Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)
The Romsey Ecotherapy Park Inc (REP) group persevered for 14 years to deliver a very special place in nature for local community members and visitors to the Macedon Ranges region in Victoria. Their multi-stage project transformed a derelict historic school site into a unique park that is enhancing health and wellness in nature for all ages and abilities. It was finally completed in November 2022.
REP Committee member, Jenny Stillman, said the park is proving popular already. “There are almost always people of all ages using the Park (including engaging with its inspired-by-nature art installations). Earlier this year, Macedon Ranges Shire Council focused its youth initiative program activities at the Park. A celebratory “Party in the Park” community event held in February 2023 was incredibly well attended. All of the artists involved in the project were present and spoke about their work. In addition, the potential for the Park’s future use was showcased with music performance and story-telling included in the event’s program.”
FRRR joined REP’s journey in July 2020, partnering with them to support their ‘Art in the Park’ fundraising campaign, through a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account. This allowed all those who donated to the project to receive a tax-deduction for their gift.
In total, REP raised around $108,000 through their partnership with FRRR, which was used to fund the art installations during the Stage 2 (Sensory Therapeutic Space) construction phase.
Ms Stillman said that the engagement and overall partnership with FRRR was outstanding.
“Thank you for all of your support and wise counsel. It has certainly been great for our project and our community group. The FRRR not-for-profit fundraising account has been incredibly important to REP’s capacity to launch and run a successful fundraising campaign. We have strongly recommended FRRR partnerships to other groups embarking on significant projects!”
Ms Stillman went on to explain that a hugely significant flow-on effect was the subsequent funding from Regional Development Victoria to cover the Park’s Stage 3 works, which resulted in the completion of Romsey Ecotherapy Park.
“We believe this commitment (in addition to RDV’s significant Stage 2 funding commitment) was partly facilitated by the success of REP’s ‘Art in the Park’ campaign, which RDV was very aware of.”
While they are justifiably proud of the achievements, Ms Stillman said that the Romsey Ecotherapy Park Inc committee members are, understandably, tired. The impact of a 14 year (total) project on these volunteers cannot be underestimated. There has been much learnt about resilience, determination, compromise and partnerships, while staying committed to their vision.
REP generously shared some of their key learnings, in the spirit of helping other community groups embarking on a major project:
- Identify the need for your project and back it up by referencing stakeholder (e.g. Council) documents.
- Be prepared to take risks (“No guts, no glory”) especially to promote a project that has a demonstrated “need” and which you genuinely believe in.
- Communication is critical. Speak to anyone and everyone you need to for information gathering and support (financial and otherwise).
- Partnerships with other local organisations are important, even if only to get volunteer help from them at fundraising events.
- Be prepared to acquire new skills if needed (e.g. marketing, graphic design, word smithing etc).
- Be prepared to play the “long game” (hopefully not as long as ours was – 14 years!). Persistence, determination and resilience were essential in this project.
Could your community group use fundraising support? To learn more about FRRR’s Fundraising Accounts for not-for-profits and community foundations, get in touch with Jo Kemp, our Philanthropic Services Manager.
Funding helps local preparedness projects get off the ground
Local groups in Korumburra, Myrtleford and Whittlesea township and surrounds, are taking an active approach to preparing their regions for future disaster, thanks to a partnership with FRRR’s Disaster Resilient: Future Ready (DR:FR) Victorian program.
As part of the place-based DR:FR program, the three regional communities are sharing a total of $120,839 in grants. These funds are already being put to use, with communities leading local initiatives designed to improve wellbeing, increase preparedness and strengthen resilience so that each place has greater capacity to endure, adapt and evolve positively when faced with the impacts of climate, disasters and other disruptions.
Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, said that FRRR is the DR:FR initiative is an active partnership between FRRR and the communities.
The premise of the DR:FR program is to partner with local groups and community members, and provide them with the tools and resources to identify what their community needs to prepare for the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and broader disruptions.
“The priority projects have been under development since March, so it’s a major milestone to see the local groups getting these important ideas off the ground. We are inspired by the passion and persistence shown by each group and their eagerness to make a difference when the next emergency arrives. “We look forward to continuing to partner with these communities to better prepare their regions to withstand the impacts of future disasters,” Ms O’Brien said.
