From the Chairman
2015 marks the 15th anniversary of granting by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR).
FRRR was formed with the objective of ensuring that those living outside the major capitals were not forgotten in broad national initiatives but were helped to help themselves. With the support of federal and state governments, donors and program partners, FRRR has distributed nearly $60 million to more than 7,400 community groups to date.
The concept and tax status are important but this remarkable record has been possible only because of the extraordinarily generous support of the Sidney Myer Fund, the Pratt Foundation, ANZ Trustees, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, the McCusker Charitable Foundation, the John T. Reid Charitable Trusts, the Qantas Foundation and many other Foundations, Trusts and individual donors.
Local leaders are adept at building vibrant, sustainable communities but sometimes they need a little help. That is the role of FRRR - to serve as facilitator, using its own funds to generate philanthropic support to help fill the gaps where local leaders tell us they need it.
Small Grants for Rural Communities (SGRC) is the longest running and most popular program, with funds often going to renew local facilities or to a project that gives a community a sense of identity.
The initiative for some of FRRR’s other long-running programs such as Back to School, has been from donors themselves. This was seen as a way to help children go to school and originated with the Sidney Myer Fund. It is still going strong and has now supported more than 122,000 students.
FRRR continues to respond to adverse issues affecting rural, regional and remote Australia including medium to long-term help to offset the impact of natural disasters. This financial year with the generous support of Tim Fairfax AC and Gina, the family of Bails Myer AC and Sarah and other donors, the Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) program was devised to help Queensland and New South Wales communities severely affected by their protracted and devastating drought. As you will read later in this report, support for natural disaster recovery – or survival – represented 17% of all FRRR grants this year.
Looking to the future, FRRR has a positive strategy to increase our granting, thanks in no small part to the efforts of our departing CEO, Alexandra Gartmann, and her very capable and dedicated staff. Alexandra has made a major personal contribution to the effectiveness of FRRR and will be missed.
I also acknowledge the significant voluntary contributions of my fellow Directors. In addition to their normal responsibilities, they serve on Board sub-committees and program assessment committees and so keep in touch with their governance obligations as well as program delivery in a most commendable way.
I also record my appreciation for the efforts of all those individuals who assist the board in assessing grants, lending their expertise in particular areas to ensure we make fair and balanced decisions.
I pay tribute too, to all the local leaders who have delivered on the more than 7,400 projects FRRR has funded to date - the community members who serve voluntarily and tirelessly on not-for-profit organisations across the country. As some of the project snapshots in this report attest, their efforts are critical to building stronger, more vibrant, rural, regional and remote communities.
In this, FRRR is proud to play a small part.
Rt Hon Ian Sinclair AC
A message from the CEO
This has been a remarkable year. We have reached many milestones but importantly, we have enabled more groups across rural, regional and remote Australia to achieve their own goals for the betterment of their communities.
We awarded a record $8.4m (up from $6.4m in 2013/14), and supported 757 community projects. It was also another bumper year for the Back to School program, with 14,828 students receiving vouchers.
None of this would have been possible without our donor partners’ ongoing contributions and commitment. I thank all our donors – large and small – for your support. Every contribution makes a real difference to those living and working in communities outside the capital cities.
It takes hard work and persistence, but local leaders are best-placed to galvanise a small community around an issue, identify the solution and then secure funding to implement it. This belief guides our grant making. This year, we invested considerably in enhancing these local leadership skills, through the Creating Inspiring Rural Community Leadership and Engagement (CIRCLE) program. Through webinars and videos, as well as grants, we helped to grow local capacity.
We developed several new programs, including three designed to address youth disengagement, volunteer fatigue and organisational capability in communities affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. We are also working on a national program around Community Preparedness and Resilience.
An area of major focus this year was a new program targeting drought-affected communities. Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) was funded initially by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation and Yulgilbar Foundation, who recognised the importance of mental health, community connections and support during extended drought periods.
Family violence and youth disengagement were the focus of a new program in three NSW communities, called Innovation for Community Impact (I4CI). 2014/15 also saw the launch of the Fast-Track Ag Innovation program, in partnership with the William Buckland Foundation, to help primary producers adopt new technologies and practices and solve their greatest production challenges. We also formed a new partnership with the Monsanto Fund, providing small grants to cotton growing communities.
It is fitting that in our 15th year, we also partnered with Philanthropy Australia to launch Community Philanthropy Partnerships Week (CPPW), an initiative supported through the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership.
Building partnerships takes time and effort, but FRRR has solid foundations and committed partners, so communities will be able to continue the great work that they do for years to come.
I acknowledge our patrons, Baillieu Myer AC, Lady Southey AC and John Anderson AO and the support, guidance and generosity of the long-serving FRRR Board. I thank them all for their support, especially Ian Sinclair AC who has been a great source of advice and counsel.
This is my last report as CEO and looking back over the last year, I am immensely proud of what we achieved, especially considering we had temporary premises for several months due to our office flood. This challenged our operations significantly but each member of the team stepped up and I thank them for their loyalty, dedication and commitment to supporting rural communities.
I am humbled by all the people across rural, regional and remote Australia seeking to improve their community. I shall always have a strong bond with FRRR and I am pleased to be able to leave it in a strong position, so that it can continue to connect rural Australia and philanthropy for at least another fifteen years.