Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The community of Corryong in north-eastern Victoria is nestled at the foot of the surrounding mountain ranges, and has a population of around 1,200. The Corryong Neighbourhood Centre (CNC) is very active in the community, and their mission is to make a difference for people in their community by providing a vibrant hub of lifelong learning that brings people together, connects them with services, programs, employment and activities and points them in the right direction.

The CNC operates two successful social enterprises, which not only increase the opportunities for work-based training in the community and support the ongoing operating costs of the CNC, but also meet an identified gap in current services and supplies available in Corryong.

One is a community bakery, which had an 11% increase in sales in its first year and a 28% increase in its second, contributing over $83,000 to CNC operations in its first two years of trading. The second social enterprise venture is a community garage, which uses the same model as the bakery and aims to be financially viable and self-sustaining within a reasonable timeframe. Both ventures are managed by an experienced industry professional with training skills and a community focus with business and administrative support from the CNC team.

To ensure that the funds generated from the social enterprises are sustainably and effectively utilised within the Upper Murray, the Upper Murray Innovation Foundation (UMIF) was established as a Community Foundation operated by the CNC in June 2016. UMIF partnered with FRRR in 2017 to create a Fundraising Account to channel these funds through, meaning that any contributions made to the account receive a tax deduction within Australia. UMIF’s purpose is to support the activities of the CNC and the wider Upper Murray Community through learning, activities and initiatives that improve life in the region and, particularly since the devastating Black Summer bushfires, build resilience and growth at the community level. 

Since opening the account with FRRR, UMIF has raised $333,462 for bushfire recovery and $245,000 for their community garage social enterprise. Distributions are made to support community groups such as the footy clubs at Bullioh, Federal, Cudgewa and Corryong, which were adversely affected by the Black Summer bushfires. Corryong College received funding for a support dog; Cudgewa Hall for tree works; the Corryong CRC for the development of a community calendar; Biggara Recreation Reserve for community hall upgrades; and a Freemasons project to assist with the clearing of damaged fencing, erosion and damage to waterways resulting from the bushfires and subsequent landslides in difficult access areas.

Sara Jenkins from UMIF said that the funded activities have provided stand alone benefits, start up funds or contributed to larger projects for a wide range of groups. Some of the distributions have also enabled groups and organisations to work together to develop strategies and solutions to address wider community issues (e.g. the community calendar project).

When asked what some key learnings were for the Community Foundation, Sara mentioned the ongoing importance of developing and using comprehensive procedures and documentation and maintaining regular contact with recipients and partners.

“Keeping up-to-date with the status of projects, the people on the ground, and being involved in any problem solving or amendments required reduces confusion, duplication and helps the process run smoothly, despite ongoing delays,” she said.

UMIF continues to foster several project partnerships, working closely with Freemasons Victoria, Towong Shire, CRCs and various unincorporated community groups. They are also auspicing and supporting a number of bushfire recovery grants and projects for unincorporated community groups that will support the community to continue the recovery process.