Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Grants available to fund youth-focused community projects

FRRR is encouraging not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) in rural communities to work with local young people to adopt or adapt one of the six project ideas developed at this year’s ABC Heywire Youth Summit. The ideas emerged in response to the concerns identified as being most current and critical for youth in remote, rural and regional Australia.

Group of people standing in front of a building
Heywire Youth Summit 2024 participants

Funded through the FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants program, grants of up to $10,000 are available to kickstart initiatives that promote equitable access to local services and foster a sense of belonging and connection to peers and to the land.

The six ideas developed by the 35 young Summit participants during the week-long youth leadership and skills development event are:

  • Bussin’: How might we create more accessible transport options for young people in regional and rural communities?
  • MEE (Mentoring Educating Empowering): How might we close the gap in accessing quality education for young people in regional, rural and remote communities?
  • A Place for You: How might we improve accessibility to mental health services in remote and regional areas of Australia?
  • The Bigger Picture: How can we empower young people in regional towns to celebrate their differences and foster connection among themselves?
  • Safe Sphere: How might we ensure that young people in regional and remote communities receive relevant and comprehensive sexual education?
  • Youth 2 Grassroots: How might we promote a stronger connection between individuals and their land by fostering a culture of environmental protection and stewardship?

There is $100,000 in funding available nationally, thanks to the generous support of The Sally Foundation, David Mactaggart Foundation and private donors. An additional $17,500 is also available specifically to fund projects in Queensland, thanks to a partnership with The John Villiers Trust.

Amy from Mount Isa, Queensland, is a 2024 Heywire Winner and was part of the group that developed the Youth 2 Grassroots project. Amy said, “I love living in rural Queensland, and it was incredible being given this opportunity through Heywire to come up with an idea to improve life for other country kids. I’m so excited to see what comes from our idea.”

Deb Samuels, FRRR’s People Portfolio Lead, said the Foundation’s long-term partnership with ABC has led to significant outcomes for young people and communities.

“Having run the Heywire Youth Innovation Grants program for 12 years, we have been lucky enough to witness the impact that these young leaders, their ideas, and the funded projects have had on rural Australia.

“From mental health first aid training and career open days, to events that foster social and cultural connection and understanding, each project ensures young people have an active role in fostering a place that they are proud to call home.

“It gives me hope for the future of rural Australia when I see young people working to tackle issues, many of which echo the concerns we see in rural Australia more generally, head on. The projects that these grants fund help young leaders to address issues of equity and wellbeing and change the underlying narrative of what rural communities “don’t have”, by creating a future where we can celebrate all that rural Australia can offer its young people,” said Ms Samuels.

Justin Stevens, ABC Director News, said the FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants program empowered young people to turn their ideas into reality.

“The ideas generated at the ABC Heywire Summit are developed by young people in regional communities, for young people.

“The grants that contribute to this help provide remote, rural, and regional communities a tangible means for encouraging the next generation of leaders to have a voice and act on issues that matter to them and their peers,” Justin said.

To date, more than $1.5 million in community and philanthropic investment has helped to fund more than 190 projects in more than 142 communities.

Applications close 5pm AEST Wednesday 29 May, and recipients will be announced in August. More information about the six ideas is available on ABC’s Heywire website, and more information about the available grants can be found on the FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants program webpage.

By Deb Samuels, People Portfolio Lead

With the rates of volunteering on the decline, how will we replace these tireless volunteers with a new generation of community leaders? It’s encouraging to know the Australian Government is making an investment in the future of volunteering. The recent press release from Minister Andrew Leigh’s office ‘Getting more young people back into volunteering’ provides some targets and strategies for engaging with and encouraging more youth volunteering and developing an open source ‘playbook’ for the sector.

ABC Heywire Summit 2023 presentation
ABC Heywire Youth Summit 2023
Photo credit: Bradley Cummings

For rural, regional and remote communities, harnessing the energy and social consciousness of young people represents an incredible opportunity – and unique challenges – to do things differently when it comes to local community leadership and volunteerism. The work we do at FRRR supports so many volunteer-run groups providing critical services across these communities that may not otherwise exist. As the Government funded work unfolds to inspire future volunteers, developing a targeted strategy for engaging young people living in rural, regional and remote contexts will be so important to ensure the viability of these essential volunteer-run resources.

