Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Yarra Valley ECOSS is an environmental and educational not-for-profit organisation based on a 7.4 hectare permaculture-designed farm at Wesburn, just east of Melbourne. Their vision is to promote local food production, earth education, and multicultural living, while building work skills and developing a vibrant, resilient, inclusive and sustainable community.

They play a critical role in their community, supporting people with disabilities, as well as providing food relief. 

ECOSS currently has five part-time staff, supported by a management committee and an active and enthusiastic group of volunteers, students and work-experience partners. Like many not-for-profit organisations, their usual fundraising activities were curbed by the COVID-19 pandemic. ECOSS’s Executive Officer Chelsea McNab explained.

“At the beginning of 2021 we were all still thinking that 2020 was ‘the pandemic year’ and that 2021 would be able to go back to normal living.


“But there have been many adjustments – reacting to the ever-changing COVID restrictions and operating in a safe way. This includes constant updates to our COVID Safe plans, the ability to run programs and have people on site, purchasing of equipment, extra cleaning costs, building an outside kitchen and hand-wash stations, shutting down the office and staff working remotely, as restrictions require.”

Ms McNab said that with many facilitators and performers to account for, the costs of rescheduling events and school programs took a lot of staff time, and they have had to create new policies and strategies for adjusting to the instability of the times.

Despite it being a difficult year, ECOSS has actually shown its strength over the last six months.

“Our mission and focus on food security, volunteerism, and supporting small business have all been able to thrive through our Community Garden and The Valley Market.  We have found that we are able to continue all of these aspects of our NFP during the pandemic. The Crops for Community program has also been able to continue through lockdowns, as it is seen as an essential service, offering our community members with disabilities a place to continue to come in the community garden, and continue to grow crops that are distributed to two local food relief agencies. There has been a huge demand for food relief this year, and we are grateful to be able to support these programs.”

The pandemic forced ECOSS to think outside the box, and they have attracted new co-locator tenants, whose rent increases their income, and also enables ECOSS to support the growth of small businesses run by locals and new migrants. Chelsea McNab again:

“We have learned that we have to be able to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios very quickly. We have also learned that co-locator tenants’ income is a great way to underpin our finances, and offers a richness of diversity to the site.”

ECOSS partnered with FRRR in April 2019 to open a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account, which allows them to receive tax deductible donations from donors to support their activities. This is how they hope to raise enough funds to cover one staff member for two and a half days per week.

“We can achieve so much with extra staff hours. We have been able to support more volunteers, increasing and supporting their growth and skill development. The stability of having staff enables us to forward plan and to run the site more sustainably,” Chelsea says.

Yarra Valley ECOSS would appreciate your support. If you’d like to explore having a Fundraising Account for your community project, contact Jo Kemp, FRRR’s Philanthropic Services Manager.

The Buchan Rodeo has been the highlight of the local event calendar for more than 50 years. Despite significant challenges, strong community leadership and strength overrode the challenging conditions and ensured this event proceeded in April 2021, considerably lifting local spirits and pride. 

Traditionally held on Easter Sunday, the event was postponed in 2020 due to impacts of the bushfire crisis six months prior. The bushfires began near Buchan in the East Gippsland region of Victoria in October 2019, well before the media began reporting on the crisis. Residents endured the threat for more than four months, often losing communication with the outside world.   

Buchan Rodeo Committee

Given their isolation and the lack of communication and media coverage, the remote community of Buchan has felt largely overlooked in their recovery phase. However, Buchan is a strong and resilient community, with sharpened skills in post-disaster recovery. 

In planning the 2021 Buchan Rodeo, there was much to consider in staging a COVID safe event. Despite this, the local volunteer committee was determined to proceed for the benefit of their community.

With only a 10-week lead time, much-needed funding and support came in the form of a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by the Firefight Australia Fund. This grant, along with support from other partnerships, not only allowed the Buchan Rodeo Committee to meet their safety guidelines and enhance their offering, but also enabled them to proceed with confidence.

The 2021 Buchan Rodeo was an electric event and though it saw many changes, it was heralded as one of the best-ever. It brought smiles back to those who worked so hard on the project and to the greater community who had endured so much.

