Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The challenge of attracting volunteers to support charitable organisations serving the community is universal, but exacerbated further in remote communities where the potential pool from which to recruit helpers is that much smaller to start with.

This was the challenge NT Friendship & Support Inc (NTSF) faced when they received a grant from FRRR to help them with their volunteer recruitment drive. The group’s mission is to provide professional care and promote an accessible, inclusive and supportive community.

The organisation has a waiting list of vulnerable Katherine region seniors seeking to be paired with a volunteer to assist them, from attending medical appointments and support services, to simply joining them for a cup of tea and a chat. Community members access the service via a referral from a regional assessment team and to be eligible must be 65 year or older, or 45 years or older for Indigenous community members.

Katherine currently has three aged care facilities, all of which are at capacity, with the only other alternative residential aged care facility located 330 km away in Darwin. NTFS has 25 people on the waiting list, five of whom are a high priority for the service. These identified seniors are at risk of isolation and loss of independence. Research suggests that, whenever possible, it is important that people have the opportunity to remain in their communities, connected to country, and independent as long as possible.

NTFS had hoped to recruit and train ten new volunteers, and used the $4,090 grant from FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities program, funded by The Yulgilbar Foundation, to run an advertising campaign to increase their volunteer numbers. Katherine has a transient population which includes the RAAF base at Tindal, and the town relies on families from Tindal to be able to fill vacancies of volunteer positions.

Sadly, the recruitment drive wasn’t nearly as successful as they were hoping, due largely in part to the low turnover of families at Tindal. Of the initial 13 people who registered their interest in volunteering with NTFS, for various reasons, this translated into only two new volunteers.

Part of the grant was supposed to cover the cost of National Police clearance, Ochre Card Cultural training and First Aid certification for up to ten people (the magic number they were hoping to recruit). NTFS found themselves with surplus funds, so after seeking approval for a variation to their grant agreement, they applied the funding to another of their initiatives, the Seniors Community Bus, to ensure Seniors are supported through the COVID-19 crisis.

With no public transport available in Katherine, this service enables the organisation to support Seniors in getting to and from local services and various medical appointments, unhindered by the cost of high fees on taxis when they are available. The bus adheres to social distancing requirements (5 passengers as a maximum in a 14 seater bus), with rigorous hygiene and disinfection control measures in place.

So while the NTFS team and volunteers are stretched to their limits, they continue to provide valuable and necessary services to marginalised and vulnerable members of their community.

A Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant from FRRR, funded with the support of the John T Reid Charitable Trusts, helped enhance the availability of fresh fruit, as well as create more inviting, welcoming and cool streets in the remote Indigenous communities of Peppimenarti and Nganmarriyanga in the Northern Territory.

Home to the Rakpeppimenarti people, the region is inaccessible for five months every year due to annual flooding, and faces extremely high infrastructure costs due to geographic scale and terrain. It was independently measured to be the most disadvantaged in the Northern Territory, and the second most disadvantaged in Australia.

The West Daly Regional Council provides basic housing maintenance and essential municipal services to 13 homelands across 14,070 km2. While they work hard to provide high quality services to support the community, operating in a remote service delivery environment with limited financial resources is a challenge. However, they’ve identified that working with partners to improve service delivery and the quality of life for people in the West Daly region presents great opportunities.

In such extremely remote communities, food security is paramount – many of the homeland communities do not even have a shop and must travel vast distances for basic supplies. Fruit trees are a great resource in any community, as they contribute to support lifelong learning and education from Elders to young children, and promote individual and community health benefits in the form of delicious natural fruits straight from the tree, while enhancing and expanding the communities’ natural food resources.

They developed a project designed to engage community members in growing food and also create shady areas on the two homelands. In total, around 160 fruit trees and 45 shade trees were planted in designated public spaces near parks, ovals, and the local schools. The fruit trees selected included: lilly pillies, medlars, mulberries, custard apples, jaboticas, guavas, mangos and soursops. Shade trees included: native hibiscus, red coondoo, bloodwood and gum trees.

The Council used their $4,946 SRC grant to cover the costs of fruit trees and propagation powder, as well as contribute to freight – which accounted for more than 40% of the total cost of the project.

In Peppimenarti, the tree planting was done in collaboration with Peppimenarti School. About 50 trees were planted around the community with the assistance of Council Staff, CDP, Rangers, community students and teachers, totalling approximately 50 participants. A community barbeque was held after the tree planting to thank the participants for their support on this meaningful community project.

The Nganmarriyanga tree planting day was held in late December and was also a great success, with approximately 50 local men, women and children attending the activity. Trees were also provided to the residents of surrounding homelands such as Merrepen, Nemarluk, Nama and Wudapuli. 

The Council provided significant in-kind support via staff labour and travel costs, and also purchased hormone rooting powder, so that cuttings can be taken which will allow further plantings. They have also assumed responsibility for ongoing plant maintenance to ensure the sustainability of the project.

Through this project, community members will gain access to healthy food grown locally, experience increased food security, and improved local plant knowledge. Further, the engagement will bring a positive impact to community spirit and local shade amenity.

“West Daly Regional Council would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and its Donor Partner – John T Reid Charitable Trusts for the grant funding for our tree planting in Nganmarriyanga and Peppimenarti; a meaningful project that highly benefits our Indigenous Australians in our remote communities.”

Kristine Matienzo, Grants Manager, West Daly Regional Council