Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)
The small, rural town of Mooral Creek is around 260 kms north of Sydney. Following the devastation of the 2019/20 bushfires, the Mooral Creek Hall & Progress Association Committee embarked upon a project to bring the whole community together to connect, reflect and support each other through the bushfire recovery process.
With the help of a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, supported by the Fire Fight Australia Fund, came Creative Spark – an arts project aimed at encouraging creative expression and developing confidence and skills in a range of artistic forms. Through a series of visual and performance arts workshops in 2021, the project brought together the people of Mooral Creek and neighbouring communities. The project culminated in an uplifting Showcase event that celebrated the community’s achievements.
Project organisers coordinated the delivery of 14 different workshop series over 55 sessions, all while negotiating the difficulties of local flooding and COVID restrictions. More than 75 community members participated in at least one workshop.
Participants benefited from the skill, enthusiasm and encouragement of 11 local facilitators who aimed to shift focus from loss and trauma to positivity and inspiration. The facilitators themselves benefited from being able to share their knowledge, expertise and creative skills, while strengthening their community relationships. Sadly, the Fire Chief passed away during the project, however his wife found solace in delivering her painting workshop, and old and new friends were able to journey with her through grief and creativity.
Some of the resulting artworks from the many workshops directly reflected the subject of the bushfires and gave the town many beautiful keepsakes. In one workshop, participants painted the windows of Mooral Creek Hall with a stained-glass effect. They depicted their homes surrounded by colours, lines and shapes that evoked fire, smoke, landscape and nature. The overall effect for the Hall was transformative – creating a vibrancy and cathedral-like space, which can now be appreciated from both inside and outside the hall. The result of another workshop was a painting on a nearby utility pole – a simple memorial of the Black Summer Bushfires, in recognition of the work of the RFS and particularly, their Fire Chief. It depicts a koala, a goanna and a crimson rosella, some of the local fauna that suffered from the impact of the fires.
Other workshops had a stronger focus on coming together to learn physical skills, with a focus on mental wellbeing, such as ‘The Magic Circus’, Tai Chi and drumming workshops. The Middle Eastern Dance workshop saw women of all ages develop skills and collaborate over many weeks to choreograph a belly-dancing performance. The performance, titled Out of the Ashes, was described by many at the Showcase event as the best thing they had ever seen at the hall.
As well as exhibiting the artworks created during the workshops, the Showcase also displayed photographs taken during and immediately after the fires. This proved very thought-provoking, with many locals using them as a talking point to share their experiences of the bushfires. Also on display were several portraits commissioned from a local artist, which recognised community members who experienced significant loss from the bushfires, and were gifted to the sitters following the event.
The benefits of the Creative Spark project were far-reaching and effectively assisted the community to work through the trauma and experiences of living through the bushfires. Many residents were able to be involved in different ways – whether as a workshop facilitator or participant, having their portrait done, or as an audience member at the Showcase event. The breadth of arts activities and incredible scope of the project created a vibrant energy in the community and residents were amazed at what they were able to achieve. Several activities have continued throughout 2022 – evidence of the ongoing benefits of the project.
For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.
On Jukembal, Kamilaroi and Bundjalung Country
The TenterLIFE Suicide Prevention Network was formed in 2019 in the northern NSW rural community of Tenterfield. By bringing members of the community together to talk and learn about suicide prevention, the organisation hopes to reduce the number of suicide and suicide attempts in the area.
Tenterfield has been through many traumas over the past few years. Drought, fires and more recently COVID have taken their toll on the community. The effects of the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires are still being felt by the community, with the landscape still blackened. This affects people’s mental health.
Tragically, there were 154 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths reported in NSW from 1 January to 28 February 2021. This is similar to the number of deaths reported within the same time period in 2019 and 2020, so this is an ongoing issue that needs dedicated focus.
Chairperson of TenterLIFE, Lexie Sherren, explained that the numbers for the Inverell / Tenterfield area are among the highest in the state.
“By informing communities of the drastic need to be more aware of the situation, hopefully these numbers can reduce,” she explained in their application.
