Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal
More than 6,800 Back to School vouchers distributed
More than 6,800 students and families in places recovering from the 2019/20 bushfires will head Back to School in semester 2 with a little extra support, thanks to the generosity of donors from across Australia and overseas.
Funded through a special Bushfire Response round of the Back to School (BTS) program, FRRR has partnered with local community groups and Community Foundations in impacted regions to distribute 6,814 $50 gift vouchers to families in need.
Students can redeem the vouchers for school essentials such as winter uniforms, school bags, shoes or stationery. To date, BTS vouchers valued at more than $822,000 have been distributed to families in fire-affected communities since June 2020.
Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that for these students and their families, the vouchers provide a little extra help as they continue to navigate the recovery journey, which has certainly been complicated by the pandemic.
“Last year many of these families were home schooling throughout the colder months. So, with most back at school, some are only now realising there are items that still need replacing following the bushfires.
“Fifty dollars may not seem much, but for these families it can have a big impact, helping to cover the cost of a couple of school jumpers or a winter uniform, new books to start the term or even a sleeping bag that a child can use for school camp.
“We’re grateful to our Community Foundation partners and other groups that are working on the ground in the impacted regions. Their discreet distribution of the vouchers to those in need means families can receive support without having to ask for it,” Ms Egleton said.
Tenterfield Lions Club is one of the organisations helping to distribute the vouchers to students in their region. Club President, Lisa Dalton, said that the vouchers will help parents with the costs of winter school essentials and will also benefit the Shire when the vouchers are redeemed locally.
“We’ve been through the wringer over the last couple of years, and I hope this is just a small way of letting the wider community know we are all in this together,” Ms Dalton said.
The BTS program distributes vouchers to students and families across Australia, including those in regions not impacted by the 2019/20 bushfires. In total, 64 Community Foundations and locally-based community groups have helped FRRR to distribute $1,075,400 in vouchers to through the BTS program this year.
BTS vouchers are funded by FRRR and its donor partners, which include News Corp, Australia Post, Fire Fight Australia concert, Counter Point Community Services (Cycle Recycle), Portland House Foundation, UNICEF Australia, J & M Nolan Family Trust, Bertalli Family Foundation, June Canavan Foundation, and Origin Energy Foundation, as well as individual donors.
Vouchers were awarded to support the following bushfire-affected Local Government Areas:
East Gippsland (VIC)
Greater Hume Shire (NSW)
Snowy Valleys (NSW)
Bega Valley (NSW)
Clarence Valley (NSW)
Richmond Valley (NSW)
Kangaroo Island (SA)
Yorke Peninsula (SA)
Grants available for services supporting communities impacted by Black Summer bushfires
A generous private donation of $1 million will fund FRRR‘s new Volunteer Emergency Services Fund Grant Program. The Program will fund volunteer emergency services to support their recovery needs from the 2019/20 bushfires and help them prepare for future challenges.
The Volunteer Emergency Services Fund will offer grants to local volunteer emergency services and first responder organisations in 2019/20 fire-affected regions across rural, regional, and remote Australia. Funds will help them to respond to local disaster recovery needs and address preparedness priorities ahead of the 2021/22 bushfire season.
Grants of up to $25,000 are available for projects including practical improvements and upgrades to facilities and equipment so that these services are better able to respond to future disasters. Initiatives that support the mental health and wellbeing of first responder volunteers, as well as projects that provide training and build the capacity of these services can also be funded.
Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that an integral part of the recovery process is preparing for future disasters and adapting to changing conditions after a disaster.
“We know that disasters, like bushfires, are not isolated events. They are increasing in frequency and severity; and it is vital for our volunteer-led emergency services groups to be equipped,” Ms Egleton said.
“Throughout the 2019/20 summer bushfires, volunteer emergency and first responder services worked tirelessly to protect and save their communities. They literally saved lives.
“These grants will support those who support the community by funding projects that will help these volunteers process and heal from the trauma of the bushfires, as well as build resilience and preparedness for future disasters.
“We look forward to assisting these vital members of impacted communities and helping to build and strengthen the emergency services they so generously give their time to be a part of,” Ms Egleton said.
The Volunteer Emergency Services Fund Grant Program is now open. Applications close 5pm AEST 7 July 2021 with grants to be announced August 2021. For more information, visit FRRR’s website – https://frrr.org.au/funding/disaster-resilience-and-climate-solutions/volunteer-emergency-services-fund-grant-program/