“While the entire planet is enduring the COVID-19 crisis and looks to methods of recovery, we are still repairing our community in the aftermath of bushfires. A strong rural community is key and the staging of community building initiatives is of vital importance to us.” Buchan community member

Thirty projects from across Victoria’s three main dairy regions will share in $131,188 in grant funding to help build community capacity to deal with local issues and enhance existing community infrastructure.

Victorian Dairy Communities share in over $130,000 in grant funding

Now in its 19th year, the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program is delivered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR). The grants of up to $5,000 will 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.

Gardiner Dairy Foundation Chief Executive, Dr Clive Noble, said the funding ensures that Gardiner is contributing to locally identified issues.

“The Community Grants program continues to attract applications from a wide range of community organisations running varying projects. Through this partnership we are contributing to solutions unique to that community to create genuine, long-term impact.

“We also see communities leverage these funds. Often, that cash injection can be the catalyst that enables community groups to undertake projects of larger impact.”

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said the longstanding partnership with Gardiner Dairy Foundation has been successful in creating many exceptional projects within Victoria’s dairy communities.

“Our long partnership with Gardiner Dairy Foundation has enabled us to support Victoria’s dairy communities with funding for projects that tackle local challenges and meet the needs and priorities of each place.

“The program is supporting several projects that will develop young people socially and educationally, and once again, there are fantastic initiatives to improve community spaces such as the addition of tiered seating in Neerim South, a hot water urn for the residents of Leitchville, and erecting shade sails over the hall deck to increase the utility of the Kawarren Recreation Reserve,” Ms Egleton said.

Supported projects include:

  • Gippsland Dairy Region – Manna Gum Community House received $4,650 to work with local youth to create provide a program for young people in the community to access to youth service, connection, and solidarity.
  • Northern Dairy Region – Rochester Secondary College received $5,000 to restore an existing vegetable garden and incorporate it into the Healthy Eating components of the syllabus.
  • South-Western Dairy Region – Anam Cara House received $4,501 to purchase digital equipment, which will allow the facility to offer residents and guests greater connectivity through enhanced internet service and equipment.

Since the launch of the annual program in 2002, the Gardiner Dairy Foundation has invested more than $1.9 million in this program and has supported a total of 497 community projects.

The full list of 2021 Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program recipients are:

