Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Eventide Homes is a NFP organisation in Stawell, in the Northern Grampians Shire of Victoria. Founded in 1953, the organisation now offers 100 residential aged care places, from units for independent living and to 29 dementia specific beds. The 133 staff and 42 volunteers aspire to provide premium, innovative and stimulating accommodation and care.

Keeping fit and able in retirement is so important for maintaining a good quality of life. But staff realised that they needed to do more – physio and occupational therapy is provided to residents that required additional physical therapies, and gentle exercise sessions or walks in the park were on the cards but not particularly effective.

There was also the problem of falls – over a 17-month period, the organisation had seen an average of 22 reportable falls per month, and sadly, there was a fatality in 2018 due to a fall in a bathroom. Research suggests that residents of long-term aged care fall approximately three times more often than community dwellers. But frailty is preventable and treatable – with exercise. With the demand for residential aged care placements expected to treble by 2050, Eventide Homes wanted to implement best practise in falls prevention for their residents. They also knew that encouraging residents to be physically active and to build up their strength and balance would not only bring physical benefits, but also mental health benefits as well.

Citing research and population data, Eventide applied to the FRRR for their ‘Eventide Strength and Balance for Greater Mobility Project’ – to purchase fit for purpose strength and balance equipment specifically designed for aging individuals. One study concluded that a program of prescribed progressive resistance training plus balance exercises resulted in the rate of falls being reduced by 55%, and Eventide wanted to become an example of national best practise in developing a fitness and strength program for their residents. Back in 2019, they were successful in receiving a grant of $40,000 from FRRR’s larger leverage stream of Caring for Ageing Rural Australians (CARA). 

In the first months of 2020, the HUR equipment was purchased, set up, and staff trained in its use. Each resident participated in a one-hour session with an onsite physiotherapist and discussed goals to create an exercise program specific to them. Residents discussed things like being able to walk up the stairs at their children’s houses, being able to pick up objects from the floor and being able to walk without pain. Longer-term goals were broken down into smaller goals, which could be ticked-off over time, and the programs were documented in the system. With assistance from the team at HUR, Eventide staff implemented the smart touch system to automate each resident’s resistance training and monitor their sets and repetitions. This meant that clinicians could progressively increase resistance, and progress would be tracked through the system.

Sue Blakely, CEO, said they held an information session to get residents on board, and “to dispel some of the misconceptions about ageing and exercise.”

“We showed videos of 100-year-old powerlifters and residents in other homes who’ve increased their independence through strength, balance, and mobility training. We highlighted the different types of goals which people may have. After all, it may be more inspiring to be able to put on your own shoes, then pick up a kettlebell,” Sue said.

The equipment is even suitable for those residents who use wheel chairs and walking frames for mobility, as they can be assisted to sit to exercise and strengthen arms and legs.

This project will have great long term benefits into the future, as staff are able to support new residents to maintain their levels of strength, balance and fitness as they begin their residency in supported accommodation, rather than allow it to decline, which is so often the case when people enter aged care and become more sedentary.

Toni Williams, Projects & Marketing, Eventide Homes (Stawell) Inc. said “The launch of the new Eventide Homes ‘Gym’ was a hit with many residents already making the most of the new equipment. “
After just six weeks of the program, they found 8 out of 10 residents had improved their times ‘up and go’ score, by around 1 second on average. They have new residents enquiring about the program each week, and staff are excited about creating a culture of healthy movement.

“This grant and the new gym equipment has changed the fabric of our home. We intend to continue to make the most of it.”

Sue Blakely, CEO

A much-loved playgroup is going from strength to strength in the Flowerdale community in Victoria, following the engagement of a qualified facilitator to assist parents to develop their skills and confidence to support their child’s wellbeing and development. More than 20 families now participate in the facilitated weekly program, after the Flowerdale Community House received $26,000 from FRRR via the Grants for Resilience & Wellness (GR&W) Kinglake Ranges program in 2020 to engage a qualified Early Childhood Educator to plan and deliver the program. Previously, families who wished to access these services would have had to travel more than 30 km to either Kinglake or Yea. 