Korumburra is setting up a Helping Hub, to be run from the local Community House.
The Helping Hub will match community volunteers with those in need of assistance via a website, social media and six-monthly volunteer expos.
The Hub will build community networks and provide connection to residents who need support, improving resilience generally and in emergencies such as storms or heatwaves.
Mytrleford is fortunate to have a range of community groups and resources that can be mobilised to support the community during a disaster.
FRRR funding has been used to engage a person in a Community Connector Role for the Myrtleford neighbourhood to understand each group’s facilities and resources.
They will continue to work with the groups to plan how they can collectively support residents in the first 72 hours of an emergency event such as flooding or bushfire, and develop a Contacts Directory and Community Assets Map to make communication and co-ordination of resources easier in an emergency.
Whittlesea Township and Surrounds
Whittlesea Township and Surrounds’ Community Resilience Committee (CRC) is using their grant to employ a project officer to support a range of initiatives.
The CRC is keen to ensure that grassroots community action in future events is recognised in the formal Municipal Emergency Management Plan (MEMP) and, therefore, by the formal disaster response agencies. They have received support from the MEMP Committee and are currently rewriting a previous Community Emergency Management Plan, to be endorsed later in 2023.
A key project for this group is to set up a Community Emergency Response Network (CERN) of local residents and community organisations. For future large fires and storms, the CERN would be recognised as part of the formal emergency response and would coordinate the local community-level relief efforts.
The DR:FR initiative is collaboratively supported by many generous donors, who are acknowledged on the FRRR website.
For more information about this program, visit https://frrr.org.au/drfr-victoria/.
Grants round out 14 years of dedicated bushfire recovery funding
FRRR has awarded $207,812 in grants to community groups across the Kinglake Ranges region, for 13 projects that will strengthen the social connectedness and continued recovery of Victorian communities impacted by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
These grants mark the final round of FRRR’s Grants for Resilience & Wellness (GR&W) Kinglake Ranges program and closes out the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund (VBAF). In total, VBAF has funded 492 community-led projects, with an investment of $7,436,642, thanks to funds raised by the general public following the bushfires.
In this final round of GR&W Kinglake Ranges grants, locals continue to seek to strengthen community identity and a shared sense of place. Funded projects will create opportunities for people to come together and connect, such as The Foggy Mountain Music and Arts Festival 2023 bush dance, or through improvements made to the accessibility and function of shared spaces like Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House’s Community Garden or the Toolangi District Community House’s C J Dennis Hall. Other places, like Flowerdale Community House, are preparing for future disasters by building community capacity through planning and education.
Nina O’Brien, Disaster Resilience & Recovery Lead at FRRR, said the Foundation is humbled to play a small, yet consistent, role in the Kinglake Ranges’ recovery journey.
“For the past 14 years, FRRR’s Grants for Resilience & Wellness program has been dedicated to supporting the recovery of Victorian communities impacted by the historic bushfires. And it’s thanks to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund, and the generosity of everyday people, that we have been able to fund local recovery initiatives, for the long-term.
“Grant programs, like GR&W Kinglake Ranges, demonstrate the complexity of disaster recovery and the need for long-term funding to support affected communities, especially those in remote, rural and regional areas.
“In Kinglake Central, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek, Toolangi and Flowerdale, we have seen how priorities and needs have shifted and evolved throughout the recovery process. From the initial planning of pathways to further local investment, to training and education to build resilience and foster wellbeing, to small infrastructure projects that provide a safe space for locals to connect and prepare for future disasters.
“We know that the Kinglake Ranges region will continue the process of recovery, and for each community, that will look different. While this is the final round of GR&W, FRRR will continue to support the communities of Kinglake Ranges through our Strengthening Rural Communities grant program.
“It’s important that the people in these communities know that they are supported now, and into the future,” Ms O’Brien explained.
