Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

In 2013, the Mirboo North Community Bank brought the district and surrounds together to identify and prioritise the region’s future recovery and resilience activities following the 2009 Victorian bushfires. From the meeting, what became apparent was the gap in local education and training to support and engage the community in gaining practical skills and knowledge that would increase local capacity.

The Boolarra Community Development Group help promote the social, economic and environmental development of Boolarra and surrounds, taking lead from the community. They work as a liaison between local and state government departments, not-for-profits and community groups to achieve positive outcomes for the region.

They had attended the community meeting in Mirboo and recognised the opportunity to support their region to fill this training and education gap. Reaching out to the Boolarra community they identified a series of courses that would be in demand including event management, safe food handling, chainsaw training, barista training, small motor training, environmental gardening and first aid training courses.

Using a $19,950 grant from FRRR’s Grants for Resilience & Wellness grant program, funded by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund, the Boolarra Community Development Group ran nine courses over a year. The Development Group works with local community groups to actively encourage members to participate in the training course. They also had a focus on increasing female participation, which was also identified as a community priority during their consultation.

In total, the courses attracted over 90 participants which was well above the expected target and an impressive feat for a small rural community. Each course was met with lots of positive feedback about the content and delivery of the training sessions.

The district is now benefiting from the breadth of skills and abilities available within the community, reducing the need for outsourcing and supporting the vitality of the region. Many participants flagged that they are interested in the potential for more workshops and training courses to run in the future.

Over the years, Fundraising Accounts, formerly known as Donation Accounts, have helped many groups in rural and regional Australia with their work in natural disaster recovery, especially where they are large and daunting projects.

One such group, which we profiled in our last Annual Review, is BlazeAid. They coordinate the efforts of volunteers to support farmers and residents impacted by natural disasters. Not only do they help to build fences and repair infrastructure, but they also restore the spirits of natural disaster survivors who may have lost family and friends, pets, stock, homes and property.

The donation account helps them raise funds to do this work, by providing tax deductible status to their donors.

BlazeAid’s remarkable achievements

Since we published the Annual Review, we’ve received an update from BlazeAid, with some truly remarkable statistics about what they achieved in 2014:

  • 1,397 volunteers contributed 14,671 volunteer days building and repairing fences and stock yards, cleaning and painting homes and shearers’ quarters, carpentry, mechanical and whitegood repairs, caretaking and helping with childcare and home education.
  • Assisted 513 properties across Victoria, South Australia and Queensland fire and drought affected areas.
  • More than 50% of their operational expenses relate to catering and fuel costs, a significant portion of which is in relation to their Drought Relief work in Queensland, where volunteers travelled long distances, and were self-sufficient with meals.
Tax deductible status attracts donors

We wanted to share this story to highlight to other groups that may be faced with recovering from some of the recent natural disasters across the country that a Fundraising Account could make a difference to your ability to fundraise to get things back up and running.

For donors, it’s also a great way to channel your support directly to areas in need, while also receiving the tax deduction.

The Callignee Community Hall is now benefitting from the installation of a number of cupboards that have improved the overall utility of the available storage space in the Callignee Hall, thanks to a dedicated and determined group of women.

The Callignee Stitch & Chat group was formed in May 2009 as a response to a need for community groups to provide opportunities for local women to gather together after the bushfires. It created a socially and emotionally supportive environment where women could share experiences while participating in craftwork. Stitch & Chat now has a day group with 18 regular attendees and an evening group with 10, and numbers are still increasing.

Stitch & Chat also functions as a forwarding service for items of community interest, government and other assistance programs, and other items of interest to the community. It is a conduit for discussion of local issues and for providing feedback to government authorities. Another craft group concentrating on card making has also grown from the group. At the present time the group is run by a Volunteer Coordinator and plans to become incorporated in the next 12 months to ensure its sustainability.

A Victorian Bushfire Regional Donation Account was set up in 2009 by Rotary International using FRRR’s DGR status, and funding of $5000 was granted to the Callignee Community Hall Committee Inc in May 2012 to support the Callignee Stitch & Chat group to purchase five two-door and one single door freestanding cupboard units and multiple storage containers. The cupboards have shelving and divisions that have allowed the group to organise their equipment, which they have worked together to sort, categorise and label to ensure it is now easily located and neatly stored. Their equipment, which includes books, magazines, patterns, patchwork and embroidery supplies, sewing machines and overlockers, was previously stored in a communal area in 50 litre plastic tubs stacked five high, creating quite a safety hazard.

With materials now sorted and readily accessible, the group has increased productivity and successfully completed a number of community projects including:

  • 12 quilts for donation to charity and support groups;
  • 12 knitted shawls donated to aged care facilities in the region;
  • 20 knitted beanies for inclusion in Police ‘comfort bags’ for presentation to children who have been removed from their family environment for various reasons;
  • 13 patchwork bags presented to victims of the Queensland floods; and
  • Work is underway on oven mitts for the victims of the Tasmanian fires.

​With their materials and equipment organised and easily accessible, the group can now focus on their crafty productivity.