While there were a few hiccups due to COVID lockdowns, the program has bounced back and is once again supporting children and families across the Kinglake Ranges. Led by experienced educator Jill, the program provides opportunities for parents to learn about local services, to meet with other parents for support and friendship and to build social support networks in the communities in which they live. It also provides the space for the participants, both children and adults, to forge new friendships and have fun. 

“We know that relationships and community connectedness is at the heart of our community’s ongoing recovery. Playgroup plays a vital role in all communities to bring parents together, to share experiences and break down isolation; this is even more important here [in Flowerdale] as our town stretches a long distance, so meeting in the street is not a likely option as people need to travel by car to get to locations,” said Flowerdale Community House coordinator Rebekah Grant. 

“The children and parents respond very well to Jill’s calm and gentle nature, and the way she is delivering advise to sooth and encourage the children is very well received.” 

The Community House is an ideal location for the supported playgroup to operate from, as they are able to sustain this group long term. Now with a facilitator on board, they can provide more support to all families, as well as vulnerable and socially isolated families, to engage with others and the service.

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.

The FRRR team recently received some lovely feedback from the Management Committee of The Lakes Entrance Mechanics Community Hall. In 2021, they applied for a Strengthening Rural Communities grant to make upgrades to the community hall. Here’s what they had to say…

The Lakes Entrance Mechanics Hall Management Committee is delighted to announce that the new chairs, purchased with the support of a grant from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), have arrived and are ready to use.

The Lakes Entrance Mechanics Institute Hall is the hub of community events. Ceremonies, celebrations, meetings, community clubs, federal and state elections, breakfasts, parties, dances, concerts and bingo all take place within its four walls.

Our old chairs were dilapidated, heavy, hard to stack, hard to move, and took up half of our storage space. Committee spokesperson Pennie Anderson is delighted. “I love these chairs’, she said.

“They are lightweight, ergonomic and stack easily on specially designed trolleys, so a whole stack of 20 can be moved by an average sized person. They take up half the space of the old ones in the storeroom”.

Purchased locally from Workplace Systems in Bairnsdale, the chairs have been met with approval from the regular hall users. Below are some of the comments from community members:

“They are awesome– very easy to move and set up for our productions” – Di Dixon, President, Lakes Entrance Amateur Dramatic Society

“We found the handling of the chairs a much easier exercise all round. Also, when chairs were moved around during the meeting there was not the annoying scraping noise on the floor” – Stan Barker, President, Lakes Entrance Garden Club

“They look very smart and are much quieter on the floor” – Bingo, Lions Club

The Bushfire Recovery Fund grant program, funded by HMSTrust and the Sidney Myer Fund, has recently awarded a grant of $120,000 to be paid over three years to Indigenous organisation Jaithmathang TABOO, who are working on Country in North East Victoria to support regeneration in the landscape’s recovery from the 2019/20 bushfires, and support cultural healing.  

The project, titled “Beginning the journey to cultural healing on Jaithmathang country’, will operate a program of annual cool burns and work with key environment and government stakeholders, including Parks Victoria and DELWP, to share learnings.  

Specifically, the grant aims to build the capacity of the organisation by contributing to the cost of employing a Jaithmathang descendant to lead the project over the next three years for the purposes of realising Jaithmathang goals in establishing ongoing partnerships that can support Jaithmathang operating sustainably into the future as custodians on Country.

During recent community planning led by Murrindindi Shire in the Yea region of Victoria, which is located around 100km from Melbourne, the need to increase awareness of local history and culture was highlighted. To address this need, a working group, named Honour the Taungurung Community Project Group, was formed.

The group, which are part of the Yea Community Service Group, set out to address a lack of local information and visual acknowledgement of the past and present Taungurung people. The group decided that the creation of a meaningful Taungarung designed art installation was the perfect way to begin telling the true history of their shire.

Yea Community Service Group successfully applied for a grant of $28,734 from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund. The grant funded the artwork, engineers’ drawings, Council permits and the installation, as well as a welcome ceremony, research and project administration.

Now, with the project complete, the significant and celebratory artwork is located in the main street of Yea and acts not only as a centrepiece for the town but also as a meeting place and a celebration of local history.

Once the art installation was completed, an unveiling and welcoming ceremony was held and attended by many town members. As a result of this project, the town now has a meaningful site where Indigenous days of recognition can be celebrated, as well as an enduring landmark in honour of the Taungurung people. Community connectedness, sense of place and community identity have all been strengthened in the months following the installation.