The full list of grant recipients and funded projects are below.
|Flowerdale Community House Inc||Flowerdale Community House into the Future |
Strengthen a community house’s capacity to deliver emergency response and support community disaster recovery through engaging a facilitator for disaster preparedness planning.
|The Flowerdale Sports Club||Connecting the Community Through Physical Wellbeing |
Rejuvenate a local community hub to strengthen connectedness and support disaster preparedness by improving accessibility and equipment.
|Foggy Mountain Inc||Foggy Mountain Music and Arts Festival 2023 |
Cultivate sense of place and connectedness through holding a community bush dance as part of the 2023 Foggy Mountain Music and Arts Festival.
|Kinglake Creative Inc||Kinglake Creative Marketing Campaign and Customer Experience Improvements |
Enhance community connection and economic recovery through a marketing campaign and furnishings to enhance the operations of a creative space.
|Kinglake Football Netball Club||Nourishing Community Connection in the Ranges |
Foster community connection and enhance volunteer capacity by upgrading commercial kitchen appliances and equipment at the Kinglake Memorial Reserve.
|Kinglake Landcare Group (auspiced by Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House)||Caring for Your Patch in the Kinglake Ranges - Updating the 2023 Kinglake Landcare Booklet |
Encourage connection to place and preparedness for future disasters by updating local sustainability and land management resources for Kinglake Ranges residents.
|Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House||Reinvigorating our Community Garden |
Enhance community connection and opportunities for skill development through accessibility upgrades at a community garden.
|Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House||Supporting Children and Families: Playgroup Building Upgrade |
Enhance a space for children and parents to participate in playgroup and education activities through minor facility upgrades.
|Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House||Rural Skills for Resilience |
Boost skills in preparedness and resilience through rural land management and disaster readiness training courses and workshops.
|Kinglake Trust Reserve Incorporated||Internal Audio-Visual Upgrade Inside the Ellimatta Centre at the Kinglake Trust Reserve |
Build capacity to host community activities and strengthen community connection through upgrading audio-visual equipment.
|Murrindindi Youth Foundation (auspiced by The Trustee for the Community Enterprise Charitable Fund)||Delivery of Blue Light Victoria’s School Programs for Students Living in Kinglake Ranges |
Build social connections, resilience and improve mental health outcomes in young people through school-based leadership and wellbeing programs.
|Toolangi-Castella Trails Action Group (auspiced by Toolangi District Community House Inc)||Castella Central Park to Tall Trees Trail Toolangi Link |
Foster community connection and health and wellbeing by engaging a consultant to support planning for an all-weather trail connecting Toolangi and Castella.
|Toolangi District Community House Inc||Upgrade of CJ Dennis Hall Kitchen and Blinds |
Foster community connection by enhancing places where people gather through installing a commercial oven at the CJ Dennis Hall and block out blinds at the Toolangi Opportunity Shop.
Twenty-eight community-led projects will share $123,850 in grants, thanks to a partnership between FRRR and the Gardiner Dairy Foundation.
This is the 21st year of the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants, which provide up to $5,000 for locally-led projects that strengthen Victorian dairy communities.
Allan Cameron, Gardiner Foundation Chief Executive Officer said that local community groups and not-for-profit organisations play a critical role in the sustainability of Victoria’s dairy communities and it’s great to be able to support them to bring their ideas to fruition.
“Once again, we’ve seen creative projects come through from community groups to address persistent issues. Our commitment to the Victorian dairy industry values these groups and their ability to create vibrant communities broadly benefitting all residents including those involved in dairy. We look forward to hearing about the impacts as these projects are implemented in the coming year,” Mr Cameron said.
This year, the program attracted lots of interest, with community groups reporting challenges in local fundraising following two years of COVID interruptions and increasing operational costs hitting hard in the current economic environment.
Despite this, these local groups show a determination to overcome challenges and invest in projects and initiatives that enhance local opportunities or help fill gaps in service delivery, explains FRRR’s CEO, Natalie Egleton.
“In the applications this round, we saw a range of programs, activities and event equipment purchases that at their core build the social capital of the communities. From supporting a new community choir to several programs for engaging and enabling young people in learning, social and physical development. These and many other projects ensure that community facilities are fit for purpose to support meetings and activities, and that programs such as creating an edible garden present new opportunities for volunteers to develop skills and knowledge.
“This diversity of projects reflects that each of these communities is different and, therefore, so too are their needs and priorities. We are grateful to the Gardiner Foundation for recognising the importance of communities being able to access flexible funding to fill these gaps and for partnering with us for so long to provide this funding,” Ms Egleton said.
