Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Audiologist conducting a hearing test.

Thanks to a $8,904 SRC grant supported by the Sidney Myer Fund, Telethon Speech & Hearing Inc was able purchase cutting edge screening technology to streamline its early detection and surveillance of hearing loss at early childhood centres and primary schools across the Pilbara, Kimberley and Wheatbelt regions of WA. Many children in these regions are at risk of developing chronic ear health conditions, which impact all facets of their life including social, behavioural and academic performance, if not addressed early.

The HearX apps and four digital devices have enabled screening and clinical hearing tests to be undertaken in a faster, more reliable way. The software supersedes traditional devices, so that ear screenings can be conducted with a tablet. This was particularly important for Telethon when its regular ear health clinics had to be cancelled due to COVID and a major flood in Onslow. Fortunately, Telethon’s locally based team was able to upskill early years educators, teachers and nurses to undertake the screenings and Telethon’s audiologists could then analyse data and generate reports remotely.

“We have since integrated a tele-health component into our audiology service offerings, allowing our locally based teams to screen children and liaise with our Perth audiology team in real time. This has allowed us to diversify our service delivery modalities, ensuring more frequent hearing supports than would otherwise be on offer pre-COVID.”

NFPs and local organisations can apply for up to $10,000

FRRR and Telstra are inviting applications for funding through Telstra’s Connected Communities Grant Program to provide access to information, technology, education and facilities to strengthen social capital and digital capability.

Collinsville Connect Telecentre was awarded a grant in 2023 to boost digital capability for older people through a cyber security workshop to enhance skills and risk management.

The program aims to boost support for communities across remote, rural and regional Australia to build resilience, improve environmental sustainability and enhance liveability through the power of connection.

In the second round of this program, there is $200,000 available through grants of up to $10,000 to community-led organisations.

The program aims to foster:

  1. Liveable communities that have digital capability and help to equip individuals with the skills to live, learn and work in a digital society;
  2. Sustainable communities that are diverse and inclusive, planning for the health, wellbeing, and prosperity of their people and the planet; and
  3. Resilient communities that are well prepared and socially connected when disaster strikes, with the ability to renew and recover together.

Loretta Willaton, Regional Australia Executive and Regional Customer Advocate at Telstra said that last year’s projects are connecting communities and helping them thrive in a range of ways, both online and offline.

“We’re proud to have been able to enhance community connectedness through last year’s grants, with projects as diverse as upgrading Wi-Fi connectivity, new digital equipment, upskilling volunteers and community members in cyber security, social media and using new systems to support their organisations.

“This year, we look forward to supporting more grassroots groups as they do their important work and keep their communities connected,” Ms Willaton said.

Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said that programs like this one help to create more equitable access to the services and support many in urban areas take for granted.

“While there have been improvements, there is still a significant digital divide for remote, rural and regional not-for-profit organisations, particularly when it comes to accessing digital resources and the opportunity to improve knowledge and skills to harness technology to maintain and create connections.

“This partnership with Telstra means that more community groups can find local solutions to these complex problems, thereby creating more sustainable places to live, work and play.

“I look forward to reading this year’s funding requests,” Ms Egleton said.

Applications close at 5pm AEDT on Wednesday, 27 March. Successful grants will be announced in June 2024 and applicants will have 12 months to complete the funded projects.

Potential applicants are encouraged to register for an online Grantseeker Webinar at 12pm AEDT, Tuesday 5 March to learn more about the program and useful tips for applying.

In March 2021, the Hawkesbury-Nepean region on the NSW Central Coast was hit with major flooding, affecting low-lying areas along the river. The flood caused major disruption and many of the lower lying areas were home to some of the most socially vulnerable members of the community. The situation was exacerbated by the fact the floods followed the 2019/20 bushfires, February 2020 flood and COVID. This meant the community had little resilience to respond when the March 21 flood came along.