The compelling case, plus the support of a range of local stakeholders, including health, allied health, education and charity sectors, plus community members with first-hand experience of mental health and suicide impacts, coupled with their track record, saw TenterLIFE awarded a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant, thanks to the support of a private donor. The funds went toward printing flyers, purchasing t-shirts and windcheaters to be worn on their public walks and running Suicide Prevention First Aid training. Having spent less money on the shirts and jackets, FRRR approved a variation that meant they also purchased a PA system to use at events, rather than borrowing from one of the members.
The group has held regular ‘Walk ’n’ Talk’ events, marked White Wreath Day where they remembered those lost to suicide, as well as participated in Stress Down Day, where there was a talk on stress management and then the group sang and blew bubbles.
“All the comments were positive and I don’t think I’ve seen everyone attending smile and laugh so much. We played People Bingo, had an A-Z Scavenger Hunt and played lots of games.
“These events instil a sense of belonging for community members. Knowing someone cares can provide relief for a person who may be suicidal. Giving voice to their thoughts and expressing their feelings aloud, knowing someone is there to listen, can be truly lifesaving. Isolation or feeling alone can also increase suicidal tendencies, while connection with another person can have the reverse affect,” Ms Sherren said.
The group has more activities planned throughout the year.
For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.
Grants part of $2M funding commitment for region
Thanks to a new partnership between the FRRR and The Yulgilbar Foundation, 22 projects in the Clarence Valley and surrounding region have received a much-needed boost this year, with community groups sharing in $1,214,206 in grants.
Funded through The Yulgilbar Foundation Fund program, these grants are part of $2 million investment across the region over a three-year period. Funded initiatives include 19 one-off grants and two multi-year grants that will strengthen community capacity and resilience in the wake of the 2019/20 bushfires, drought and continued challenges across the region.
A broad cross section of groups has received support for a wide range of initiatives, with grants ranging from $1,600 for a creative writing workshop to $571,000, distributed over three years, for the Changing Lanes Community Youth Garage program run by The New School of Arts. Mudyala Aboriginal Corporation has also been awarded multi-year funding, totaling $148,413, for a project focused on resilience and wellbeing of Indigenous boys and men from Clarence Valley and surrounds.
Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said that the breadth of the projects funded reflects the diverse needs of communities in the Clarence Valley and surrounding areas.
“Great ideas and initiatives to create strong, vibrant communities are prevalent across the Clarence Valley and neighbouring regions. However, the last 12 to 18 months have made it pretty challenging to find the funding and resources to bring them to fruition.
“These grants, which are generously funded by The Yulgilbar Foundation, mean that these 22 ideas will become reality and have a positive impact on the capacity and resilience of their communities. It is fantastic to have dedicated funding available to support this region,” Ms Egleton said.
The projects supported range from creative arts, heritage and culture projects, events and festivals, gardening, street-scaping, creating employment-pathways, IT equipment and business, leadership and mental health workshops.
Further opportunities for grants will be available through The Yulgilbar Foundation Fund in the coming year. More information is available here.
The full list of grant recipients and their projects are listed below by LGA:
North West Film Festival Inc.
Arts North West Incorporated
Drought Recovery Outreach Program - Sara Storer Tour
Encourage people to come together and improve community spirit in 12 drought affected northern NSW townships by bringing live music events featuring Australian singer/songwriter Sara Storer.
|Clarence Valley Shire, Tenterfield Shire, & Kyogle Council||$70,000|
|Richmond Valley Business & Rural Financial Counselling Services Incorporated|
Family Farm Succession Planning
Support and strengthen the local economy by running six community information workshops to help farming families in drought and bushfire affected communities plan for the future.
|Clarence Valley Shire, Tenterfield Shire, Inverell Shire, Gunnedah Shire||$24,000|
North West Film Festival Inc.
Arts North West Incorporated
Choir of Fire
Encourage bushfire affected communities in regional NSW to come together and unwind by running a touring music concert event in 12 towns.
|Clarence Valley, Tenterfield, & Inverell Shires||$30,000|
|Copmanhurst Pre-School Inc|
Healing circle surrounded by native garden
Enhance areas that support local recovery at Copmanhurst Preschool, through establishment of a healing circle and native garden.
|Blicks Community Incorporated|
LET’S CONNECT- The Blicks Community Communication Strategy
Grow community resilience, connectedness, and emergency preparedness in the Dundurrabin area through the development and implementation of a Community Communication Strategy.