Among the projects funded are:
South Western Victoria
A full list of grant recipients is detailed below.
|Hillend & Grove Rovers Football Netball Club||Interactive Display Screen |
Build digital capability by purchasing an interactive large screen for the sporting club's meeting facilities to support local training for CFA and community information nights.
|Jeetho Hall Inc||Planning Ahead to Maintain our Unique Community Asset|
Building community resilience by improving local community infrastructure and meeting places to increase hall usage for social connectedness and economic prosperity.
|Manna Gum Community House Inc||Corner Inlet Young People's Cooperative |
Increase youth engagement and participation in social community activities with street games equipment and art supplies for Community Houses in the Corner Inlet region.
|Milpara Community House Inc||What's a Good Thing To Do? |
Support young people's social connection in Korumburra by engaging them in a co-design process to imagine and develop local spaces and activities for their use.
|Mirboo North Grainstore Committee of Management Incorporated||Improving the Usability of our Community Space |
Building community resilience by improving local community infrastructure and meeting places.
|Orbost Exhibition Centre on the Snowyriver Inc||pARTicipate — Part 3 Digital Connections to Strengthen Community Participation |
Build the capacity of the Orbost Exhibition Centre by purchasing a portable video conferencing system to improve community meeting options, including remote connection to increase participation in activities.
|The Leongatha Men's Shed||Heating and Cooling System for Communal Area |
Improve community facilities by purchasing an air conditioner for the local Men's Shed to support members and other community groups using the space.
|Treble F Singers Incorporated||Community Singing Group — Enhancing the Health and Wellbeing of Its Members |
Enhance community vibrancy and culture through supporting the Treble F Choir's purchase of a filing cabinet for sheet music and a video camera to record performances.
|Welshpool and District Primary School||Wetland Warriors |
Enhance educational outcomes through enabling hands-on, nature-based educational outcomes for students by purchasing tools for the Wetland Warriors program.
|Yinnar & District Historical Society & Museum||Installation of Split System in the Old Railway Goods Shed |
Improve community facilities by purchasing an air conditioner to support volunteers and improve visitor experience at the Yinnar Museum.
|Boys to the Bush Ltd||Wangaratta Men of Tomorrow Schools' Program |
Support Boys to the Bush to deliver a program of development for adolescent boys to engage positively with peers and their community through an extra-curricular program of practical learning.
|Corryong Historic Machinery Club Inc||Corryong Historic Machinery Club Museum |
Build community resilience through building capacity of the Corryong Historical Machinery Club with IT, defibrillator and air conditioning to support operations and development.
|Gannawarra Shire Council||Supporting Rural Mental Health & Wellbeing Post Floods |
Build community resilience through mental health and wellbeing workshops delivered across the Gannawarra Shire that was impacted by 2022 flooding.
|Goulburn Region Preschool Association Inc||Tungamah Kinder Bike Path |
Support lifelong learning and community wellbeing with the installation of a bike path for children at Tungamah Preschool to develop gross motor skills and increase outdoor activities.
|Kyabram Blue Light||KyFit School Expansion |
Utilising the New Health Fitness & Wellbeing Centre Expand support for young people by growing the KyFit teen gym program to increase capacity for more students to participate.
|Kyabram Community & Learning Centre Inc||The Edible & Bush Tucker Garden |
Enhance community spaces for learning and sustainability with both bush tucker and edible gardens created by volunteers at the Kyabram Community Garden Traffic School.
|Murrabit Advancement Association Inc||Murrabit — Hot Water All Round! |
Upgrade the Murrabit community-owned toilet and shower facilities with hot water, signage and landscaping to improve local and visitor experience.
|Myrtleford & District Agricultural & Pastoral Society Inc||Improved Facilities in Cattle Pavilion for 2023 Myrtleford Show |
Building Community Resilience by supporting the local show society infrastructure for the benefit and development of local volunteers and community activities, including preparedness.
|Wangaratta Concert Band Inc||Enhancing our Community Traditions and Supporting our Future Through Music |
Foster community vibrancy with the purchase of bugles and a tenor saxophone for the Wangaratta Community Band to perform at community events and remove barriers to young people joining.
