Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

On Ngarluma Country

Roebourne is a town in the Pilbara region of WA with a largely Aboriginal population. Police have observed a real gap in meaningful engagement with the youth of this community and a lack of opportunities to build their skills, confidence and positive decision making.

Big hART is an organisation that uses art as a catalyst for change. Over the years, Big hART has demonstrated its ability to engage and work strongly with young people and across different levels of community, with strong outcomes as a result. Their grassroots style of engagement, working directly with young people, has a huge impact on the social and community issues that face Roebourne as an Aboriginal community. The outcomes of the many programs, workshops and high production value events that have been created in partnership with Big hART have been profoundly life changing for many young people in the community.

Young people in the Pilbara have created a future focused, ground breaking digital education resource that celebrates living culture and supports teachers with an energetic mode of online learning. In 2020, Big hART received a $10,000 grant from the Westpac Foundation Community Grants program to train and create paid employment for four young adults in the Pilbara to deliver this Indigenous education resource live to classrooms nationally.

Known as the NEO-Learning project, Big hART created tailored training and professional development opportunities for the four trainees, who were individually mentored with a view to longer term employment, to deliver the NEO-Learning resource to schools nationally. The traineeships offered tangible career paths giving them strong digital skillsets and practical industry experience that included digital drawing and music delivery skill building, virtual education delivery, media and communications, and presenting and public speaking. These activities and tasks were mentored by professional producers and creative industry practitioners, through a task focused workshop program.

The outcomes from the project exceeded expectations, with incredible results for some of the trainees, one of whom was Simara, a young Aboriginal woman from Roebourne. She was part of the digital training program, and said that during the program, she grew in confidence and felt excited for her future and career path.

Sam Hawker is the National Producer for Big hART. She said that while creating peer to peer educational content, Simara displayed an excellent eye for framing and observation.

“We have been able to foster her passion for photography over the last 12 months, providing opportunity for Simara to build technical skills and refine her creative practice. To amplify her achievements, we delivered professional development workshops, leading to her art being selected at the prestigious Revealed Exhibition hosted by Fremantle Arts Centre in Perth. Big hART supported Simara throughout this process, from initial conversations with Fremantle Arts Centre to the development of an artist statement, workshops on licensing, contracts and payments. Over the course of the Exhibition, all of Simara’s artworks sold, including one being purchased by the WA State Government for display in Dumas House in Perth.

“As Simara’s confidence in photography continues to grow, she has become a very important role model and mentor for her peers and community.”

Simara also completed media training under the mentorship of Big hART’s Media Manager and implemented this training in conducting interviews with her community. Big hART also helped Simara to obtain her Driver’s License, an essential qualification for employment in the region.

“Being employed as a trainee with Big hART was a great experience for me, as I gained a lot from supporting children and being a mentor and leader for them… this work helped me learn my identity and aspirations. It has made me look for other challenges and opportunities in my life,” Simara said.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

15 April 2020: Westpac Foundation today announced a new $500,000 partnership with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR), expanding its Community Grant program in rural, regional, and remote areas across Australia.

Westpac Foundation’s Community Grant program, established in 2012, provides $10,000 grants to local organisations creating opportunities through education, training and employment across Australia. Not-for-profit organisations providing support to communities outside a major city are now invited to apply.  

“We believe education, training and job opportunities are a powerful pathway out of disadvantage,” said Westpac Foundation CEO Susan Bannigan. “By partnering with the FRRR, we hope to provide more support for local organisations creating opportunities for people who need it most in rural Australian communities.”

Established in 2000, FRRR has distributed nearly $100 million to more than 10,000 projects across rural, regional and remote Australian communities.

“Proportionally, there are higher rates of socioeconomic disadvantage in rural and remote Australia compared to capital cities and metropolitan areas. That’s exacerbated when there’s drought and fires – and now COVID-19 is making life even more challenging,” said FRRR CEO Natalie Egleton. 

“The Westpac Foundation Rural Community Grants program in partnership with the FRRR is intended to help not-for-profits creating pathways to employment to respond to these challenges. When people are upskilled or have access to further education and training, they are more likely to have better health outcomes and be more connected socially, which goes a long way to developing vibrant, sustainable communities,” Ms Egleton continued.

Western Australian not-for-profit Camera Story, a previous Westpac Foundation Community Grant recipient, provides photography workshops to Indigenous Australian women living in the Kimberley region of WA.

“We facilitate vocational training in Derby, Mowanjum and Pandanus Park communities, which is over 2,000km north of Perth and two hours from the nearest regional centre of Broome,” said Camera Story Co-Founder Jacqueline Warrick.

“The physical remoteness of communities we work with means that access to basic services is limited, and opportunities for training and employment are few. Our Community Grant funding enabled Camera Story to work with women in Derby and surrounding communities to upskill them in creative and commercial photography and open up a potential future revenue stream for them and their family.” 

In addition to the funding, Community Grant recipients will have access to pro bono support via the Westpac Changemaker program, which includes access to leadership development programs, legal support and financial capability training.

“We have learned that we have much greater impact when we connect our community partners to passionate Westpac employee volunteers. Now more than ever, it’s important for us to support our partners beyond our funding and we’re delighted to further extend our pro bono offering to all corners of the country,” Ms Bannigan said.   

Applications for Westpac Foundation’s Rural Community Grants in partnership with the FRRR are open Wednesday 15 April 2020 – Wednesday 13 May 2020. Not-for-profit organisations can apply via the FRRR application gateway.