While there were many issues that emerged, four smaller, more remote communities experienced particular challenges, as they had limited, if any, mobile or internet coverage and are located away from centralised services. This impacted the communities in accessing supports to assist in their recovery journeys, using internet and online platforms.

The Hawkesbury City Council plays a pivotal role in recovery and preparedness in the region and identified this as an issue.

They received a $14,836 grant through FRRR’s Rebuilding Futures program, funded by Suncorp Group, to have accessible technology established in community hubs across these four remote areas – Bilpin, Colo, St Albans and Wilberforce.

The Council used the grant to purchase IT infrastructure such as laptops, tablets, projectors, screens, cameras and associated software. They also improved the internet connection into these four hubs using satellite hardware, installed via co-contributed Council funds. The Council used their existing relationships with community leaders, organisations, citizens groups and emergency services to make sure that the grant resources went to the people who needed them most.

The overall result was improved community access to technology, allowing community members to connect with each other; access online appointments and government portals; and connect with recovery and community support services.

An additional benefit is that users can also access ‘tech-savvy’ Council staff who work in these community hubs four days per week. These staff members share their knowledge and ability with technology through training and support to lesser-abled community members. Further development has seen the evolving partnership with the library team, Department of Primary Industries and the Digital Literacy Foundation providing further training on topics such as online safety, flood recovery agronomy, and digital literacy topics, respectively.

The ’silver lining’ of implementing the project during challenging times, as noted by Council staff member Liz Murphy, is that this grant has enabled them to contribute positively towards ongoing, sustainable change in the community. The effects of this grant will continue to be felt long after this grant has been expended and has attracted additional support for the community.

FRRR has awarded $213,343 via Telstra’s Connected Communities Grant Program to 30 local groups and not-for-profits (NFPs) across remote, rural and regional Australia for projects embracing technology to foster the resilience, environmental sustainability and liveability of their communities.

RiverSmart Australia Ltd is using their grant to grow cultural and environmental knowledge of the rivers and wetlands around Warren by the creation of an app to provide information and digital upskilling to the community.

This is the first round of Telstra’s Connected Communities Grant Program, which is the core of its new partnership with FRRR (announced February 2023).  The focus of the program is on fostering a resilient community, a more sustainable community or a more liveable community.

Awarded grants range from $1,849, which will be used to provide the Victorian community of Strathbogie with access to free Wi-Fi at the local hall, through to $10,000, for projects such as Collinsville Connect Telecentre Group’s cyber security workshop for older members of their Queensland community.

Loretta Willaton, Regional Australia Executive and Regional Customer Advocate at Telstra, said the program’s impacts go beyond simply supplying internet or technology.

“We’re really excited to see this program beginning to come to fruition and to see funding going to rural communities that have been doing it really tough the last few years.

“This round of grants has highlighted the ways in which digital connectivity goes hand-in-hand with social and cultural connectivity. How these factors complement one another has a strong impact on the liveability of a community, so it makes sense that a majority of funded projects are designed to equip locals with the skills to live, learn and work in a digital society.

“That’s what this program is all about – keeping people connected in the most important sense of the word,” Ms Willaton said.

This round saw most projects fall into the liveability category, with a range of initiatives being funded like the provision of Wi-Fi connectivity, new digital equipment, the training of volunteers and community members to build their digital knowledge, be it for cyber security, social media or simply navigating new computing hardware and software that would contribute to better operations of community events and organisations.

Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said that there was a lot of interest in the program, with the Foundation receiving many applications for high quality projects.

“Keeping rural communities connected has never been more important, which was reflected by the strong response we received from communities all over remote, rural and regional Australia.

“Community organisations and local not-for-profits (NFPs) in rural communities are clearly keen to make sure locals have the equipment and the knowledge they need to engage in activities that are often taken for granted in metro areas. That might be spreading important information quickly, increasing opportunities for education or providing access to the electronic resources that become vital in emergency situations.

“With so many impressive initiatives on the table, we are grateful that Telstra increased its commitment this year to more than $213,000. There are so many different ways to keep a community connected, and more importantly, a lot of positive outcomes that can be achieved and we look forward to seeing these ideas come to life,” Ms Egleton said.

