Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Sixteen community initiatives that will act on issues that matter to remote, rural and regional youth will share in $148,721 in grants, through the FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grants program.

Heywire winners presenting at the 2023 Regional Youth Summit in Canberra. Image credit: Bradley Cummings
Heywire winners presenting at the 2023 Regional Youth Summit in Canberra. Image credit: Bradley Cummings.

Now in its 11th year, the youth-focused program offers funds for communities to adopt, adapt and act on the ideas generated by young Australians at the ABC Heywire program’s annual Regional Youth Summit.

This year’s 39 young Summit participants developed six exciting ideas for change on issues that matter most to rural youth, with themes addressing boredom relief; easy access to mental health support; cost of food relief; education and diverse learning needs being catered for; ensuring youth voices are heard; and creating better futures for young people with disabilities.

The idea that received most applications was ‘Boredom Relief’, which resonated extensively with young people. One of the projects receiving funding to respond to Boredom Relief will be led by 2023 Heywirer Blake, who says there is a lack of opportunities for fun youth events in rural communities such as his.

“In small rural towns, it can feel like there is nothing for young people to do. We need to make sure that there are safe events and spaces for youth, or else they will look to drugs and alcohol for entertainment and excitement.

“Our project will see young people design and lead a one-day event of live music and activities. The drug and alcohol-free event will involve young and upcoming artists, and include art and cultural activities. I know it will help the young people in our community to build connections and give them practical experience in event management.

“I’m excited for it to get underway!” Blake said.

Deb Samuels, FRRR’s People Portfolio Lead, said that this program helps to put youth-led ideas at the forefront of rural communities and helps young people to feel heard.

“Young people are the future and often we find that grassroots organisations know how important it is to involve the youth and make them part of the community, but they simply lack the capacity to do so.

“Thanks to our donor partners, this program gives community groups the support and resources they need to overcome these barriers and focus their time and energy on initiatives that will make young people feel seen and empowered.

ABC Director, News, Justin Stevens, thanked FRRR for its support.

“Heywire amplifies young rural and regional voices across our ABC platforms and the Regional Youth Summit encourages their inspiring ideas for change and helps bring them to life,” he said.

“These young innovators are Australia’s future leaders and their ideas demonstrate their understanding of what their communities need.”

Examples of this year’s projects include:

  • Zero Positive for Schools in Scone, NSW received $6,200 to develop the Idea 4 Change idea by preventing climate anxiety for youth with a summit featuring youth environmentalists and support for implementing school-based action plans.
  • Nganmarriyanga School in Nganmarriyanga, NT, received $10,000 to develop the Boredom Relief idea by fostering youth agency and responsibility with the opportunity for youth to design their own Boredom Relief project.
  • Breakaway Toowoomba in Toowoomba, QLD, received $10,000 to develop the We Are Not Alone idea by encouraging greater visibility of disability with a youth-led accessible community event to establish support networks.
  • Tomorrow Movement in TAS (statewide), received $10,000 to develop the Hear Our Voices idea by preparing youth to become leaders of community-driven climate solutions with workshops to develop skills in facilitation and visioning sessions.
  • Birchip Neighbourhood House Inc in Birchip, VIC, received $10,000 to develop the Boredom Relief idea by empowering youth with skills in event management through the delivery of a youth-led arts and culture event.
  • Kununurra Community Garden Kitchen in Ringer Soak, WA, received $10,000 to develop the Homegrown Hub idea by growing cultural education on Indigenous plants and increasing access to food security with the installation of a community kitchen garden.

These grants are possible thanks to the generous support of The Sally Foundation, David Mactaggart Foundation, The John Villiers Trust, AMP Foundation, as well as several private donors.

The full list of grant recipients and their projects are below.

