Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The small regional town of Katanning, in the ‘heart’ of the Great Southern agricultural region, 287 kilometres south-east of Perth in WA, has a shire population of just 4,200 people. While the area is essentially known for agriculture, the town is a regional centre that offers a range of government, health and education services. The Katanning community also prides itself on its multicultural diversity. 

This small community was impacted by a bushfire in February 2020, with rebuilding efforts hampered by lockdowns soon after. The community identified that it needed to find ways to engage their younger residents and keep them connected and supported.

The Katanning and Districts Pool Association Incorporated partnered with the Katanning Hub Community Resource Centre (CRC) and the Shire of Katanning to run a Youth program, inviting young people on a Friday night to come to their pool hall to socialise, learn new skills and share a meal. The program has been an overwhelming success with 35-40 young people attending each week.

The hall opened in the late 80s and did not include any kitchen facilities. Requests to use the hall from other community groups had been slowly increasing, as it is one of only a few indoor spaces available in Katanning. Providing catering facilities would make the venue a more suitable location to support these additional groups and their events. With the changing nature of the activities held at the hall, it was time for a refresh. To create a more usable space for community groups to meet, it was decided to add a kitchen area to better support the Youth program in preparing and serving these meals.

Other groups that use the hall were also supportive, including the local men’s group who expressed support for a kitchenette to make a cuppa and make their own events more welcoming for its members.

Thanks to a $10,000 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by IKEA Australia, the Katanning and Districts Pool Association was able to revamp the ageing pool hall and add a meal preparation and serving area.

Local volunteers provided amazing support for the project, contributing more than 80 hours of labour to the renovations and 20 hours to fundraising each month, ensuring the project’s success.

Since finalising the renovation works, the association’s membership has increased, volunteers have been inspired to become more active and the use of the hall by other community groups has expanded. With the improved facilities making the hall more welcoming, friendly and a safe space for people of all ages, the Katanning community is feeling more connected with access to a space tailored to enjoy each other’s company.

The Katanning Police now drop by during the Youth program and challenge the young people to a game, further strengthening these important relationships. Badgebup Aboriginal cooperation is interested in partnering to deliver the Youth program into the future and the Katanning community are proud of what has been achieved, voicing it regularly in person and via social media.

Acknowledging the Wongutha people

Goldfields Girl is about leadership, confidence and building aspirational behaviours. Much more than a pageant, it’s a program that involves personal development, work readiness and community engagement activities for young Indigenous women between the ages of 16 and 25 from the Goldfields region, in south eastern corner of Western Australia. It’s based on the successful Kimberley Girl program, and has been operating since 2017.

Goolarri Media Enterprises (the operational arm of Broome Aboriginal Media Association Aboriginal Corporation) is behind the program, which is part of the overarching Young Women’s Pathways Program, helping young Indigenous women to realise their self-worth, gain confidence to dream big and to build goal setting behaviours.

In 2020, Goolarri’s aim for the program was to engage and participate up to 10 young women from Leonora in the program and workshops. Goldfields Girl is a contemporary cultural activity, and in the remote town of Leonora, there is nothing else like it for Indigenous women at this age and stage of life. The work readiness training and leadership development it provides can be transformational, providing a pathway for successfully navigating transition from school to employment. A significant 43.7% of the Pathways Program participants from 2004 to 2015 were employed, compared to 29.8% employment rate across Indigenous women in all of Australia, in the same age range (and this number is known to be much lower in remote areas.)

With funding from the Kapikarnpi Community Fund, FRRR supported the inaugural Goldfields Girl program in 2017 with a $5,000 grant to the Tjupan Ngalia Land Council Aboriginal Corporation. For two years, activities were held in Leonora and Kalgoorlie. In 2019, there were fewer Leonora participants, and so they were brought to Kalgoorlie for the workshops with their travel, accommodation and meal costs covered. But Leonora is a priority site for the program, and Goollarri wanted to support young women from the town, so they didn’t feel isolated because they were many kilometers from their home and Country.

Goolarri sought funds from the Strengthening Rural Communities program to run a series of 10 smaller, non-accredited workshops based in Leonora in the two weeks prior to Goldfields Girl 2020, to keep the young women engaged as much as possible. They were successful and started planning.

With the programs initially locked in for March 2020 delivery, everything fell apart when the country went into lockdown. Suddenly the risk of these young women feeling isolated became even greater. But the organisation was committed to finding a way forward. 

Unsure how to proceed and unable to access the Leonora community, Goolarri got the Broome and Kalgoorlie-Leonora teams together on Zoom to determine a way forward.  They agreed to commence the program online by filming fun videos to engage the girls in the accredited training. With a small window in which to keep participants engaged, while not ideal, the plan was better than nothing. So, they developed online modules, videos, adapted content and updated COVID plans as the environment changed.