My work at FRRR provides an up-close view of the hopes, dreams and frustrations of young people living in rural, regional and remote Australia, through our partnership with the ABC Heywire, Takeover and Trailblazer programs. Young people who care deeply about fairness, diversity and equity, who are keenly aware that they will be emerging into adulthood in a world suffering the impacts of climate change, and who have grown up with technology and access to instant information at their fingertips. Young people who have lived their formative years impacted by a series of traumatic events – bushfires, drought, floods and a global pandemic – missing much anticipated milestones and often feeling unsure about what opportunities might still be open to them in the future. Young people who want to make sure the voices of diverse and marginalised people are heard, and who value flexibility and investing in wellbeing. Young people who, when given the opportunity and voice, are a source of innovative and practical solutions to some of the biggest challenges Australia’s rural, regional and remote communities are facing.

What I’m also seeing in our place-based capacity building programs, like Investing in Rural Community Futures (IRCF), is that the volunteers who have been the backbone of small community organisations for decades are now looking to retire and pass the baton. They are exhausted because so much of the recovery work, from the series of disasters in recent years, has fallen on their shoulders. They know the answer lies in engaging young people as the next generation of leaders but are often not quite sure how. We also see that young people want to connect and help, but they struggle to see themselves in the same roles their parents and grandparents have held, doing things the way they have always been done.

Instead of inviting regional young people to take a seat at the existing community leadership table, what if we first co-design a new ‘table’ with them? To hear and really listen to the ways they are inspired to connect. I couldn’t agree more that taking on a volunteer role can be empowering and career building for young people, but first we need to make sure we get the ecosystem right.

Could some volunteer opportunities be done remotely or more flexibly? Could a broader model of shared leadership be adopted? Could some traditional volunteer roles become paid or partially paid roles, so that young people without the means to donate their time, can still be involved in their community in meaningful ways and become inspired for a lifetime of connection to the sector? And definitely not to be left out – how can we make sure there’s a healthy dose of fun in volunteering?

There is sometimes an assumption made that because they are not showing up in familiar ways, young people don’t want to show up for community. What I see and hear is the exact opposite. Young people in regional communities are looking at complex problems, with fresh eyes, and coming up with entrepreneurial solutions. Like the volunteer Youth Leadership Committee at Heywire grantee Human Nature, who shaped their alumni program with the flexibility for young people to participate in activities that interest them and suit their personal life goals. And like the Regional Education Support Network (RESN), a youth volunteer-led organisation that has connected 1,400 school students with over 400 online peer tutoring volunteers across regional NSW and Victoria.

As young people imagine their futures, wouldn’t it be great if they had a career with a social impact focus on their radars as an exciting and viable one? To see staying in their rural, regional or remote community as a first choice to do work that aligns with their values, and not one that comes with a long list of compromises.

It brings me so much joy in my work at FRRR to know that we are committed to deeper engagement with regional young people. We are adding meaningful opportunities for their powerful voices to be present and truly heard in decision making that values their knowledge and reflects their values. This year, with generous donor support, we are embedding paid youth advisor roles to work alongside NFP’s implementing youth-designed projects funded through the Takeover Mildura program. We have also shifted a volunteer ABC Heywire Youth Internship role to a paid position, along with offering an honorarium for our Youth Advisory Panel who assess grant applications. This will ensure that all eligible young people have the opportunity to take a leadership role in deciding what projects best meet the needs of young people.

We never want to lose the opportunities for unpaid volunteering. However, when we are asking young people to share their expertise and lived experience, we need to make sure those unique skills are valued. Re-imagining how small volunteer-centred NFPs in remote, rural and regional communities might survive and continue to operate as vital community resources and services in the future is no small challenge. The answer lies with the young people who will both lead and need these programs and services. They are the solution, so let’s take every opportunity to listen and learn.

More than 30 school-aged students will ‘Takeover’ Mildura from 22 May to 26 May to share their stories as part of the ABC’s Takeover Youth Summit. 

Takeover Mildura winner, Cham
Cham is one of the Takeover Mildura winners.
Photo credit: Kaitlyn_Fasso-Opie

The Summit is a partnership between the ABC, VicHealth’s Future Healthy program, the Victorian Government and the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR).  

Thirty-five students have been selected to have their stories and ideas featured on ABC Local Radio during the Summit and beyond. The winning stories showcase the diversity and bravery of young people in the region.

To further back these ideas, FRRR will offer support to community organisations to adopt and adapt the ideas developed by Summit participants.

Deb Samuels, FRRR’s People Team Lead, said, “These are our leaders of tomorrow. FRRR is inspired to be part of their journey and to invest in the local community so young people’s ideas can become a reality.”  

Takeover Mildura winners will be featured across the ABC during the week of 22 May.

To read the full media release and find out more information about the program please visit: abc.net.au/takeovermildura.