Barkindji Maraura Elders Environment TeamBoredom Relief
Strengthen community connections and wellbeing with on-Country camps for youth.
Grand Pacific Health LimitedBoredom Relief
Enhance a youth-led music festival to provide opportunities for young people to engage in their community.
Pambula Beach$9,265
Zero Positive for SchoolsIdea 4 Change
Prevent climate anxiety for youth with a summit featuring youth environmentalists and support for implementing school-based action plans.
Nganmarriyanga SchoolBoredom Relief
Foster youth agency and responsibility with the opportunity for youth to design their own Boredom Relief project.
Breakaway ToowoombaWe Are Not Alone
Encourage greater visibility of disability with a youth-led accessible community event to establish support networks.
Bridges Health and Community Care LtdEasy Access
Equip students with strategies to improve wellbeing and navigate difficult conversations through mental health education delivered through theatre.
Coen Region Aboriginal CorporationBoredom Relief
Encourage youth and the community to come together at a series of outdoor movie events.
Now I Can RunWe Are Not Alone
Encourage wellbeing and physical activity with an event to introduce race running to youth with mobility impairments.
Puuya FoundationEasy Access
Strengthen youth wellbeing with on-Country camps that provide culturally appropriate mental health supports.
Lockhart River$10,000
Kind Schools LimitedIdea 4 Change
Foster resilience and kindness in children through mental health training for primary students.
Tomorrow MovementHear Our Voices
Prepare youth to become leaders of community-driven climate solutions with workshops to develop skills in facilitation and visioning sessions.
Bendigo Sustainability GroupHear Our Voices
Support youth skills in creative and community advocacy with workshops to develop a digital-storytelling program.
Birchip Neighbourhood House IncBoredom Relief
Empower youth with skills in event management through the delivery of a youth-led arts and culture event.
Creswick Neighbourhood Centre IncBoredom Relief
Create a youth space to reduce isolation and improve mental health for local youth to come together.
Standing Tall in HamiltonWe Are Not Alone
Support mentors to become more confident and capable of working with disabled young people with youth-led access and inclusion training.
Kununurra Community Garden KitchenHomegrown Hub
Grow cultural education on Indigenous plants and increase access to food security with the installation of a community kitchen garden.
Ringer Soak$10,000

In partnership with the Sally Foundation and the ABC, FRRR has awarded $33,350 in grants to eight youth-led community projects in remote, rural and regional Australia as part of the Trailblazers program. The young people have partnered with local community organisations to receive the grants.

Project Vulcan participants
Self Help Workshop Inc is a 2023 grant recipient for Project Vulcan: a play by disabled artists about climate action and disability rights.

Through a Giving Sub-Fund, the Sally Foundation partners with FRRR to ensure that funding reaches groups and young people in all corners of the country. The priority of this fund is to invest in young regional leaders to build their leadership skills, and their capacity to make a difference in their communities. To achieve this, FRRR leverages our networks across rural and regional communities, draws on our expertise and systems to administer grant rounds, and provides skill development through workshops and direct one-on-one support around project development, grant writing, and understanding eligibility criteria.

Geraldine Roche of the Sally Foundation said, “The overall aim is to boost the skills of these emerging leaders to take on future funding opportunities with confidence and experience behind them.”

This year, Trailblazers attended the annual ABC Heywire Regional Youth Summit, where they received leadership and communications training and presented their projects on ABC radio and at Parliament House. Trailblazers from the 2022 and 2023 cohorts were then invited to apply for grants, funded through the Sally Foundation’s Trailblazers Development Fund, to help them bring their project ideas to life, or to help take their existing projects to the next level.

Joanna Kemp, FRRR’s Philanthropic Services Manager, said that young people are an integral part of of the process.

“There were three Trailblazer alumni on the Advisory Panel for this round of funding, and two of them had previously received grants through this fund, so their input is invaluable. They were able to draw on their Trailblazer experience and bring a youth-focused perspective to the process. Not only that, but they can speak from the perspective of being young people who live in regional areas.

“I’m always inspired by their curiosity and thoughtfulness about each application. They include constructive feedback for the applicants to help them continue building their grant writing skills for future funding opportunities. Equally, their experience on the panel is a great opportunity for them to learn about the grant process from a funding perspective, which broadens their view of the whole cycle,” Ms Kemp said

In this round, we saw some recurring themes. It’s clear that young people are eager to grow awareness around disability, environment and social inclusion. They are also wanting more access STEM activities that are delivered in a fun and engaging way. Two of the grantees this year were also successful in the 2022 round and their new projects continue to build on their activities, this time in a collaboration that will see them visiting schools in remote and rural Queensland towns and bringing their hands on programs to raise awareness and exposure to STEM learning and aviation pathways.

Receiving a grant through the program can help to build confidence for these young people to continue their leadership journey and be a springboard to further funding opportunities. You can see the full list of grant recipients below.