OrganisationProjectLocationGrant
GIPPSLAND DAIRY REGION
Fish Creek and District Primary School"Kids Own Reading Pavilion"
Grow access to literacy activities for students at Fish Creek District Primary school by funding the development of the "Kids Own Reading Pavilion".
Fish Creek$5,000
Hill End Community IncorporatedHistory Talks -Settlers' Histories A Generation On
Grow awareness of local history in the dairy industry for Hill End and surrounding districts by developing a book of local memoires and transcripts for publication.
Hill End$3,400
Loch Memorial Reserve IncorporatedTowable Spray Unit
Support volunteers to maintain the Loch Memorial Reserve by funding the purchase of a towable sprayer unit.
Loch $1,387
Maffra Golf ClubPurchase a Ride on Mower for the R.V. Park
Maintain community facilities through providing a ride on mower for the local R.V. park to benefit the local tourism economy and support community activity.
Maffra$5,000
Manna Gum Community House IncorporatedOur Place
Improve access to support facilities and programs for local youth by extending the "Youth Pop Up” activities at the Manna Gum Community House.
Foster$4,650
Mirboo and District Historical Society IncorporatedCataloguing of Collection
Support volunteers in cataloguing and collecting community history for future generations to come and visitors by providing funding to purchase technology equipment.
Mirboo North$4,837
Neerim District Cricket Club IncorporatedLet's Sit Together
Improve community access to seating at the local recreation reserve by installing a grandstand at the Neerim Recreation Reserve.
Neerim South$5,000
Nyora Cricket Club IncorporatedKitchen Refurbishment Project Phase 2 – Freezer
Grow volunteer vitality and organisational capacity by upgrading the freezer at the Nyora Cricket Club.
Nyora$5,000
State Coal Mine - Rescue Station Arts IncorporatedWellness Warriors
Improve the organisations ability to support the community by delivering an art therapy-based well-being program in Wonthaggi and surrounds.
Wonthaggi$4,040
Toora Primary SchoolClass Set of iPads
Improve access to technology to develop digital literacy and learning opportunities that will enhance education outcomes for rural students.
Toora$5,000
Poowong Kindergarten / Uniting (Victoria and Tasmania) LimitedPlayground Refurbishment
Improve access to sun smart play equipment for the children and families of Poowong Kindergarten by replacing worn shade sails at the centre.
Poowong$4,950
Wonthaggi Citizens Band IncorporatedEncouraging Participation in Music
Grow opportunities for children to experience self-expression through music by providing 10 weeks of brass band lessons, additional band rehearsals and an end of term concert for the children of Wonthaggi and surrounds.
Wonthaggi$5,000
NORTHERN DAIRY REGION
Kyabram Blue Light / Blue Light Victoria IncorporatedKyabram Blue Light - KyFit - Health Fitness & Wellbeing Center
Grow access to youth activities and services by developing the Kyabram Blue Light Health, Fitness and Wellbeing Centre.
Kyabram$5,000
Eskdale Public Hall Committee IncorporatedEskdale Community Hub
Grow community connection and cohesion and support volunteers in offering a user friendly and welcoming community facility by enhancing the Eskdale Public Hall.
Eskdale$3,020
Murrabit Public Hall Committee / Gannawarra Shire CouncilMurrabit Hall - Rolling On!
Support volunteer vitality and encourage community connection by enhancing the outdoor area at the Murrabit Hall.
Murrabit$3,390
Katamatite Pre School / Goulburn Region Preschool Association IncorporatedKatamatite Pre-School - Nature and Technology
Improve the organisations’ ability to host their Bush Kinder program with the provision of cameras and technology for offsite use and additional resources.
Katamatite$3,570
Leitchville Bowls Club IncorporatedHot Water for Leitchville
Support volunteers and improve community facilities at Leitchville Bowls Club by installing a 5-litre wall urn.
Leitchville$1,914
Milawa Primary SchoolMilawa Primary Community Hub
Improve school facilities to increase capacity for broader community use through installation of new shade sails in the playground of Milawa Primary School.
Milawa$5,000
Rochester Secondary CollegeEdible Garden
Grow opportunities for educational participation for students of Rochester Secondary College by funding their student developed Edible Garden project.
Rochester$5,000
Springhurst Primary School CouncilOvens Valley Mobile Arts and Crafts Centre (MACC)
Support the Ovens Valley Mobile Arts and Crafts Centre by providing storage space for arts and craft supplies at the Springhurst Primary School.
Springhurst$5,000
Lions Airfield Griffin Club Branch / The Lions Club of Cohuna IncorporatedCohuna Airport Maintenance and Safety
Help volunteers maintain runway safety at the Cohuna Airstrip with an airstrip sweeper.
Cohuna$5,000
SOUTH-WESTERN DAIRY REGION
Anam Cara House Colac IncorporatedStrengthening Community Connections through Information Technology
Improve the organisations ability to service and support the community by upgrading technology at the centre and promoting Anam Cara House.
Colac$4,501
Camperdown Toy Library IncorporatedCamperdown Toy Library Get Active
Encourage children’s learning and development through play by providing resources for the Camperdown Toy Library.
Camperdown$4,986
Colac Otway Residents Action Group IncorporatedSchool Lunches for Children that Do Not Have a Lunch
Improve the welfare and enhance educational outcomes for students in six primary schools across the Colac region by providing support for the Colac Otway Residents Action Groups School Lunches program.
Colac$5,000
Hawkesdale and District Development Action Committee IncorporatedHADDAC Mower for maintaining the Common
Grow volunteer vitality by providing a zero-turn mower for the regular lawn maintenance of community facilities at Hawkesdale and District Development Action Committee.
Hawkesdale$2,500
Kawarren Recreation ReserveMade for Shade
Enhance community use of the Kawarren Recreation Reserve by installing shade sails over the outdoor entertaining area.
Kawarren$5,000
Macarthur Recreation ReserveStorage Shed Upgrade
Improve volunteer vitality and support by installing a storage shed at the Macarthur Recreation Reserve.
Macarthur$5,000
Terang & District Historical Society IncorporatedUpdate Terang Historical Society's Computers
Improve the organisation’s ability to support and service the community through the purchase of new computer equipment.
Terang$4,043
Terang Community Art Show / UCA - Terang Uniting ChurchTerang Art Show - Artist in school program
Improve access and engagement in education for children in years 5 to 8 in the Terang area by providing access to indigenous art lessons and local indigenous elders.
Terang$5,000
Warrnambool CollegeIndigenous Perspectives Project
Improve local students to access educational opportunities relating to local indigenous culture, language, and art by providing professional development of staff at the Warrnambool College.
Warrnambool$5,000