Some other examples of the projects being funded are below:

  • RiverSmart Australia Limited – Warren, NSW – Grow cultural and environmental knowledge of the rivers and wetlands around Warren by the creation of an app to provide information and digital upskilling to the community. $10,000
  • Goondir Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Corporation for Health Services – Dalby QLD – Improve digital capability of First Nations health service with video conferencing equipment to enhance staff and stakeholder communications improving overall service delivery to clients. $10,000
  • Callington A & H Society Inc – Callington, SA – Build organisational capacity with software to improve local show operations, developing digital capability for volunteers, efficiencies for participants. $3,700
  • Live Well Tasmania Wynyard, TAS – Build community resilience with preparedness by purchasing equipment to provide power during outages including a generator, solar panels, and rechargeable radios and torches. $5,398
  • Poowong Public Hall Inc Poowong, VIC – Improve community facilities with a digital tv and laptop for the Poowong Hall meeting facilities to enhance functionality and support increased use. $2,312
  • Broome Community Resource Centre Inc – Broome, WA – Support community digital access with upgraded computers ensuring people in and around Broome have access and can be trained in current software use for social and economic needs. $10,000

A full list of grant recipients is detailed below.

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
NEW SOUTH WALES
Bathurst Information and Neighbourhood Centre IncorporatedConnecting Our Community
Build community capacity to meet, train and connect by providing Wi-Fi internet to the Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre community meeting room.
Bathurst$7,510
Broadwater Rileys Hill Community CentreStrengthening IT Access and Literacy for Broadwater Residents
Boost technological skills and digital connectivity for vulnerable residents in Broadwater by conducting IT training sessions and upgrading computer software.
Broadwater$2,760
Eden Community Access Centre IncSouthern Cyber Safety
Boost community knowledge around cyber safety in Eden and surrounding communities by providing specialist IT training for six months and offering a weekly drop-in service for checking device security.
Eden$10,000
Lachlan and Western Regional Services IncEmpowered Connections
Boost organisational digital capability to better support remote community members' social and economic outcomes.
Condobolin$10,000
RiverSmart Australia LimitedUsing Digital Technology to Discover Tiger Bay
Grow cultural and environmental knowledge of the rivers and wetlands around Warren by the creation of an app to provide information and digital upskilling to the community.
Warren$10,000
Wardell Community Organised Resilience Effort IncWardell Community Organised Resilience Effort
Boost community resilience with training and equipment to support digital capability and connectivity during disasters.
Wardell$10,000
QUEENSLAND
Cape York Digital Network Pty LtdFall-back Server
Build capacity of the Cape York Digital Network to enable connectivity in remote Queensland with a new server to manage increasing demands.
Cairns$8,000
Collinsville Connect Telecentre Group IncorporatedCyber Security Sessions for Seniors
Boost digital capability for older people through a cyber security workshop to enhance skills and risk management.
Collinsville$10,000
Goondir Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders Corporation for Health ServicesImproving Digital Capability for Better Collaboration
Improve digital capability of First Nations health service with video conferencing equipment to enhance staff and stakeholder communications, improving overall service delivery to clients.
Dalby$10,000
North Burnett Regional SES Queensland Fire and Emergency ServicesNorth Burnett State Emergency Service Digital Connectivity
Improve digital connectivity with equipment to improve connectivity operation to enhance operational capacity and better quality training for QFES in North Burnett.
Gayndah$2,559
Numabulla Men's Shed Inc.IT Education and Access Program 
Improve digital capability and literacy with technology equipment at the Men's Shed to deliver access and education.
Brooloo$9,985
QCWA Branch Upper StoneConnecting our Community
Build community resilience and preparedness with an inverter generator and mobile booster to ensure power and connectivity in disasters and emergencies.
Upper Stone$8,125
St Vincent de Paul Society QueenslandExpanding Our Virtual Reach in Far North QLD