Now I Can Run IncRacerunner's Take Over Aus
Grow awareness and participation of people living with disabilities to participate in physical activity through a coaching course and training activities.
Various locations$4,950
RoboCoast Sunshine Coast Robotics AssociationRed Dirt Robotics
Increase access to STEM learning and activities for children in remote and regional Queensland through transport costs and repairs for touring education program.
Various locations $4,237
Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (Queensland Section) LimitedTrailblazer Tour - Aviatrix Australia x Red Dirt Robotics 3 month QLD Tour
Improve awareness and exposure to STEM learning and aviation pathways for children in remote and regional Queensland communities through an outback educational tour of schools.
Various locations $6,907
Now I Can Run IncFighting Island State Tasmania (FIST)
Improve social connections, reduce isolation and grow a connected community for people interested in Esports through the first Tasmanian Esports major competition.
Self Help Workshop IncProject Vulcan - A Play by Disabled Artists about Climate Action and Disability Rights!
Raise awareness about climate change, disability and inclusiveness through a touring theatre production across Tasmania and Victoria featuring actors with disabilities.
Launceston $6,660
Gnarly NeighboursGnarly STEM
Increase access to STEM based activities for youth in Seymour, Victoria, through purchase of IT equipment to expand activities at local youth centre.
Lake Boga Waterski ClubLake Boga Bank 2 Bank
Improve social connections, health and wellbeing of young people and the wider community in the Swan Hill area through an annual community event at Lake Boga, Victoria.
Lake Boga$2,000
Forrest Personnel LtdWings Without Barriers
Raise awareness and acceptance of autism across remote, rural and regional communities through a solo light plane tour around Australia by Hayden McDonald visiting communities to share information about living and thriving with autism.
Various locations $1,500

Wagait Beach is located on the Cox Peninsula just west of Darwin and is accessible by ferry (15 mins) or road (90 mins). Young people make up around 14% of the 461 residents and beyond seasonal sports, there are very few organised activities on offer locally. Parents and young people alike had been keen to increase access to drug and alcohol free activities which would build skills and support emotional, social and physical wellbeing and in 2021, Wagait Shire Council supported to the creation of the Wagait Youth Group.

Child crouched on ground drawing with chalk on concrete.

The Council received a Strengthening Rural Communities grant of $6,000 to assist with establishing their youth program that focused on building more opportunities in the community for young people including the co-design of a local Skate Park. Across four skate workshops, the children designed, built, and decorated portable ramps that went into immediate use, while plans are now well underway for the permanent skate park. Beach cricket, movie nights and discos for the school aged children have since followed.

In addition to a more physically active lifestyle, the young people felt listened to and have become more engaged and active in civic affairs. A collaboration developed between Health Lifestyle Seniors participants and the young people which saw the seniors sharing their skills such as cooking and sewing, which in turn built intergenerational bonds of appreciation and understanding.

Furthermore, the Council employed a Year 12 student for 12 months in the role of Youth Development Officer. This role takes the lead on designing, delivering, and reporting on the ongoing youth program. The Council hopes to continue offering this position annually and expand it into an internship, covering other aspects of council work and community service to develop youth leadership skills locally.

At the 2020 ABC Heywire Regional Youth Summit in Canberra, 37 young regional Australians developed six exciting ideas to create a better future for young people across Australia. One of those ideas was We Need Farmers – educating and taking younger generations behind the scenes of farming. Timothy, Ebony and Taylor were the Heywire team behind the We Need Farmers project concept. They hoped that the project would increase the level of awareness and understanding that everyone has of Australia’s farmers. And especially, the hard work, time and effort that’s required to produce the produce for our nation.

“Our family farm is a third generation working farm. I love being there. The welcoming smell of the fresh air and the vast open landscapes. However, when my dad was a kid… they had 52 horses. Now there are 2. And over the last 25 years… our sheep numbers have fallen by 70%. We Need Farmers would help educate students on the hard work, time and effort that is required to stock those supermarket shelves and keep you full.”

Ebony, 2020 Heywirer, Western Australia

Gulf Youth in Ag was one of three groups that responded to the We Need Farmers project concept, receiving a grant for $9,979 to deliver a series of Paddock to Plate microdocumentaries.

Gulf Youth in Ag is an initiative of the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group (now Gulf Savannah NRM) that supports youth in the Gulf who are looking towards careers in sustainable agriculture. They support youth to engage with the agriculture industry with projects and networks to support young people.

The grant, which was funded by Friends of FRRR, enabled 12 members of the Gulf Youth in Ag group to complete a three-day intensive Film Making 101 course with a local production company. Students learnt film and sound production, developed storyboards, and the basics of editing.

Participants then formed three groups and chose a local farm to develop a film about the paddock to plate journey of the farm’s produce, to illustrate why we need farmers. They spent two days capturing farm footage and stories and interviewing the farmers.