|SOUTH WESTERN VICTORIA|
|Anam Cara House Colac Inc||Overcoming Barriers to Communication and Social Interaction Through Accessibility Equipment |
Increase capability for access and participation in activities that enhance quality of life through headphones for the hearing impaired clients of Anam Cara Hospice Colac.
|Gellibrand Community House Incorporated||Seating for the Gellibrand Hall |
Strengthen community resilience with new chairs for the Gellibrand Community Hall to increase safety and capacity of the community meeting space.
|Johanna Public Purposes Committee Incorporated||Reinstate BBQ Gas Cooktop |
Improve community facilities with a new gas cooktop for the public BBQ at Johanna Reserve to support local communities and visitors in their use and enjoyment of the parklands.
|Kawarren Recreation Reserve||Shelter Shed Repairs |
Improving community facilities by repairing the shelter shed of the Kawarren Reserve to support local community and visitor use.
|Loved and Shared Incorporated||Increasing our Reach |
Build capacity of the Loved and Shared not-for-profit organisation with professional photography and office equipment to improve operations and promote their charitable cause of repairing and rehousing children's goods.
|South West Community Foundation||Regional Snapshot — Vital Signs and Community Connections Project |
Build the capacity of the Foundation to support their community by undertaking a Regional Snapshot to collect data, which can be shared to better understand and act on local issues, opportunities and challenges.
|South Western Model Engineers Inc / Cobden Miniature Railway||All Weather Waiting Area |
Building community resilience with improved local infrastructure via an accessible covered waiting area for visitors to the Cobden Miniature Railway.
|Warrnambool & District Community Hospice Inc||Hospice in the Home — Audio Visual Equipment |
Build community resilience with equipment to enable the engagement and training of volunteers to support at-home hospice care for small communities surrounding Warnambool.
|Warrnambool College||Indigenous Garden Project |
Enhance educational outcomes by hands on development of an Indigenous sensory garden at Warnambool College and Grassmere Primary School.
While it had a short life as a gold mining area, the Tanjil Valley in eastern Victoria is a long established dairy farming area with a keen local History Gatherer’s Group.
The Group brings together older people from across the district to share family stories and evoke long forgotten memories of farming techniques and innovations. These evenings, held at the Hill End Community Centre (HECC), are very popular and the social interaction contributes to a strong sense of community belonging and connectedness.
As the elders in the settler families age, their families, as well as more recent community members, were keen to preserve and capture their local history. Some short stories have been shared in the free monthly ‘Hill End Herald’ community newsletter, which is distributed to almost 500 families throughout the Tanjil Valley. The community always responds positively and people urged the Group to collate their histories into book form. So, some local historians got to work, extending and gathering these stories into a manuscript.
With a $3,400 grant from the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community grants program, the History Talks – Settlers’ Histories A Generation On was collated and published.
By all accounts, the collation of the book was a monumental effort! It hardly needs saying that COVID presented a major challenge, especially as the contributors to the book were mostly older community members for whom the risks of COVID were great. The authors themselves are older people with significant health challenges, who live in different towns, yet these two women determinedly worked together to get the project finished. All the final checks and corrections were done by phone or by emails and, as the two authors also live in different towns, they had to do all their final editing in the same way.
The book launch occurred at the Australia Day 2022 community event to great acclaim. Despite COVID risks and stormy weather, which did affect numbers at the event, nearly 80 copies were sold on the night. The book, which features stories from more than 30 district families, and cover art by well-known local artist Liz Bowley, has been featured in The Hill End Herald, and mostly sold through word of mouth. The book has almost sold out in the four months since it was launched and the group is planning a re-print.
The authors generously handed over the ISBN and all the books to the Community Centre to sell and to use all the profits for the benefit of the community centre.
In acquitting their grant, Hill End Community Inc. told us how proud they are of the authors’ efforts to push through the restrictions of COVID to produce the book.
“We are also proud of the commitment of the contributing farmers and their families to provide information and search out their historical family photos. We are proud too of the contribution the book has, and continues to make, in documenting the history of the settler families of the community and sharing that with the broader community and newer community members.”