This case study is courtesy of the Gardiner Dairy Foundation

A new teen fitness program in Kyabram is inspiring community spirit and building fit and healthy bodies.

A health and wellbeing centre has been established by Kyabram Blue Light at the town’s P-12 College, thanks to $5,000 from the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program in partnership with Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR).

The centre has proven to be a holiday hit with local teenagers and will be used regularly during the school year.

It is part of the KyFit police and teen gym-based mentoring program and, according to organiser Senior Constable Mitchell Bull, the benefits are wide-ranging.

Teenagers have played a central role in establishing the gym in an old storeroom at the school.

“The kids have done the majority of it,” Senior Constable Bull said. “They put together a wish list of equipment, posters and information and then volunteered on weekends to load trailers and remove rubbish and then helped in designing the layout and setting up and testing the equipment.

“It’s not just given to them on a silver platter – it’s a community effort and we all chip in. For six or seven weekends in a row we had up to 10 kids at the gym helping out. We removed six trailer loads of rubbish from the storeroom.”

The gym includes two bench presses, two rowing machines, two magnetic resistance bikes, two treadmills, two decline sit-up benches, sets of dumbbells from 3kg to 10kg and 13 spin bikes for classes.

The Gardiner Foundation grant also helped with installing fans, electrical power points and tiles for the floor.

“We made every cent count and called in favours left, right and centre and had a lot of volunteer assistance with everything,” Senior Constable Bull said. “It’s nothing fancy but it’s equipment tailored to young people.”

The gym is the latest development in the KyFit program that started in 2019 and is run by Kyabram Blue Light using police members, volunteers and community members.

“It was identified there was a need for a sporting or physical program that didn’t require the time, cost and travel commitments of the likes of football or netball,” Senior Constable Bull said.

“The gym will help those who may not have the opportunity to be involved in the local gyms or sports clubs.”

Personal trainers, defence force members, police and other community members help with the program, ensuring young people can access a variety of training programs ranging from boxing to swimming sessions and pitting their abilities against the police fitness test challenge.

A weekly in-school program attracts at least 13 participants and after-school programs are reaching about 30 teenagers. The school also uses the facilities for physical education classes.

Senior Constable Bull said the grant had helped to empower local young people. “We used the gym over the school holidays, allowing kids to drop in when there wasn’t much else to do – we can barely keep up with the demand,” he said.

“A lot of kids want to join the program now because they’ve seen the benefits the others are getting. It’s helping with their physical and mental health and the kids are seeing the benefits of physical activity and working out with other people.”

Police can also use the fitness programs to help break down barriers between officers and young people.

“The kids get the benefits of getting to know local police and other volunteers and mentors,” Senior Constable Bull said. “It’s about building a relationship between police officers and young people and showing we’re approachable if there is a problem in the community that needs to be discussed.”

It’s also beneficial for police. “It means we’re not always seeing the negative side of things in the community and we get to work towards positivity,” Senior Constable Bull said.

The program is free for local teenagers who also receive a free sports top when they get involved.

In recognition of his work with young people, Senior Constable Bull was named Citizen of the Year for Campaspe Shire at the 2022 Australia Day Awards.

Now in its 20th year, the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program is delivered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR). Grants of up to $5,000 help not-for-profit organisations in small Victorian dairy communities deliver projects that will benefit local people and strengthen their ability to deal with local issues and enhance existing community infrastructure.

Applications for the 2022 program opened on 1 March and close on 13 April. More information can be found at https://frrr.org.au/funding/place/gardiner-communities-grants/

$120,000 in Gardiner Community Grants available

The annual Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program (Gardiner Community Grants) has opened today. Delivered in partnership with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR), this round marks the 20th year of the program, which is focused on supporting communities across Victoria’s three dairying regions.

Celebrating a 20 year partnership funding Victorian dairy communities

This year Gardiner Community Grants will encourage projects to focus on building the capacity of community organisations and improving digital connectivity. The new focus is in response to insights from FRRR’s Heartbeat of Rural Australia Report, which was published late last year.