The Paddock to Plate videos were launched to an audience of more than 70 local farmers, education providers, dignitaries and alumni of the Gulf Youth in Ag group. The finished videos were then distributed to 22 schools in the region and have been shared with the public through the Gulf Youth in Ag’s social media. The videos continue to be utilised in regional schools for use in the technology and science streams of the curriculum. The videos provide a resource for teachers to make the curriculum lessons relatable to the region.  

Click on the image below to watch a short snippet explaining the project and showcasing the three videos.

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:

On Boonwurrung Country

The primarily agriculture-based Bass Coast community is a two-hour drive, south-east of Melbourne. It’s therefore perhaps not surprising that it’s one of the fastest growing areas in regional Victoria. Wonthaggi is the main centre, with a population of around 8,000 in the township and many more spread across neighbouring towns and hamlets. There is a significantly lower level of weekly income than the Victorian median and a lower proportion of school leavers (19%) participate in higher education compared to the state average (36%). Much of the employment is seasonal, part time or casual. This meant that COVID had a severe impact on the area, with many families falling through the gaps of the Government financial assistance packages.

Established in 1910, Wonthaggi Citizens Band (WCB) is managed by a voluntary committee. Its vision is to develop and nurture musicians, enabling them to provide music for the benefit of the Bass Coast community.

With COVID having an impact in an already challenging socio-economic environment, the group wanted to give an affordable music education to young people. Their aim was to introduce them to the wonder and benefits of music and encourage their participation in the band by offering subsidised tuition on brass band instruments from a qualified music teacher. It also sought to strengthen connections by bringing participants together for rehearsals in a supportive environment.

There is much documentation on the educational, cognitive and physical benefits to be received from learning music on a brass instrument, particularly in improving numeracy and literacy skills. Research shows that children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not. Further, with the high focus on childhood obesity, participation in a marching brass band cannot be underestimated for improved physical health. It improves general fitness, flexibility and muscle strength through both breathing techniques and the physical activity of marching – giving an alternate physical activity to young people not interested in sport.

This project also responded to the Bass Coast Shire Youth Action Plan, which identified the lack of options for those not interested in sport and the lack of access to appropriate arts and culture.

The organisation successfully applied to FRRR, through the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants program for $5,000 to help them establish the program and cover the initial tuition fees subsidy.

As a result, 10 young people aged between 10 and 13 had their first introduction to brass band music. These participants received half-hour individual lessons in a variety of brass instruments and then came together to learn how to play together as a band. At the end of this period, eight young people remained engaged with Wonthaggi Citizens Band and have joined the Youth Band to further their music. These young people have formed a strong social connection with one another, which assisted them during the lockdown periods when they kept in touch online. Feedback from both young people and their parents have acknowledged the benefit young people received from their participation when many others were struggling in coping through the impacts of COVID.

This project has also created social connections between generations, as the three bands of Wonthaggi Citizens Band intermingle and participate in joint performances. The music learnings by the young people have been “outstanding”, as has their participation levels. This was in no small way due to the quality of the tutor and her ability to engage with the young people, and with the senior band members who volunteered their time to assist and mentor.

“We’re excited that this project is set to have a lasting legacy, with the band set to undertake a two-year project to work with 20 ‘at risk’ students at a local primary school, using brass band music to re-engage them,” said Sandra Mousey, a volunteer on the project.

“The community is more engaged and participative, students are more engaged in learning and there are generally stronger levels of resilience in the community,” she wrote.

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

Gooniyandi Country

The town of Yiyili is located six hours east of Broome in the heart of the Kimberley region. At the town school, 90% of the time, fewer than one third of students are in attendance. This is often due to young people being impacted by intergenerational trauma and grief, family and domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse, all of which are contributing to poor mental and physical health in the youth of Yiyili.

With engagement in education and work steadily decreasing, last year the Yiyili Aboriginal School decided to start ‘BikeRescue’, a program where young people could attend multiple workshops each week to refurbish and repair second-hand bikes.

Supported with a $25,000 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by John T Reid Charitable Trusts, the training was carried out by Youth Councillors, as well as bicycle maintenance and refurbishment specialists. During the sessions, the students were taught how to adjust gears, fit new brakes, clean and maintain bikes and organise the workshop to function more efficiently. There was also a strong focus on self-management, resilience and self-regulation.

At the end of the program, the students sold the bikes to give them an understanding of how to run a small business. As an added benefit, this meant that there were affordable bikes available to children and adults in the community. The students that participated in the program were also allowed to each keep a bike for themselves.

