many FRRR supported across the island to strengthen community connection and support recovery activities.

Graeme Connell, Chair of the Kingscote Men’s Shed said, “The Kingscote Men’s Shed volunteers are very proud of their achievement to restore a 100-year-old jetty trolley and preserve the history of these trolleys that were used on jetties around Kangaroo Island. The older members of the Men’s Shed were able to share their knowledge about the skills and tools used in the old ways of construction of steel products with the younger members.”

The group used social media to stimulate interest and encourage new volunteers. New skills and friendships were formed between Men’s Shed members and community volunteers working together on this historic project, which included a local secondary student. Many passers-by were keen to see the restoration in progress, with a cup of tea at the ready for anyone interested in learning more or just having a chat.

The newly restored trolley sits proudly at the Pioneer Memorial Park as a monument both to past activities that forged the town, and as a marker of recovery. It has already become a favourite destination with local visitors and community members, particularly given its location overlooking the old wharf and beautiful coastline.

The Men’s Shed has well and truly achieved its goal of delivering a shared community project to create “meaningful interactions”. The sense of achievement and confidence from the project, and the camaraderie that has come from it has boosted mental health and wellbeing, which will have lasting impact on the group and wider community.

Picture this: the year is 1919 and you’re standing on the white sandy beach of Lucky Bay on the Eyre Peninsula coast in South Australia, looking up at the first beach shack to be built on the beach. The sun is warm, the water is perfect, and Lucky Bay is the idyllic holiday spot for the surrounding communities of Cowell, Kimba and Cleve.

Now in the 21st century, there are 125 beach shacks, and families from all around still come to visit the Bay!

The Lucky Bay Shack Owners Association (LBSOA) was established in 1950, and its role is to improve the environment and lifestyle of the Lucky Bay settlement for all residents and visitors to enjoy. This includes making sure the beach and local facilities are ship shape and ready to go for incoming holiday makers who are able to rent the beach shacks, as well as local fishermen and caravanners who use the facilities.

With an active role in the community, LBSOA wanted to do something that would bring some joy and a smile to the faces of the visitors to their little town. After prolonged drought, many locals were finding that holidaying with the family was simply a luxury not afforded, especially with livestock to attend to. But Lucky Bay is only 15 km north of Cowell, which makes it a perfect location for farming families to escape to, while still being able to tend to their farms.

Safe play = laughing children and happy parents

LBSOA sought funding from FRRR through the Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) program to support their ‘Laughter at Lucky Bay’ project, which would see a three staged plan to make the holiday destination more enticing by developing a child safe playground and surrounding facilities for parents and adults to enjoy.

Funded by the Australian Government, LBSOA received a $51,597 TTTT grant towards stage one of the plan: the purchase of new playground equipment, shade structures, soft fall sand, and fencing.

LBSOA’s President Sue Chase said they were overwhelmed by the community response, once they saw the works underway.

“What we were most astounded by is people’s enthusiasm to participate in working bees, and I think this stemmed from them seeing the playground come to life. Many people in the community provided their time to get the playground up and running. We are also proud of the funds we have raised. Our first ambition was to raise enough funds to contribute our share to the ‘Laughter at Lucky Bay’ playground project. However, we were amazed at the success of our fundraising, which, together with the other grants we received, allowed us to construct a shelter and install a BBQ shed and storage area near the playground,” she said.

The official opening of the playground in January 2021 was attended by hundreds of people who enjoyed the food stalls, jumping pillow, face painting and crab racing activities on offer.

These events not only raised vital funds to support the upkeep of the facilities, but also reinforced a real sense of community participation, lots of fun and helped people get to know one another better.

When asked what they were most proud of, LBSOA said the sheer number of children and even teenagers taking full advantage of the new playground made them so pleased. Extra facilities like a table and chairs and the BBQ have also encouraged parents and adults to spend time together and socialise, giving them a break from the ongoing pressures and stressors that drought can bring.

HEADING: Laughter at Lucky Bay. IMAGE: Playground at Lucky Bay.

Located on the Eyre Peninsula is the town of Port Lincoln in South Australia. This is the home of essential organisations like Yarredi Services, whose purpose is to create a space where those who need assistance can receive it.

HEADING: Technology for Women's Wellbeing Hub. IMAGE: Yarredi Services

Yarredi Services works hard to support local women and children who are victims of domestic and family violence (DFV). Working in collaboration with the South Australian Police, local health services, Aboriginal health services and other not-for-profit agencies, Yarredi focuses on a diverse range of ways to address the needs of the people affected by DFV.

Founded in 1979, Yarredi Services currently works out of a centre that provides resources for their clients to take control of their own lives; the “Women’s Wellbeing and Safety Hub”. In partnership with ANZ, FRRR awarded Yarredi Services $5,184 through the Seeds of Renewal program, to fund the purchase of a range of laptops and office equipment to be used by clients.