For the elderly members of the monthly History Gatherers Group, the book project reconnected them after two years of being shut down by COVID restrictions and fears. Tanjil Valley Settlers’ History will ensure that the farming histories of this district will not be lost as settler families age but will be preserved, celebrated and shared for years to come.
In Victoria’s Alpine Valley shire, Alpine Radio is a vital and much-loved way for the community to stay safe and connected. It’s run by Kiewa Valley Community Radio Association Inc, a not-for-profit community radio station located in Mount Beauty in north-east Victoria.
Alpine Radio broadcasts local information into the Kiewa and Ovens Valleys and Harrietville about events and activities, along with music programs and local interviews. It is also an official Emergency Services broadcaster for the region.
Like many of the organisations that responded to our 2021 Heartbeat of Rural Australia study, the station receives most of its funding from local businesses and benefactors. However, the downturn in tourism following the 2020 fires resulted in a loss of income by local businesses, which was further exacerbated by the pandemic. This meant that several of the station’s supporters stopped their contributions entirely or suspended their payments.
In a bid to regain sponsors and attract new ones, Alpine Radio used a $6,000 grant from the News Corp Bushfire Recovery Fund, managed by FRRR, to bring in external expertise. A Sponsorship and Marketing Manager was engaged part-time for six months to keep in touch with current sponsors during the lockdowns. If they couldn’t pay their sponsorship fees because of the downturn in income, the business continued to be mentioned on air (free of charge) or was suspended until the business could reopen. The radio station also contacted many of the local businesses that were not necessarily sponsors but were changing their business model to offer takeaway meals and drinks, and they broadcast these changes to the listening public for free.
This strategy created a lot of goodwill within the community and, as a result, Alpine Radio signed up several new sponsors once businesses were able to open up and start getting regular income again. Previous supporters also came back on board too.
The grant helped bring financial stability to the station, which in turn enabled them to continue to employ a paid station manager. This means that Alpine Radio can continue to deliver local communications, media and play a critical role during emergencies.
The station’s President, Nicholas Brown, said that the goodwill created across the Kiewa and Ovens Valleys is what they were most proud of.
Tomorrow Today Foundation (TTF) is the community foundation for the Benalla region in Victoria. It connects people, resources and ideas to create a stronger, more resilient and prosperous rural community.
Like many community foundations, Tomorrow Today has a community fund that receives donations to their corpus, and the income generated from that investment provides grants for Benalla and district projects. In FY22, they distributed more than $89,500 in grants to groups, families and individuals across the region.
Their fundraising is supported in partnership with FRRR through a Community Foundation Fundraising Account, which enables tax-deductible donations to be received on behalf of TTF.
One of the key projects Tomorrow Today fundraises for is their Education Benalla Program (EBP) – an initiative that aims to improve educational outcomes for Benalla’s children. In FY22, they worked with over 120 local partners to run activities that give every Benalla child the chance to thrive in life.
Their transformative program aims to create systemic changes to educational, social and environmental challenges, with the overall goal of raising the education and training completion rates of Benalla’s 17-24 year olds to equal or above the Victorian average to break the self-perpetuating cycle: poor school retention leads to life-long social and economic disadvantage; and disadvantage results in poor levels of school retention. The program starts at the very beginning of the education journey, working with families from the earliest ages and stages to prepare children for school and ensure they are ’ready to learn’.
And the results are in: there is significant quantitative and qualitative evidence indicating that the initiative is having the desired impact. In the 10 year anniversary publication of the EBP released earlier this year, Tomorrow Today’s founder and former EBP Convenor Liz Chapman OAM described how the last 10 years has been ‘a wild ride’. In that time, the percentage of children deemed developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains has decreased significantly, bringing Benalla much closer to state and national averages (source: 2021 Australian Early Development Census, which measures how young children are developing in their first year of full-time school).
“If there was a Tomorrow Today in every town, the positive contribution to community, education and engagement with young people would solve most of the common problems we face. I have enormous respect for the work they do.”Danny O’Donoghue, Executive Officer of the NE Tracks Local Learning & Employment Network in the EBP 10 year anniversary publication
You can add your support by donating securely online, or check out the Tomorrow Today Foundation website to learn more about their work. To learn more about FRRR’s Fundraising Accounts for not-for-profits and community foundations, get in touch with Jo Kemp, our Philanthropic Services Manager.