Goldfields girls dream big, despite COVID

In the final report, the organisation wrote: “We did everything in our power to ensure this project went ahead, to the point where our organisation invested heavily in developing accredited training materials and training videos for the girls, so they did not think we had just walked away and left them.”  

“None of it was easy but we did it for the young women.”

Past Leonora participants were trained in the delivery and support of the materials and this was a wonderful outcome that has enabled additional skill sharing for other young women in the community.

“We know from their feedback that these young women gained so much out of this and enabling them through trust in on the ground delivery gave them additional ownership for future activities such as this.” 

While they didn’t achieve all the results they had hoped for with this adapted delivery model, they hope that we can make a bigger impact in future years delivering the full program in person.   

“We know we touched the lives of those girls who did participate and hope to keep them engaged for future delivery.” 

In Boyup Brook, WA, the Community Resource Centre wanted to encourage older locals to keep fit and healthy. Despite the large numbers in the area (49% of community members are over the age of 50) there was no exercise group locally catering to the older age bracket, who are at risk from a sedentary lifestyle which affects their health and puts subsequent pressure on local health services.

With four staff, 48 members and a committee of eight, the Boyup Brook Community Resource Centre (BBCRC) already plays a big part in the health and wellbeing of the community, hosting a visiting chiropractor, running a community garden, offering cancer support information and various other exercise classes.

The Centre applied to FRRR for funding to run a Seniors Exercise and Activity (SEA) Program. They felt the program would improve the cardio-fitness and mobility of elderly community members and fill an unmet need in the town, capturing “a segment of the population who will benefit from movement and activity but who don’t necessarily want to go to a more strenuous class.”

In July 2019, with a $4,419 Strengthening Rural Communities grant funded by the John T Reid Charitable Trusts, arrangements were made for the program to start. The Boyup Brook Town Hall was booked to provide a central, accessible and comfortable venue for participants. Equipment was purchased, and the class was advertised in the Boyup Gazette, on noticeboards in the community, the website, social media and also promoted by word of mouth.

Classes ran from August 2019 until June 2020, and were facilitated by CRC Manager Jodi Nield, who holds a Bachelor of Science (Sports Science) and has many years of experience in conducting similar projects. Through her position and involvement in the community, Jodi already had good rapport with local seniors.

Each session was planned to incorporate a variety of group and individual exercises, games and circuit activities that promoted fitness, flexibility, strength and balance. Participants were encouraged to exercise at their own pace with support from the instructor, and encouragement from fellow participants.

Funding also enabled the production of exercise booklets, which were a key component in enabling participants to continue their exercise at home when classes couldn’t be held face to face due to COVID-19 restrictions. Not everyone returned following the break, but the 40 sessions were still able to be conducted during the term of the project, with an average of 12 people attending each session.

“I am most proud of how the program was diverse and inclusive of disability. One participant was a leg amputee, and another an arm amputee. Others had restricted movement in knees, wrists and shoulders. Some had good levels of physical fitness, whereas others had limited fitness, however all were included in the program with alternative activities provided if required.”

Jodi Nield
Manager, Boyup Brook Community Resource Centre

This project not only improved the fitness and quality of life of these residents, but also their social connections and emotional wellbeing. Ms Nield noted that many of the participants were heading out for coffee following the sessions, and the whole community will indirectly benefit from a more connected and engaged senior demographic.

The township of Leonora is located 230 km north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and, like many predominantly Indigenous communities, there is an issue with maintaining school attendance in young children. Currently, there is an imbalance in investment in Indigenous Education Support Programs, with the investment in boys outweighing the investment in girls by a significant number. Increasing school attendance is crucial for young Indigenous women to access greater opportunities at school and beyond.

Shooting Stars Cultural Rewards Camp

Shooting Stars (SS) is an initiative by Glass Jar Australia and Netball WA that is designed to increase school attendance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls living in WA’s remote towns and communities. Through the SS initiative, activities to encourage exercise, positive health and wellbeing, leadership and cultural connection are nourished.

Using a $10,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant through the Small and Vital stream, two Shooting Stars Cultural Reward Camps were able to be funded. Twenty-five girls aged between 10-16 were invited to participate in two activity-based camps on Kija / Jaru Country. In order to participate the girls were required to demonstrate an 80% or above school attendance rate or show an improvement in attendance by 20% or more from the previous term. These requirements not only increase participation at school but also help the girls to feel they have worked hard for the achievement.

The grant, which was generously funded by the Karpikarnpi Community Fund, allowed camping equipment and food, recording equipment for the yarning circle and the transport of two Shooting Star Program facilitators: the Sparks Coordinator and Pathways Coordinator.