Enhance digital capacity and literacy of volunteers with equipment and training that will benefit the broader community accessing services.
Cooktown$8,144
State Emergency Service - Charters Towers Queensland Fire and Emergency ServicesMobile Operations Centre
Build preparedness and resilience in communities by upgrading the QFES Mobile Operation Centre with radios and back-up solar power to deliver disaster preparedness education and enable connectivity in extreme weather events across the Charters Towers region.
Charters Towers$10,000
Whitfield Community Kindergarten Association IncWater Tank and Weather Station
Support early child development and learning on environmental sustainability with digital tools to understand weather and water accessibility.
Cairns$2,845
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Callington A & H Society IncCallington Show - Online Software
Build organisational capacity with software to improve local show operations, developing digital capability for volunteers and efficiencies for participants.
Callington$3,700
Moorook Bowling Club IncorporatedFuture Connections
Increase community capacity with digital connection via a mobile booster to support access to the internet in Moorook.
Moorook$1,794
Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum Parndana Progress AssociationAdding to the Mosaic
Improve digital literacy and capability of local museum volunteers with software, equipment and a website upgrade to better present and promote local history.
Parndana$3,409
Southern Yorke Peninsula Community Hub IncorporatedLet's Get Social! Social Media Content Marketing 101 for SYP Volunteers & Community Groups
Upskill community group volunteers to increase their efficiency in navigating the digital world.
Yorketown$9,766
TASMANIA
Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood Centre IncCommunities Connect
Foster a more inclusive and connected community, by providing access to digital resources.
Clarendon Vale$9,510
King Island Regional Development Organisation Inc 2520Digital Literacy Workshops and Buddy Program
Improve digital literacy for the King Island community with an upgrade of technology and delivery of digital training and mentoring to build capability.
Currie$5,243
Live Well TasmaniaCommunity, Power and Communications Resilience Equipment
Build community resilience with preparedness by purchasing equipment to provide power during outages including a generator, solar panels and rechargeable radios and torches.
Wynyard$5,398
VICTORIA
Central Victorian Biolinks Alliance IncConnecting People to Restore and Reconnect Nature
Build organisational capacity of Biolinks Alliance with computer equipment, software and subscriptions to increase dissemination of educational information for repairing regional ecosystems.
Tooborac$7,055
Poowong Public Hall IncEquipment for Training in Meeting Room 2 of the Poowong Public Hall Inc 
Improve community facilities with a digital TV and laptop for the Poowong Hall meeting facilities to enhance functionality and support increased use.
Poowong$2,312
Strathbogie Memorial Hall Incorporated Strathbogie Memorial Hall Wi-Fi
Boost digital connectivity for the community of Strathbogie by providing free Wi-Fi access at the local hall.
Strathbogie$1,849
Wodonga Urban Landcare NetworkStrive to Thrive - Connecting Environmental Volunteers
Build community capability for improved environmental sustainability practice via a new website to share information and educate volunteers and the wider community surrounding Wodonga.
Wodonga$10,000
Woomelang & District Development AssocWebsite Redevelopment Project
Strengthen community engagement and connection through the creation of a website for Woomelang township to share information for locals and tourists.
Woomelang$7,310
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Albany & Regional Volunteer Service IncCommunity eSafe Clubs - Equipping Clubs to Confidently Embrace the Use of Digital Technologies
Build volunteer capacity with cyber security workshops to develop digital literacy and upskill people working in community to manage information online with confidence.
Albany$7,650
Broome Community Resource Centre IncPublic Access Computers - Technology Refresh and Enhancement
Support community digital access with upgraded computers, ensuring people in and around Broome have access and can be trained in current software use for social and economic needs.
Broome$10,000
Harvey Aboriginal CorporationConnecting Community, Culture and Computers
Provide access to digital resources and First Nations language and culture learning opportunities to students of Harvey by purchasing an interactive whiteboard, tablets and monitors.
Harvey$8,419