Health care in rural areas is so often lacking and this scarcity of services, coupled with workforce shortages, means that many chronic health conditions are poorly managed and preventative health programs can be hard to find.
That’s why our Program Coordinator, Jeanice Henderson, was excited to travel to Kerang in northern Victoria last month to learn more about the progress of the innovative Rural Health Matters project.
Funded through an FRRR Enhancing Country Health Outcomes (ECHO) grant in 2020, Northern District Community Health (NDCH) is making good use of their $115,000 grant, funded by Beyond Medical Education. They have employed Emily Wood as Buloke, Loddon and Gannawarra (BLG) Project Coordinator, and are leveraging a truly inspirational health partnership spanning three Local Government Areas and multiple health services. This collaborative placed-based, systems approach is delivering a suite of local initiatives to help improve the current and emerging health needs for BLG Shire residents.
Plans for the original launch of the Rural Health Matters project were thwarted by COVID lockdowns. However, Mandy Hutchinson, CEO of NDCH said the delays meant the August event became a real celebration of what has been achieved so far and what is to come; a chance to share and applaud the amazing work and local partnerships that are starting to shift the dial on local health outcomes.
It was easy to see from the original grant application that a lot of the hard work had already been done. The BLG Local Health Community Services had researched and created the ambitious BLG Health Needs implementation plan, and made a solid start on various projects.
The FRRR ECHO grant is helping them to take this to the next level. Emily has been tasked with mapping the current health service provision across the three Shires and identifying the existing gaps and opportunities for further collaboration. She is also responsible for running a community awareness campaign for Heart Health risk factors; developing an allied health community of practice with a focus on chronic disease management and bringing people together for an annual chronic health forum; and working closely with new initiatives such as the Sustainable Rural Health Project.
Emily said that the ECHO grant for the Rural Health Matters (RHM) project has enabled a backbone for additional work to be developed, implemented, or supported and promoted across the BLG region.
“Alongside the identified KPI’s of the RHM project, there has been the opportunity to continue facilitation of an existing Chronic Disease Management: Community of Practice (COP) for allied health professionals and nurses which had previously had facilitation funding for 12 months through Murray PHN. This role enabled not only the continuation of the COP but also allowed me to act as a conduit between the systems level planning and the on the ground experience and feedback of the allied health staff – as was the case with the Murray PHN Sustainable Rural Health project.
“I have also been able to support the application for the Smoking Research Project, which has since been funded by the Department of Health. Currently the RHM project is also supporting the facilitation of a reference group for the Smoking Research Project and the development of an EOI for the position.
“Alongside this work, the RHM project has enabled me to participate in a range of BLG network meetings involving Community Health and Health Promotion – ensuring alignment of work and priorities where possible but also avoiding duplication. I’ve also been able to support and work closely with the Murray PHN Sustainable Rural Health Project, the AgriSafe Clinics at NDCH and both the MoveIT! Project and the Healthy Heart of Victoria project in Loddon.
“Lastly, it cannot be overlooked that the meetings of the BLG for the RHM project oversight also facilitated COVID coordination and support between local health services through sharing of learnings, experiences and challenges during meetings. The ongoing opportunity for the health services across the BLG region to discuss COVID at these meetings has not only strengthened relationships but created partnerships and pathways for support that will continue to benefit the BLG community.”
Jeanice said, “It was really heart-warming to see and feel the incredible level of genuine enthusiasm and commitment in the room on the day. The depth and breadth of collaboration between the groups represented at the event was amazing, but so too their willingness to seek greater collaboration with others. It was also inspirational and affirming to hear how the ECHO grant has triggered further investment.“
In many aged care facilities social isolation among elderly residents has been an ongoing battle, especially during COVID, as restrictions and lockdowns prevented family and friends visiting loved ones for almost two years. Luckily for the residents of Eventide Lutheran Homes (ELH) in Hamilton, Victoria, the future is now looking decidedly more social.