As a result, the young people were really proud of the bikes they had managed to rescue, and of having invested their time and energy into a productive project. By participating, they also strengthened their community connections and developed more positive attitudes towards school and work.

As an added bonus, community members have been employed by the school on a casual basis to help students run the bicycle repair workshop and the Yiyili community group have secured funding to continue running the program.

Youth mental health is an issue that many organisations and communities across the country work hard to improve. Raising awareness through conversation and proper guidance is crucial to improving and strengthening the mental health of young Australians. In the northwest of Victoria, you’ll find the city of Swan Hill where Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) are doing just that. As the leading advocate for young people aged 12-25 in Victoria, they work closely with young Victorians and the sector to support them and deliver effective advocacy.

Over the past two years, YACVic have hosted the ‘Turning Ideas into Action’ and ‘What Matters’ youth forums across Victoria. Through these forums, young people have identified mental health as a major priority. A report conducted in 2010 (Working Together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principles and Practice) identified young Aboriginal people are at increased risk of experiencing mental illness and are also less likely to engage with mainstream youth mental health services. To improve this situation, YACVic wanted to create a space that would be culturally safe and relevant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

YACVic sought funding to deliver culturally specific Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training program – Deadly Yarning & Learning. The training session would target 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and then ten additional people to work with them on a regular basis as mentors in Swan Hill and Robinvale. The training would be provided by AJ Williams-tchen from Girraway Ganyi to make sure that both the content and delivery is done in a competent and safe manner.

Using a $13,480 In a Good Place (IAGP) grant, supported by CCI Giving, YACVic would partner with local services in the area including Mallee District Aboriginal Services and Robinvale Secondary College to provide the training over two days in each location. The following six months would then involve regular monthly community of practice sessions for the 20 participants to discuss how they have been able to put into practice their training since the initial sessions. The catch ups would also be used as a safe space for debriefing and continued peer learning and development, but also as a way to identify any key issues that had arisen in the community.

After having one training session in each location, YACVic were required to quickly adapt the original plan, with the COVID pandemic and lockdowns causing serious disruptions to the project. To ensure the safety of everyone involved, YACVic decided to postpone the face-to-face youth training component of the project until restrictions eased. They were, however, able to take the mentor training online, which proved to be quite beneficial as they were able to bring five more people on as mentors.

By undertaking the training and participating in the monthly community of practice sessions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people will gain skills in MHFA, connect with each other, relevant workers and service providers and increase their confidence and leadership skills while helping to shape local, culturally safe responses to mental health.

When COVID lockdowns hit, it created issues for Boys to the Bush, a program that provides support for disadvantaged youth from a variety of regional and rural communities in NSW.

Distance learning and daily life disruptions created challenges. Camps were cancelled and the Boys to the Bush program was impacted at a time when disengaged senior school and school leaver youth required work experience and guidance the most.

CEO and Director Adam DeMamiel said restrictions impacted the way Boys to the Bush normally runs its program, which involves “packing lots of kids in utes and minivans to head out to workplaces and farming properties for MENtoring programs.”

A FRRR Westpac Rural Communities Grant of $10,000 helped ensure the boys, aged 10 to 19, could continue to connect and learn life skills, as well as earn accreditation toward employment in their community when restrictions lifted.

The funding enabled them to purchase workshop equipment for applied construction and maintenance projects in Albury, including much needed power tools, a chainsaw and a hydraulic log-splitter. The equipment is used for building furniture, making repairs to infrastructure and furniture and for their woodcutting social enterprise, ‘Tooled for (Winter) fuel’.

The program gives the young people an opportunity to visit properties in the region to cut trees, bringing the wood back to the Boys to the Bush shed to be split and stacked. The wood is both sold to community members as well as donated to people in need. As their skills develop, they can work on other woodworking projects for themselves and gifts.

“These tools have been used regularly by over 200 kids in the past 12 months alone. This is more than double what we expected.

“Tooled for Fuel” significantly boosts our capacity to provide a safe environment for working on applied construction and maintenance projects. We can welcome guest mentors to demonstrate techniques and fundraise for a sustainable future for Boys to the Bush.

The program helps the young people participate and become more engaged in their community, which Mr DeMamiel said can play a major part in turning lives around and has potential to end generational cycles of disadvantage.

“I am most proud of our ability to give back to the community. Instead of us asking the community to support us all the time we are able to in a small way donate things of value back,” Mr DeMamiel said.