The report highlighted that there was a significant digital divide in rural communities, compared to urban areas, and that local not-for-profit organisations needed capacity building support to be able to do their vital work, particularly following the impacts of back-to-back disasters, including COVID, on fundraising and volunteers.

A digital connectivity grant project might involve upgrading infrastructure and facilities, improving digital access or providing training that enables the community to benefit from digital services.

A building capacity grant aims to support organisations to sustain or grow the effectiveness of their operations. Funds may be requested for salaries to increase the organisations paid workforce, training for volunteers, upgrading office equipment or supporting strategic planning and improved governance.

The small grants program, which has $120,000 in available funds for grants up to $5,000, will continue to support a broad range of community projects that local groups identify can make their community socially, economically or environmentally stronger. Applications for events to enhance cultural vibrancy, volunteer planting projects to support environmental sustainability, extending education and training opportunities, support for infrastructure projects or programs to improve health and wellbeing are all encouraged.

Allan Cameron, Gardiner Dairy Foundation Chief Executive Officer, said Gardiner is committed to strengthening Victorian dairy communities and is pleased to be partnering with FRRR for the twentieth year to support innovative, community-driven projects.

“Investing in the communities that are at the heart of the Victorian dairy industry is critical to the sustainability of dairy farming in Victoria. Since launching the program with FRRR in 2002, Gardiner Dairy Foundation has supported over 500 local projects and distributed more than $2 million to Victorian dairy communities.

“Gardiner is committed to supporting the needs of the communities as they change and evolve, now, and in the future. That’s why, this year, we are encouraging initiatives around digital literacy and organisational capacity, to help local groups respond to the current needs of Victoria’s dairy communities,” Mr Cameron said.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that the Heartbeat of Rural Australia Report called for more support to go to community groups to address critical issues, and it’s wonderful to see Gardiner Foundation respond.

“Our Heartbeat Report highlighted significant gaps and challenges for rural communities, but also highlighted the critical role that local not-for-profits play in meeting the needs and filling the gaps in rural communities. That’s why we value our longstanding relationship with Gardiner, because they, like us, are committed to working together to support these vital community groups in the long-term.

“For 20 years, Gardiner’s Community Grants have consistently boosted Victorian dairy communities with contributions towards large important community projects, and significantly enabling many smaller community organisations and projects, often for items and activities that are less accessible through government or major philanthropic funding,” Ms Egleton said.

Applications for the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program open Tuesday, 1 March and close Wednesday 13th April 2022 at 5 pm AEDT. More information can be found at – https://frrr.org.au/gardiner-communities-grants/.

Three regional communities to take part in multi-year initiative

FRRR’s Disaster Resilient: Future Ready (DR:FR) Victorian program continues to build steam, with three regional communities selected to partner with the Foundation to strengthen the resilience and preparedness of their regions.

FRRR partners with Victorian communities to support community-led resilience

Korumburra, Myrtleford and Whittlesea township and surrounds will receive support as part of a multi-year, community-led program that is supported by a number of philanthropic organisations.

Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, said that the DR:FR initiative works to better prepare communities to address the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and broader disruptions that affect the sustainability, vitality and resilience of remote, rural and regional communities across Australia.

“This is a place-based initiative, whereby FRRR works at a hyper-local level with grassroots organisations and community representatives who are interested in collaborating and leading initiatives to increase community preparedness and strengthen resilience capacity.

“The model is designed to help communities identify and then enact solutions that are held in local knowledge and the intersections of people and place. It creates space, facilitates processes, builds relationships and provides resources for community-generated resilience conversations and initiatives to be held at a pace and style that is appropriate for each local community,” Ms O’Brien explained.

Community driven

Late last year community representatives were invited to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to become partner communities. Over the past eight months, FRRR’s DR:FR Program coordinator has engaged with representatives from the shortlisted communities, listening and learning about what is unique and important to each place and exploring their readiness, willingness, and capacity to participate in this intensive process.

This process helped FRRR understand their shared aspirations, what they believe is important about their community and demonstrated the commitment and interest in participating in the program.

“The emphasis is on the communities being actively engaged and involved in the process. Our aim is to empower local people to build and adapt the strengths, tools and resources that already exist in each community to further strengthen the resilience and preparedness of each place. It will be community-led and tailored to each community, with support and resources provided to allow them to identify, create and sustain their own resilience-building approaches,” Ms O’Brien said.