UPDATE: The workshop was recorded and is available to watch below.

Free online workshop

FRRR is inviting community members in Myrtleford, Whittlesea, Beaufort, St Arnaud, Paynesville, Korumburra and Yarra Junction to a free online workshop on Thursday 15 July to find out how FRRR’s Disaster Resilient: Future Ready (DR:FR) program can support them build their community resilience for times of disruption and disaster.

This is the second workshop in a series of events designed for community members who are interested in developing a practical understanding of community resilience and exploring ways in which communities can lead and strengthen their resilience to thrive and evolve in positive ways when faced with the impacts of climate, natural disasters and other disruptions.

With support from guest speaker Paul Ryan, Director of the Australian Resilience Centre, this online conversation will explore what “resilience” means, how people and communities are building resilience and why it matters to you and your community.

The seven communities invited to take part in the workshop have been identified by FRRR as areas that experience high frequencies of flooding, bushfire, drought, and/or heatwave and may be willing to participate in the DR:FR program.

Nina O’Brien, FRRR’s Disaster Resilience & Recovery Lead, explains that when locals actively work together and are given the right support, they can determine what needs to be done to help the community be well prepared before and bounce back stronger after a disaster.

“This workshop is part of an exploratory phase of the multi-year program where we engage and work with communities to build knowledge of climate risks, encourage collaboration, understand their ‘readiness’ and willingness to collectively strengthen their resilience and participate in the program long-term.

“I encourage all community leaders, and anyone who wants to be part of a local movement that is strengthening community resilience so that they have the capacity to evolve in positive ways when faced with disruptions and disasters , to participate in this free online workshop and information session,” Ms O’Brien said.

The workshop is free and open to all interested community members, including Traditional Owners, youth, business owners, farmers, sports clubs, schools, volunteer emergency services, environmental volunteers, arts groups, health professionals and local government staff from the communities of Myrtleford, Whittlesea, Beaufort, St Arnaud, Paynesville, Korumburra and Yarra Junction.

Those who took part in the launch webinar late last year are also encouraged to join.

This live workshop will take placeon Thursday 15 July, 11:00am to 12:30pm AEST with the recording made available to those who register.

Register at: https://events.humanitix.com/community_resilience. For more information contact Jacqui Bell, DR:FR Coordinator at j.bell@frrr.org.au or on 1800 170 020.

FRRR acknowledges the support of The Maple-Brown Family Foundation, Doc Ross Family Foundation, H & L Hecht Trust, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Sidney Myer Fund in making this program possible.

To find out more about the Disaster Resilient: Future Ready program visit FRRR’s website: www.frrr.org.au/drfr-victoria/.

Supporting capacity of organisations in Victoria’s bushfire-impacted communities

FRRR has announced a multi-year partnership with the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust (HMSTrust) and the Sidney Myer Fund to build the capacity of local organisations playing a central, coordinating or networking role in the recovery of Victorian communities affected by the 2019/20 bushfires.

New partnership backs community-led recovery

The Bushfire Recovery Fund will award grants of up to $90,000 to community groups and local not-for-profit organisations working in Victorian fire-affected regions. The program will fund initiatives that enhance, improve or sustain operations of these keystone organisations for up to three years, and therefore strengthen community-led recovery over the medium and long-term.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that the partnership is a result of a shared vision for aligning funding and support to community-led solutions that build resilience and continued viability and vitality.

“FRRR and our generous donor partners HMSTrust and the Sidney Myer Fund have come together to help local groups to be more viable, resilient, and sustainable. The program is designed to help address organisational needs, and strengthen capacity to adapt and respond to the changing or emerging needs of communities.