Ewingar South Tabulam Community Sports Center
Clarence Valley Council
Enhance local recovery and increase wellbeing, through delivery of community music festival on anniversary of disaster event.
|Mudyala Aboriginal Corporation|
Rising Warriors Program - Healing Our Way
Boost resilience and wellbeing of Indigenous boys and men in the Clarence Valley and surrounds through culturally relevant activities and events.
|OZ Green-Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (Australia) Incorporated|
Resilient Communities - Clarence Valley Shire
Build community awareness and skills in disaster preparedness with the delivery of Resilient Communities program in the Clarence Valley.
The Long Way Home
Byron Writers Festival
Creative writing workshops with Cate Kennedy
Encourage the development of creative writing skills through accessible workshops for Clarence Valley residents.
|The New School of Arts Neighbourhood House Incorporated|
Improve social connection, leadership skills, and employment pathways for young people in the Clarence Valley through the Changing Lanes Community Youth Garage program.
|The Susan and Elizabeth Islands Recreation Land Manager|
Ceremonial Stone placement and seating on Susan Island
Celebrate local Indigenous culture and heritage by placing a Ceremonial Stone, seating and signage at a gathering place on Susan Island, Grafton.
|Lawrence Historical Society Incorporated|
Technology to Preserve Local Cultural History and Easy Public Access
Build organisational capacity to maintain and share information about the local area through new technology and website for local museum in Lawrence.
|The Mend & Make Do Crew Incorporated|
She He Shed
Increase social connectedness and improve facilities delivering arts and craft-based activities in Grafton through fit-out costs and equipment at the She Shed He Shed maker’s space.
|Woombah Residents Association Incorporated|
Woombah Wellness Community Garden Raising Videos & Media Makers Mentoring Program
Build organisational capacity to promote local environmental sustainability through development of virtual resources for Woombah Community Garden.
|Port of Yamba Historical Society Incorporated|
Expanding stories of Yaegl people and their culture at Yamba Museum
Build organisational capacity of Historical Society in Yamba to celebrate local Indigenous culture through the installation of artwork and enhancements at local museum.
|Glenreagh School of the Arts Incorporated|
Cedar and Steam Art and Photo Exhibition 2021
Boost capacity of Glenreagh School of the Arts to support local artists and community access to artworks by upgrading display systems.
|Lanescape Goondiwindi Incorporated|
Masterplan Art Trail
Enhance the amenity and vibrancy of Goondiwindi through a public art project engaging the local community.
|Proprietor Bundgeam Preschool Incorporated|
Community Bike Track & Solar Installation
Boost community preparedness, resilience and wellbeing in Terrace Creek, NSW, through the development of a community bike track and solar installation at local preschool site.
|Border Ranges Riding Club Incorporated|
Supporting the activities of Border Ranges Riding Club 2021-2022
Boost access to inclusive community activities in Woodenbong through local riding club fostering skill development, social connection, and resilience.
|Woodenbong Progress Association|
Upgrade of the median strip in MacPherson Street, Woodenbong
Enhance the streetscape and boost community spirit in Woodenbong through the beautification of the main street.
|Tenterfield Show Society Incorporated|
Build capacity of Tenterfield Show Society to preserve local history and culture through restoring and digitalizing the photographic collection of the region dating 1876 to 2021.
|Arts North West Incorporated|
CreativiTEA - Seasonal Stories of the New England North West
Boost community resilience and connections in four townships in Inverell and Tenterfield Shires through a series of creative workshops over two years.
|Tenterfield & Inverell Shires (Drake, Ashford, Tingha, Torrington)||$55,367|
|* Funding to be distributed over multi-year projects|
Drake is a small town in the shire of Tenterfield, located on the border of NSW and QLD. With one pub, one shop, one community centre and most properties coming in at around 100 acres, there is little opportunity for interaction and entertainment between community members. There was an interest among residents in learning more about permaculture, particularly as the land can be quite unforgiving when trying to grow food and plants.