The program will start in the next month, beginning with a series of activities to bring interested community members together and start engaging with the broader community around aspirations for the future. In addition to the facilitation support from FRRR, the communities will have access to funding for community activities that support community engagement activities and a seed funding pool to engage a local community connector and activate priority actions identified through the DR:FR journey.

More communities waiting in the wings

“While three communities have been selected, there is strong interest from other places to participate in this program,” Ms O’Brien said.

“We have several communities keen and ready to jump on board and we would love to work with them. Our hope is to expand this program to at least one other Victorian community, and we also have groups in other states wanting to be involved.

“But this requires further funding, so we and our partners can work alongside and support local leaders to create meaningful and lasting change that means they can endure, adapt and evolve from disruptions and disasters more quickly, positively and strongly.

“We are grateful to our current partners for making the Victorian DR:FR program possible. We’d love to hear from others with the capacity to partner with us to expand the program,” Ms O’Brien said.

The DR:FR initiative is kindly supported by the following partners: Sidney Myer Fund, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Maple-Brown Family Foundation, Simon Kucher and Partners, Ronald Geoffrey Arnott Foundation, H & L Hecht Trust, Suncorp, Pinnacle Charitable Foundation and the Doc Ross Family Foundation.

For more information about the program, visit https://frrr.org.au/drfr-victoria/.

Mental Health training helps community get in a good place

With the effects of plunging milk prices and bushfires in South West Victoria, the community was feeling strained. Front line workers were regularly being confronted with people breaking down because they couldn’t pay their bills, afford feed for their stock or feeling financial pressure. 

The Simpson & District Community Centre (SDCC) knew it was important to keep the conversation about mental health in the community open, to continue to break down the stigma associated with asking for help. So, they wanted to equip local community members with the skills to recognise mental health issues and provide resources for referrals to support services, as well as give them skills in self-care, given they were dealing with more and more people in crisis.

SDCC was established almost four decades ago to support Western Victorian dairying communities. Around 50 people a week use its facilities for meetings and activities – from craft, scrabble days, children’s activities, adult education, digital literacy, a Men’s Shed programme and more. The centre puts considerable effort into reducing social isolation and increasing health and wellbeing in the area.

The Simpson area has been supported by a Dairy Community Support Officer who works with farming community families in crisis. In three years, the social worker’s client numbers went from 9 to 98. She identified a number of mental health issues facing the community including anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and self-imposed isolation. The community has had one suicide since the beginning of the dairy crisis and wanted to do whatever was needed to prevent more. 

Through the In a Good Place Program, funded by CCI Giving, FRRR was able to help fund the delivery the training. In March 2019, nine community members participated in a two-day Mental Health First Aid course.  Another session ran in March 2020, with a half day refresher for the previous years’ participants.  

In total, 16 members of the community were provided with the training and skills to identify and start a conversation regarding mental health. Those trained included workers from the local supermarket and Post Office, stockfeed supplier and vet group, as well as dairy farmers and volunteers from the Football Netball Club, Men’s Shed, Community Centre, Cricket Club, CFA and Landcare network. The array of participants meant that there was great community coverage, with everyone attending wearing “more than one hat” – so those new skills are going into nearly every organisation and workplace in Simpson.

Furthermore, the instructor for the First Aid program and the Dairy Community Support Officer were able to identify an opportunity to secure funding for additional training that will reach the community, regarding Mental Health in the elderly population. Transitioning off farms for older people is an area of mental health difficulty that the Support Officer sees first hand in her work in the community.

The SDCC maintains that if just one person can be supported through a crisis without a tragedy, then the program will be a success.

Training more people in the community to recognise the signs and direct them to help or help to them can only improve the long term outcomes for our community and increase the resilience and sense of connection.

By providing the training we are giving people the skills to take back into the community at their workplaces, homes and recreation activities. The more people who are able to recognise and respond to the signs of deteriorating mental health the stronger our community will be. These skills will be maintained for life and can be shared.”

SDCC Final Report

Congratulations to the SDCC for the great strength and support they provide and their ability to adapt to the community’s changing needs.

Simpson dairy farmers in a good place