“FRRR’s role will be to act as a facilitator, to encourage and support these community groups so that they can continue to do the work that is so important to the ongoing recovery of their communities,” Ms Egleton said.

HMSTrust Executive Officer Lin Bender said that the Trust believes the key program goal of building organisational capacity is critical to ensuring local groups can operate in what are challenging economic, emotional, and ecological conditions.

“By supporting applicants that are deeply engaged with their communities to sustain or adapt their model or way of working, we aim to ensure more viable, resilient and sustainable organisations that can support ongoing recovery efforts,” Lin said.

Sidney Myer Fund CEO Leonard Vary said the broader intent of the program is to inform disaster recovery best practice by understanding and addressing the needs of critical community ‘backbone’ organisations.

“The capacity to manage normal day-to-day operations along with the demands of recovery has been identified as a challenge for many organisations in bushfire-affected communities,” Mr Vary said. “By engaging directly with these organisations, we can facilitate and fund not only the development of locally relevant, multi-year projects that build capacity and resilience but potentially identify new approaches to long-term community recovery.”

To reduce the burden on potential applicants, a shortlist of organisations from declared fire affected areas in Victoria, identified through broad stakeholder consultation, will be invited to apply for funding. The first successful grantees are expected to be announced in October 2021. Organisations who consider this opportunity to be aligned to their situation should contact FRRR to discuss their needs.

More information about the program can be found here.

Up to $5,000 available, plus free grantseeker workshops

Gardiner Dairy Foundation, in partnership with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR), is inviting community organisations in Victorian dairy regions – Gippsland, northern Victoria and south-west Victoria – to apply for grants of up to $5,000.

The annual Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program is delivered through FRRR, which has partnered with Gardiner Dairy Foundation for the past 19 years.

Grants are made available to registered not-for-profit groups and can be used for a wide variety of community activities including community arts, health and wellbeing, environment, infrastructure, education, history and much more.

To assist community groups in preparing their grant applications, Gardiner Dairy Foundation and FRRR are running free grant seeker workshops in each of the three Victorian dairy regions. A webinar will also be hosted. (see details below). These workshops provide invaluable advice on how to put together a competitive grant application.

In 2021 Gardiner Dairy Foundation will make available a total funding pool of $120,000. Since launching the program with FRRR in 2002, Gardiner Dairy Foundation has distributed almost $2 million to Victorian dairy communities and has supported a total of 471projects.

“With better seasonal conditions in most regions, morale in dairy communities has improved over the past 12 months,” said Gardiner Dairy Foundation Chief Executive, Clive Noble. “People can breathe a little easier and now is a good time for community groups to look at some of the projects they may have deferred.

“I’d like to encourage community leaders to take advantage of these grants, to leverage the money available with other inputs and to continue to improve and enrich their dairy communities.

“Strong and vibrant dairy communities are vital to a strong dairy industry and vice versa.”

Sarah Matthee, Acting CEO of FRRR, said that the grants are designed to give dairy communities the boost they may need to make great things happen.

“Last year was tough for most rural communities, and Victorian dairy communities were no exception. We’ve seen from previous grant recipients that a small grant can open doors for further funding, and it will be great to visit some of last year’s grants recipients to see what kind of opportunities have grown from the funding, and how they have used the grants to help address the needs of their communities.

“We know that these communities are determined, inspiring and resilient and full of great ideas. That’s why the Gardiner grants are deliberately flexible – to allow local leaders to respond to what’s happening, and address the biggest priorities. In previous years, that’s been anything from community gardens to festivals, small infrastructure to training. I look forward to seeing what this year’s applications bring.”

Applications for the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program open Monday, 1 February and close Tuesday, 16 March 2020 at 5 pm AEDT.

Grant seeker workshop timetable

Join Gardiner Dairy Foundation and FRRR at one of our free grant seeker workshops. Find out how to put together a competitive grant application.