The Granite Border Landcare Committee (GBLC) saw an opportunity to teach the community new skills, create new shared community resources and foster connections and relationships between neighbours through the creation of a six-part permaculture workshop series.
With a $4,000 Small Grant, funded by The Yulgilbar Foundation, the GBLC was able to create and deliver this workshop series over a six month period.
Amanda Craig, who managed the program, said the project established a strong, energetic, community focused group with a core membership of 10 people.
“While the overall aim was to establish a permaculture group, which it has done, the community benefits are greater than that.”
“The group members and other interested people that attended workshops have established strong ties within the small isolated community and are now branching out to include other activities as the recent garden make over at the community resource center,” Amanda said.
The workshops included Build a Chook Pen, Build a Raised Garden Bed in a Mandala Circle Garden, Learn to Build Compost Bays, Building Swale’s Workshop, Propagating Vegetable Seedlings, Build a Wicking Bed and How to Build a Greenhouse. The six-month series helped to build community connectedness, improve local community infrastructure, and develop a volunteer community group.
Since completing the series, this group has continued to hold workshops and is working on beautifying the garden around the local community centre.
When a popular city-based summer school music program made plans to bring the beat to the bush and put on a show alongside it, the whole community of Tenterfield NSW let the rhythm takeover.
Recently ravaged by drought and fires, the small town was experiencing some hard times. Charitable organisation Hartbeat of the Bush teamed up with the Cuskelly College of Music’s Winter Music School in a bid to provide Tenterfield and the surrounding communities with a brief respite from it all – the result was a week long ‘Beat of the Bush’ festival during the July 2019 holidays.
Dr James Cuskelly has run a Summer School music program in Brisbane for years, but it was his long-held dream to bring the music back to the bush, to his roots. Despite the evidence that incorporating music in a child’s education shows life changing benefits, such as improving literacy, numeracy, confidence, behaviour and wellbeing, 63 percent of primary schools in Australia offer no classroom music. In regional and remote schools, there is limited or no musical and arts based education, and opportunities for children to actively participate as performers and artists, under the mentorship of professionals and in front of an audience, is rare and for some non-existent.
Hartbeat of the Bush supports arts, music and cultural development programs in regional and remote communities. This initiative was designed as a whole of community project, to enable participants to socialise with others from across and beyond their region. In total, around 160 participants attended the Winter School, travelling from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Ashford, Texas and Newcastle and lots of other little places in between.
The program kicked off with the Big Chilly Sing, a day-long singing and song-writing workshop that gave locals a chance to converge and get the toes tapping. This was followed by a range of courses and concerts for students of all ages delivered by more than 50 teachers, many of whom are internationally-acclaimed.
A range of concerts were also put on by the Winter School music educators themselves, which were attended by 220 people each night. Locals and visitors alike were treated to a folk concert, jazz performances, a chamber music concert, an opera night, a piano concert and of course, the final night culminated in one of the biggest concerts Tenterfield has ever seen. The finale was a rendition of the legendary Peter Allen song Tenterfield Saddler, performed by all of the Winter School attendees, and arranged by Pete Churchill, who led the Jazz studies program.
Musical experiences like this help children develop social skills and build confidence. Children from all over the region who had never met one another, played an instrument nor sung in a choir before this program amazed their family members with the talent and skills they had learnt in just five days. Many of these children are still in contact with each other and cannot wait for the next event.
What’s more, the economic benefits for the town were significant, with cafes, restaurants and retail outlets benefitting from a lot of foot traffic at a time when the drought impact was being deeply felt. A large number of local community groups were involved in some way, from making lunches and morning teas to providing venues for the concerts.
Hartbeat of the Bush President Ms Helen McCosker said it was a whole of community effort.
“The whole community was abuzz – even though we had had fires, drought and could no longer drink the town’s water, we had provided the businesses with a little sense of what was normal, something to look forward to and grow for our little country town.”
The $20,000 grant received by Hartbeat of the Bush was funded by the Australian Government through FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program. This covered the costs of running free daily buses within a 100 km radius for commuters from Warwick, Bonshaw, Glen Innes and Tabulum, as well as accommodation at the local Tenterfield Motor Inn for tutors (both overseas and those from Brisbane) and volunteers.