During the two camping days seven activities took place which included traditional jewellery making, damper made three ways, a yarning circle for the girls to discuss successes and challenges over the term, a basket weaving session, an art mural class, a healthy eating and nutrition workshop and a wellbeing session with the Shooting Star Program Facilitators.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes were made to the original plan. However, the Shooting Stars initiative was able to adapt to hold an engaging and positive camp for the girls who all responded positively to the camp.

Shooting Stars Cultural Rewards Camp

Ngaanyatjarra Country

Indigenous Rangers play a critical role in protecting the environment and managing country. In most places where they operate, they manage threatened species, manage the land using cool burns and fire and control feral animals – alongside developing tourism and cultural heritage activities.

The Indigenous Desert Alliance (IDA) runs an annual conference to bring together ranger groups from across the remote Southern Deserts to build Indigenous-led networks, leadership confidence and capability, increase skills relevant to Ranger groups and build advocacy for Indigenous land management. These rangers collectively manage an area approximately the size of Victoria.

The Forum is a highly regarded desert event that has been held annually since 2017, and focuses on maximising networking opportunities with an interactive program including workshops, tours, engaging conference sessions and stalls. It’s an important opportunity for Indigenous desert rangers to come together and build their alliance for personal and professional outcomes, to share their successes, challenges and opportunities, and to spend time with valued partners, stakeholders and experts.

Due to travel restrictions, the 2020 Southern Desert Rangers Forum and their Annual Conference were held online. The $25,000 grant IDA received from FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, funded by the Baxter Charitable Foundation, was originally intended to assist with the transport costs to bring five emergent remote ranger groups to Warakurna for the Forum. Instead, IDA used the funds to set up dedicated studios in Perth to run the events, with full technical support. IDA also purchased video conferencing equipment to enable the remote teams to participate in the events.

Despite meeting over Zoom, there was active participation and over 150 people in attendance over the three days the program ran, including 19 Australian Desert Ranger Groups from across the Southern Deserts, as well as rangers from the Misipawistik Cree Nations in Canada. There were presentations from Birriliburu Rangers, Rangers from APY Lands in SA, and Maralinga Tjarutja Rangers from Oak Valley.

Sessions included practical training components for rangers using GIS mapping software; co-design of education resources for weed eradication in the desert (developed in both Aboriginal language and in English); a presentation from the Threatened Species Commissioner; as well as open discussions around traditional knowledge of burning in the desert and implications for bushfires in populous coastal regions. Importantly, the highly-valued ‘Ranger to Ranger’ sessions still ran, where rangers develop and inform the priorities of the Indigenous Desert Alliance.

Emmanual Hondras, IDA Coordinator, said that there were unexpected outcomes resulting from the online delivery mode, including greater engagement between participants which he attributed to their increased comfort from being able to remain On Country.

“The IDA pivoted to ensure that our members in regional and remote Australia were still connected despite the scourge of COVID-19, providing the chance for leadership confidence and capability to grow through a new means, the opportunity for regional and remote priorities to be discussed and progressed, and the opportunity for these to be advocated to key political and bureaucratic leaders.

“Despite many people thinking it couldn’t be done, we managed to ‘keep the desert connected’ during a pandemic and during travel restrictions. It was a landmark event for Indigenous desert rangers in regional and remote communities.”

Emmanuel Hondras, IDA Coordinator

IDA used the learnings from this event to inform their Annual Conference, which was also run via video conference and attracted over 200 attendees. Thirty-one groups attended the Conference held in November – an astounding result, given that this was the first attempt at full forums / conferences via these means.

The $25,000 grant IDA received from FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, funded by the Baxter Charitable Foundation, was originally going to be used to assist with the transport costs to bring five emergent remote ranger groups to Warakurna for the forum. Instead, IDA set up dedicated studios in Perth to run the events, with full technical support. This is where the majority of total costs ended up falling, along with venue hire and catering. IDA also purchased video conferencing equipment to enable the remote teams to participate in the events.

IDA has since helped other not-for-profit organisations in the area, using their new-found knowledge and skills to assist with these organisations with their online events, which in itself is a great capacity building outcome.  

FRRR acknowledges the devastating effects that Cyclone Seroja has had on a number of remote communities across Western Australia.

Cyclone Seroja

Natalie Egleton, FRRR’s CEO, said that the Foundation knows recovery for these impacted communities has only just begun, with reconnection of power an immediate priority, and the rebuilding damaged houses, farms and public assets to occur in the months and years ahead.

“We also anticipate that the activities of local community groups, which are so vital to the ongoing fabric of Western Australia’s remote, rural and regional communities, will be significantly impacted. But we also know these groups will play a vital role in supporting their community through the recovery journey.

“FRRR encourages any donors interested in assisting these affected communities to donate to charities registered with the ACNC, and to consider supporting the needs of communities through the medium-long term recovery journey, in addition to their more immediate needs,” Ms Egleton said.