The laptops at the centre will be in a safe environment where women and children can study, work, find housing and any other services they may need to access online. The benefit of using the laptops at the facility ensures a level of safety and privacy. According to Executive Officer Sharyn Potts, while access to technology can be empowering, it can also come with risks.“

Technology can be used to abuse or track individuals. It’s important our clients have access to computers and technology in an environment that’s supportive and informative. We want them to be able to put resumes together and manage their banking while learning information about how to avoid being tracked.”

Adapted from an article published by ANZ.

Part of Things is a gathering place and ideas hub for young people in Barmera in the Riverland region of South Australia. They used a $10,000 FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grant to adopt and adapt their own version of the Skillin’ It project idea that was developed at the 2020 Heywire Regional Youth Summit. 

Riverland Skillin’ It was a 12-month project that brought together a leadership ‘squad’ of four local young people from across the Renmark Paringa, Loxton Waikerie and Berri Barmera local government areas to create a series of online and live workshops aimed at inspiring, connecting and upskilling young people. 

Despite being impacted by the uncertainties of COVID, including a full lockdown in June 2021, the project culminated in the Skillin’ It squad members curating and delivering Symposium – a two-day festival in September 2021 for local young people aged 18 to 26. Held in Barmera, Symposium featured in-person workshops to support participants develop small business, creative and life skills, while also encouraging knowledge sharing between individuals and community members. 

Across the life of the project, the Skillin’ It squad and festival presenters were actively mentored and supported by Part of Things founder and project mentor, Alysha Herrmann, who is an award-winning producer, youth arts worker and ‘doer’ who has been delivering community, arts and youth projects of varying scale across regional South Australia for over ten years. 

Kelsey Hogan from the Barmera District War Memorial Community Centre, which auspiced the application on behalf of Part of Things, said Riverland Skillin’ It was instrumental in providing a dedicated project with intensive and tailored mentoring for local young people to connect with each other and their community. 

“Young people are under-represented in leadership and decision making across the Riverland. This project has developed positive relationships between young adults and their community and provided a safe space for people to connect, develop confidence, try something new and community build,” Ms Hogan said. 

“We can’t plug all the gaps and overcome the challenges our region presents for young people. However, what we have done with Riverland Skillin’ It, is invest in a core group of local young people to ensure that they were able to successfully deliver a project for their community and now feel inspired, supported and ready to make greater things happen for themselves and others.” 

Together they were able to leverage the success of the Heywire grant to partner with all three Riverland councils, and attracted an additional $22,100 of funding. This increased the resources available for the project and added additional paid opportunities for the young people who participated, and also removed fees for participants to attend the final festival workshop weekend. 

A legacy of the project is The Knowledge Hub, an online resource housed on the Part of Things website that features downloadable resources, curated links, blog posts and other content, which exists to share and build ideas, skills and knowledge across a range of genres, disciplines and interest areas.

Just off the South Australian mainland you will find Kangaroo Island (KI). Australia’s third largest Island, KI is known for its stunning nature reserves and wildlife. During the 2019/20 bushfires, the flora and fauna of KI was severely impacted. Around 210,000 ha was burned, which destroyed numerous bushland patches of reserves and private property. The true damage of what this has done to the environment and its habitats is still being determined; it may take years to properly understand the impacts.

With this in mind, all remaining vegetation across KI is now considered to be highly important for conservation. Protecting the wildlife that live within these bushland areas is a high priority to organisations like the Nature Foundation. Their vision is to inspire people to connect with and conserve the natural habitat of South Australia for future generations. The Nature Foundation is involved in a number of projects that educate the broader community, provides scientific research and raises funds and awareness for their conservation work.

One of their more recent and ongoing projects is completely eradicating feral cats from Dudley Peninsula, which is located on the eastern side of the Island. Conservationists report that the feral cats living on KI are preying on small animals and birds that are already under threat from the mass loss to their habitat after the bushfires. They are also known carriers of parasitic diseases (Sarcosporidiosis and Toxoplasmosis), which have caused economic impacts on the island’s primary producers. These diseases are known to affect sheep across the island.

To help reduce the numbers of feral cats, the Nature Foundation received a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant, which was funded by the Fire Fight Australia Fund from donations received during the concert for national bushfire relief in February 2020. The SRC grant was used to purchase and install equipment needed to monitor the cat numbers and their movements around the peninsula. The Nature Foundation has built a cat proof fence that separates the peninsula from the remainder of the Island. They made sure to include gaps in the fence so other wildlife like Kangaroos can get through to the other side. The cameras were installed at the fence breaks to monitor the effect of the fences and to determine the best way to control feral cat numbers.  

Since installing the fence and the cameras, it has been reported that numbers and diversity of species within the enclosed area have almost doubled. As reported by the ABC, the current traps set up along the fence are proving to be extremely successful in reducing the number of feral cats to the area.