Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

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.

Ngadjuri Country

The small agricultural township of Orroroo in South Australia knows what it’s like to suffer through drought. With several local businesses closing down and the community running the taxing gamut of drought-related issues, something different needed to be done.

Fortunately, this small outer regional area has a dedicated group of people who are behind the push to ensure the town’s survival, by celebrating and showcasing Australia’s pioneering agricultural history. In the past, the area has relied heavily on a thriving agricultural foundation, but they saw the need to improve their economic diversity, starting with a new tourist attraction.

Over the past few years, the District Council of Orroroo Carrieton, the Orroroo Regional Tourism Group and a team of amazing volunteers have dedicated themselves to very carefully restoring the locally-famed Black Rock Woolpress – a generously donated, circa 1850s piece of manual machinery, which early research suggests may very well be the only one of its kind left in existence.

Plans for the impressive woolpress to be showcased in its very own building in the main precinct of Orroroo came a step closer to reality, thanks to a $20,000 grant from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, funded by the Australian Government.

The grant allowed for a formal business plan to be drawn up by a local consultant, confirming the feasibility of the Heritage Hub project. The plan required input from all areas of the community – those working on the project directly, as well as in the wider community motivated to create an attractive tourist destination. As well, the funds were put towards the planning, architectural drawings and raw materials needed to construct the purpose-built rotunda for the Black Rock Woolpress.

This seed funding enabled the planning committee to produce a proof of concept, which attracted $143,252 in further funding from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, again funded by the Australian Government, along with grants from the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program and funding from the local Council.The stone and glass rotunda now houses the historic woolpress (circa 1851) as the centrepiece in a collection of heritage items on display as part of a landscaped Heritage trail in the town’s centre, with impressive interpretive signage, maps and promotional material. The FRRR grant also contributed to the official launch of the development, which recognise the generous funding organisations and the thousands of hours of volunteer involvement in restoring the woolpress.

District Council of Orroroo Carrieton community project officer Jodie Boully said “We have already had so many locals and visitors stop to comment how impressive the building is.

“It’s been such a huge success to date, a great story of local volunteers who have remained involved in the planning right the way through to highlight some of our early pioneer history.”

The project to create such an attractive tourist destination has already created strong bonds, with those in the community dedicated to seeing the town succeed despite the drought. They have self-funded, committed hundreds of hours of volunteered hours, and worked tirelessly together from the very beginning developing not only the beginnings of a beautifully built tourist hub, but a sustainable and diverse economic platform for the town to rebuild from.

When Steven Noble lost his life in a road crash at Mt Gambier on Easter Sunday in 2013, aged 27, it devastated the Limestone Coast community and stripped his wife, Courtney of their future together. In the lead up to the fifth anniversary of his passing, Courtney and a team of passionate mates have brought a vision to reality, with the delivery of a community bus in honour of Steven and all that he stood for.

Steven was a well-respected member of the Port MacDonnell and Allendale East community, growing up on a family Dairy Farm in Allendale East and attending Allendale East Area School during his schooling years. Small communities create close relationships, and Steven is remembered in the Port MacDonnell and Allendale East community as a friendly, outgoing, loyal and caring person who always put others before himself and had a smile that would light up the room. A talented sportsman, Steven was a successful senior footballer with the Port MacDonnell Football club. Sadly missing out on his 150th game by only two games, Steven played football for the Port MacDonnell Football Club from junior level right through to being the Premiership Captain of the PMFC team in 2012. Steven’s father Chris was well also respected in the Kongorong community, playing for the Kongorong Football Club for many years.

The Steven Noble Memorial Sub Fund was established in Steven’s memory by a group of three friends who participated in Swinging with the Stars in 2013 and wanted to do something in his honour. With Courtney’s consent and support, Simon Livingston, Tahlia Gabrielli and Amy Trevilyn established a Sub Fund to honour Steven’s memory, with the aim of supporting the local communities of Port MacDonnell, Allendale East and Kongorong. The Sub Fund represented what Steven was as a person, someone who was always willing to give everything he had to assist and support other people.

“When Steve passed, I thought we had to do something that not only remembered him but also helped those who were struggling with his loss.  I was really drawn to how Stand Like Stone had set up their trust funds and realised that we didn’t have one for our area.  Courtney was behind Tahlia, Amy and myself from day one, which really got us going with our fundraising.  To actually see Courtney’s vision come to fruition is amazing,” said Simon Livingstone, who initiated the Steven Noble Memorial Sub Fund.

The vision became a reality in 2018, with the delivery of a community bus to service the extended communities of Port MacDonnell, Allendale and Kongorong, for the charitable purposes of education, awareness and accessibility for rural and regional communities. Although outside of Stand Like Stone’s normal operations, the Board agreed to this unique outcome and supported the wishes of those involved to enable the capital raised to be applied for this purpose. The project was supported through the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal who allowed the funds to be flowed out of the Stand Like Stone Public Fund to assist with the purchase of the community bus.

The community bus will be housed at the Allendale East Area School and will be available for community use for charitable purposes as identified. The bus will be managed under the governance of the School Governing Council and a community bus management committee. The community bus is dedicated to the memory of Steven John Noble (8/12/1985 – 1/4/2013). The purchase of the bus was enabled by Courtney Fox, Simon Livingston, Tahlia Gabrielli, Amy Trevilyan, Alisha Stephens, David Fox and Grant Fensom and supported by Noel Barr Toyota.

For centuries, red gums have dotted the landscape in south-west Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. A few community members from the small town of Cavendish in south-west Victoria understand the importance of these trees to the local natural environment. But they wanted to share their passion more widely and put the spotlight on these fantastic trees.

A creative approach

In 2017, this small group set up the Red Gum Festival Development Group Incorporated (RGFDG). One of their first projects was an arts festival, designed to explore and celebrate all aspects of the red gum species and hopefully, increase community understanding and willingness to protect the local environment. They also hoped that it would help to attract more tourists who already come to see the famous trees, and in turn support the local economy.

Red Gum Festival, Cavendish – photo by Julie Millowick

A $3,410 grant from FRRR was the initial funding for the inaugural Cavendish Red Gum Festival.

A committee of 12 and a team of 57 volunteers launched the inaugural Festival in April 2018. They worked hard to establish strong relationships with numerous local groups, including the Cavendish Recreation Reserve Committee, primary school, Lions Club and Men’s Shed, to ensure the project had extensive support.

To spread the word and build momentum in the lead up to the Festival, the RGFDG hosted sculpture, photography and writing competitions, with winners announced during the Festival. On the day, there was a wide range of activities, including markets, food stalls, exhibitions of wood-turning and musical performances.

Other core elements of the Festival were the science-based exhibits and a symposium featuring experts in forestry, conservation and tree science, and a bus tour of notable tree specimens and new plantations. These contributed to a document that is being shared with local Landcare groups, farmers and other interested parties to help preserve the trees. There is also a plan to generate a map of red gums, as a way of monitoring their size and health.

Sustainable solution

A second festival is planned for 2020, and it’s hoped it will become a regular community celebration. The growth of this arts festival has the potential to build community pride, attract tourists and significantly contribute to the local economy. Plus, by raising awareness of the importance of the trees and knowledge of their needs, the community, including landowners, will be better positioned to care for and protect them.

Art drew the crowd, and data and awareness will preserve the red gums. The Red Gum Festival was chosen to participate in the Art Resides Here project as the community is using the appeal of arts and cultural activities to raise awareness about the local environment.

They will tell their story at Artlands Victoria in Castlemaine and Bendigo in October 2018.