FRRR has a long history of assisting communities to recover from disasters. We have facilitated support to communities recovering from the recent NSW floods; the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires; 2019 North Queensland floods; Cyclones Debbie (2017), Oswald (2013), Yasi (2011) and Larry (2006); the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires; the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires of 2009; and ongoing droughts; and to those places preparing for future disaster events.

“More frequent and intense climate disasters means that Australia needs to be proactive in how we fund communities to assist with their preparedness activities, and to have funds available to support them through the medium to long term aftermath of a disaster.” Ms Egleton explained.

Any funds donated to FRRR to support WA communities affected by Cyclone Seroja will be allocated through the following two key mechanisms:

  • FRRR’s Strengthening Rural Communities program, which is open all year round, and assessed quarterly. Grants of up to $10,000 will be distributed; OR
  • FRRR’s Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund (DRRF). The DRRF was initiated in August 2019, in response to an increasing frequency of disasters. FRRR wanted to ensure it had a corpus of funds invested, so that it can provide some support to disaster impacted communities whether they’re large or small, in the public eye for a long time or swallowed by other events, or are well-supported philanthropically, or not. Donations made to FRRR’s DRRF are pooled and invested, making it a gift that keeps giving, with earnings drawn off every year to be distributed to communities impacted by disaster through grants in programs such as Strengthening Rural Communities. The DRRF currently holds over $4M, which is invested. FRRR will provide support to community groups recovering from the impacts of the cyclone over the coming years, by applying a portion of the earnings from this fund.

FRRR welcomes donations to either of these mechanisms. All donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia.

Beyond FRRR, the Foundation encourages everyone to consider the impact that this cyclone has had on many individuals and communities across WA, and consider giving to a DGR-1 endorsed ACNC registered charity, which can support individuals and their communities through the recovery journey.

For more information, contact Sarah Matthee, FRRR’s General Manager, Partnerships and Services.

UPDATE: Workshop recording is available to watch below:

WA community groups and not-for-profit organisations invited

Community groups and not-for-profits across remote, rural and regional Western Australia are invited to attend a free online grantseeker workshop, hosted by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) on Thursday 25 March, from 10:30am to 12:30pm (AWST).

WA grantseeker workshop

The workshop will highlight FRRR’s grant programs and provide grant-writing tips to help community groups become more confident in applying for any of FRRR’s grant programs. This includes the Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) program for communities in drought, and the Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program, which is highly flexible and supports a broad range of community needs.

Recent WA communities to benefit from TTTT and SRC grants include Esperance, Leonora, Exmouth, Broome, Carnarvon, Quairading and Aldersyde. These grants funded a wide range of locally-led projects including initiatives designed to enhance community wellbeing and resilience, boost local tourism and assist in economic renewal.

FRRR connects goodwill with good purpose for the vitality of remote, rural and regional Australia. As the only national foundation specifically focused on ensuring the social and economic strength of these communities, FRRR’s grant programs give community organisations the opportunity to access funds for a broad range of initiatives that directly benefit local communities.

Register for this free online grantseeker workshop at: https://events.humanitix.com/frrr-wa-grant-seeker-workshop.

Note: Please avoid using Internet Explorer to open this link – use other web browsers such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge. If you are having difficulties opening the link please contact the TTTT team via toughtimes@frrr.org.au.

Applications for the TTTT and SRC programs are always open. The cut-off date for the next round of TTTT is 24 May 2021. The next cut-off date for SRC grant applications to be considered is 24 August 2021.

The need for the diversification of industry has been well known to the Northampton community for many years, given the heavy reliance on agriculture. Drought and unpredictable seasons have seen the withdrawal of many farming families, leaving an ageing population. Northampton has a median age of residents that is significantly older than the national average. 

To address this issue, several community groups worked toward a common goal – to leverage the significant tourism potential of the town and bring in more visitors and diversify income. Northampton has a rich heritage, being one of only three towns in Western Australia to have attained the ‘Historic Town’ status. The development of an arts trail is a key feature of the plan, and the Northampton Friends of the Railway sought to add to it with the development and installation of a large 5m x 10m public sculpture. 

They worked with local artists and steel masons to design and construct the steal art sculpture with the $3,500 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, thanks to funding from the Bertalli Family Foundation, which was specifically used for its final design and painting. The piece depicts the historic Gwalla railway precinct with all of the original buildings of the railway station, some of which no longer exist, and is located exactly on a section of the first Government Railway in Western Australia. It’s an important interpretive piece to showcase the former area, given the significant role that the railway played in the township’s mining and agricultural history. 

This project brought together economic, heritage and artistic outcomes, celebrating and promoting a unique local history.