The webinar will be held:

Date: Thursday 4 February 2021
Time:
12:00pm – 2:00pm
Register at:
https://events.humanitix.com/gardinercommunitygrants

Workshops will be held at:

Warragul
Date:
Monday 8 February 2021
Time:
6:30pm – 9:00pm
Location:
Mercure Hotel, 23 Mason St, Warragul

Colac
Date:
Wednesday 10 February 2021
Time:
10:30am – 1:00pm
Location:
Colac Bowling Club, 4 Armstrong St, Colac

Tallangatta
Date:
Thursday 11 February 2021
Time:
10:30am – 1:00pm
Location: Tallangatta Integrated Community Centre, 33 Towong St, Tallangatta

For more information or to register for the workshops, visit https://frrr.org.au/funding/place/gardiner-communities-grants/.  

Unlike most other youth music programs, CRASHENDO! Bairnsdale is not only about the tunes. Modelled after Venezuela’s National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs El Sistema Global, CRASHENDO! uses music education as a vehicle to help children develop their self-esteem, resilience, and social skills.

To support the purchase of new instruments and to help cover tuition fees, the CRASHENDO! team successfully applied to FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, receiving a $10,000 grant funded by The William Buckland Foundation (managed by Equity Trustees).

They sent us a detailed plan outlining how they planned to use the funds over the course of two years, and how excited they were to get on with their music classes, events, and other activities.

What they couldn’t have known, however, was that the years that followed – 2019-2020 – would be some of the most challenging years their community had ever experienced.

The CRASHENDO! program, which supports around 120 children in Bairnsdale and surrounds, had a great start to the year in 2019, with in-schools tuition, pre-orchestral, orchestra and early years programs in full swing. They also hosted several special events such as the Latrobe Orchestra Workshop and the Christmas Street Parade, both of which brought much joy to the community. 

But as Christmas drew closer, so did the devastating bushfires that were already tearing through parts of NSW and VIC. And when the semester was set to begin again in the new year, the CRASHENDO! students had no school to return to.

The facilities, including all their instruments, were destroyed in the fires. Several families in the community had also lost their homes.

But despite these unimaginable challenges, children and tutors alike demonstrated once again the resilience and fighting community spirit we so often see in rural and regional Australia. The classes were moved to another school, and the children found some relief in returning to something familiar and normal – their music practice.

With support from their wonderful and engaging tutors, and by working together in groups, the children continued to develop both their musical skills and interpersonal skills.

But as we all know too well, 2020 brought with it its own set of challenges.

Soon after the COVID-19 virus reached Australian shores, life for the Bairnsdale community was once again turned upside-down. The community went through two remote learning periods (April – June and July – September), which meant all programs had to be moved online.

During this those unusual times, CRASHENDO! Bairnsdale Youth(ful) Orchestra (CBYO) reduced their sessions, halted expansion plans, and cancelled concerts and community performances.

The future was looking uncertain and bleak. But the CRASHENDO! team – both children and staff – were not about to give up that easily. They already knew the strength they had within them, especially when working together, so they kept their heads high, their Zoom cameras on and their smiles BIG – as they found new and engaging ways of delivering their programs.

Instead of having concerts, they produced videos. Instead of cancelling all Special Events, they scaled down the delivery time and incorporated video compilations. The creativity was flowing and proved to be a great learning experience across the board.

Watch a clip from the adorable video performance here.

“Although extremely challenging we have been extremely excited about the opportunity to learn new ways of delivering programs, administration and promotion,” Hilary Rigg, Crashendo! Bairnsdale Coordinator said.

She explained that while the number of participants decreased during online delivery, it also allowed them to widen the scope of musical styles and instruments on offer in the program, as well as the geographic area in which participants lived (across wider Gippsland and Melbourne). As tutors could dial in from anywhere, CRASHENDO! also grew their pool of highly skilled tutors, from areas including Melbourne, Geelong and even interstate.

“We have widened networks, forged new or deeper collaborations with other local musical groups and personnel, and kept musicians connected and playing. Hence, most importantly contributing to the well-being of our community!”

Hilary Rigg, Crashendo! Bairnsdale Coordinator

For the residents of Coragulac and its surrounding communities, having access to excellent early childhood education with the right facilities is a top priority for local families.

The Coragulac & District Kindergarten has provided care and education for their small community for many years. The facility’s three staff and local volunteers run a three-year-old program for 21 children, and a four-year-old program for 20 children.