Thanks to a $10,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant supported by Ian Rollo Currie Foundation, ELH was able to purchase a golf buggy that has been assisting with the transport of residents with mobility and sight issues around the facility. This has been especially useful for building social connection among residents who previously may not have engaged with organised activities due to the difficulty of getting around.
The golf buggy has three seats available to move the residents around in a comfortable and protected way across the facility, including the gardens, the golf course, and any other location the residents wish to visit.
The purchase of the buggy has been an absolute success for not only the residents, but for the staff and volunteers as well. After 18 months of almost constant lockdowns, the volunteers and social activities staff have been very excited to see more activities in the facility and to see the enjoyment of the residents. Staff members have also been seen taking more ownership over projects and events within the facility.
In one instance, a resident was taken for a drive around a nearby golf course where he had previously played golf with a handicap of four for 50 years. He was visibly moved by the experience of visiting the golf course once again.
The buggy arrived at Eventide on the 8 November 2021 and was christened with a celebration morning tea and rides for residents outside. Unfortunately, the weather was not so kind, and the rides had to be cut short. But since then, the buggy has been moving people around the grounds with no issues.
“Apart from the obvious enjoyment of the residents it was exciting to see different staff members taking ownership and being part of the project. After 18 months of almost constant lockdown, none or very few volunteers and few social activities staff were very excited to have social activities in the facility and see the enjoyment of the residents. This had a positive effect on staff and they are busy planning events for the buggy.
Visitors who have been prevented from freely seeing their loved ones for almost 2 years have been excited and engaged in the project and will be able to take their loved ones for rides outside.”
The NSW / VIC border towns of Albury / Wodonga and surrounds were severely impacted by the cross-border lockdowns during COVID restrictions. THose who live in these adjacent communities consider them one town, yet community members were unable to cross the border unless there was an extenuating circumstance. That meant families were unable to support isolated elderly family members and those living in challenging conditions, and this was exacerbated by the devastating effects of the Black Saturday bushfires which also affected the community.
The COVID Regional Community Support program, which was funded by the New South Wales Government and delivered by FRRR, was designed to support community groups and associated volunteers that incurred expenses in delivering food and personal care items to individuals and families affected by COVID lockdowns, by contributing funds to support ongoing service provision.
One such organisation to benefit from this program with a reimbursement grant of $13,500 was Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare, who has supported those in need in their community since 2011, and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic was remarkable.
FoodShare commenced their Community Pantry program in 2020, which enabled food hampers to be delivered directly to members of the community. To alleviate some of the hardship experienced by families in the region due to the long-term impacts of COVID and cross-border lockdowns, they also coordinated two local pop-up hamper drive-throughs in September 2021, which provided 300 families with emergency food relief.
During the peak of the COVID outbreak, 1,200 food hampers, including culturally appropriate ingredients, were distributed locally across the region. More than half of these were delivered directly to local homes as part of a coordinated COVID emergency relief effort.
To facilitate the immediate increase in demand for FoodShare’s services, operations were extended to seven days a week. This put a strain on resources, particularly on volunteers, but was necessary to keep the community safe. On average, 30 households received hampers each day, and in many instances, this doubled on occasions during the peak of the local COVID outbreak.
To provide specialised support for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, FoodShare was supported by local organisations such as Albury-Wodonga Ethnic Communities Council (AWECC) and Murray Valley Sanctuary Refugee Group. These agencies took enquiries from CALD households who were in isolation due to the COVID outbreak. These agencies also assisted by nominating culturally specific ingredients and in some instances. their volunteers purchased additional food items and delivered these to the CALD households.
In addition to delivering hampers to local residents, FoodShare was also asked to deliver food and personal care hampers to various locations where people had been forced to isolate in accordance with Health Orders, including Rutherglen Hotels, Howlong and the Albury Caravan Park. Over 4,500 kilometres were logged from October to December last year on just one of the FoodShare vans, which was dedicated to supporting COVID operations. To support the heightened increase in demand, an additional van was also hired in November to support delivering hampers to COVID households.
This is a wonderful example of the critical role that so many local NFPs played, and the way in which they collaborated with other groups to support their community. FRRR is pleased to have been able to support this program and help the NSW Government to reimburse FoodShare for some of the costs incurred in supporting their community.