Play-based learning helps to develop coordination, motor skills and problem solving skills, while focusing on social skills that are invaluable to kids, such as how to get along with their classmates, how to communicate and follow general rules. It also allows kids to follow their imagination and explore their interests.

The energy and imagination the kids bring to the kindergarten is endless, however their ability to play outside was often met by challenges due to weather, and between the scorching summer heat and chilly winter days, the kids weren’t able to enjoy being outside for very long. 

This made some play-based activities very difficult, as the kindergarten lacked a suitable area for things like pot planting and chalk drawing. To continue providing great childcare for local families, the kindergarten needed to upgrade their facilities.

The Kindergarten was awarded $5,000 through the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants program for their Sheltering Our Children for a Bright and Happy Future project, which built a new verandah for outdoor learning and activities.

The new space allows the kids to enjoy being outside without worrying about the weather, and provides an area for ‘messy’ play-based learning. In addition to the kids who attend the kindergarten during the week, the space is also used after school and on the weekends by families with school-aged children and children with disabilities, as it provides a sheltered, fenced and safe play space.

Daylesford is around 105 km north west of Melbourne. Like any small town, some children struggle with certain aspects of their learning, which can have a significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Following an assessment of student literacy skills, the Daylesford Primary School identified a number of children whose reading was below the expected literacy standard. To support these students, they implemented a research-based one-on-one initiative to develop their students’ reading and comprehension capacity outside of the regular curriculum.

The MultiLit (Making Up Lost Time in Literacy) program also seeks to build self-esteem and confidence. The School first received an FRRR grant for this program in 2013 and saw significant improvements in the children. The program has attracted regular support ever since, including a Tailored Grant this year for $25,000 that enabled another 18 students to participate in the program.

Once again, it delivered great results. One child started the year having to have text read to him. By year’s end, he was reading independently. Trevor Edwards, Principal of Daylesford Primary at the time, explained that the learning confidence gained by these children had transferred into other areas of study.

“We are most proud of the fact that we not only provide a highly effective and individualised learning program but an environment where students’ wellbeing, self-esteem and confidence is enhanced and nurtured. “The most challenging component is determining who can participate in the program, as there are many students who need this individual assistance. We prioritise and support those children with additional reading needs, but the generous funding has everlasting impact.”

When the Centre for Participation (CP) purchased a food van, named the ‘Harmony Van,’ they knew straight away that with the right tools they could address a lack of job ready hospitality trainees in a new and innovative way.

A lack of job ready hospitality trainees was a big issue for the community. Whilst tourism and hospitality are identified as key drivers of economic development in the Council and Regional Strategic Plans, local businesses were impacted by a shortage of trained cooks, chefs, baristas and food service assistants. By providing training and experience in hospitality, food handling and barista skills to marginalised groups, CP would able to address a skills gap and ensure that trainees were likely to gain employment in the community.

The Harmony Food Van allows CP to deliver workshops and training that supports migrant and refugee families in the region. This enables them to contribute financially to their families, to assimilate into the community through work and volunteering, and to express their culture through food, art, and service. Even better, participants get to go on the road and cook food from their cultural roots- so everyone gets to try something new!

A $4944 grant from FRRR, funded by The Ross Trust and the Portland House Foundation meant that the van could be equipped with a coffee machine, milk jugs and other accessories to allow trainees to gain barista skills alongside their hospitality training.

With the funding, CP was able to hold weekly training from April 2019 as part of their Hospitality Workforce Pathway Program. They attended over 40 community events, with eight volunteers supporting paid staff at a total of 97 trainees; 85 migrant community members and 12 young people with a disability. Project Coordinator Robert Millar said; “Whilst there are multiple benefits to our rural community as part of this funding, the most successful to us was that 8 migrant ladies and 2 young people with a disability who have gained employment as a result of taking part in the program.” Not only is the project is still running, and the early success has enabled them to open their own social enterprise café, ‘The Laneway.’ Migrant women and young people with a disability are welcome to take part in working at the cafe, creating opportunities particularly for disadvantaged people to break into the workforce, grow their skills, make new social connections, and get involved in the community.