Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The regional town of Emerald, situated in the Central Highlands Region of Queensland, is having a tough time. The area is experiencing a severe drought, which is having a significant impact on the town’s economy. However, there is a potential bright light for both locals and tourists in the new Emerald Arts, Culture and Technology Precinct (ACTP).

The precinct includes the regional library, art gallery, maker space, pottery, art pods and more. As part of the precinct, the Central Highlands Science Centre (CHSC) saw an opportunity to create a first-class science discovery and learning experience for kids in the local area, and tourists from out of town looking for a fun family activity. With the town experiencing a tough drought, keeping tourism going is important as it gives the town a much-needed boost to their economy.

A $18,700 grant from the Australian Government through our TTTT program meant that the organisers of the centre could work together with key community and tourism groups and conduct a feasibility study into the potential of establishing the centre as part of the Emerald ACTP. The feasibility study investigated the opportunities and measure of success or failure of the Centre to drive an economic benefit for CHSC and the wider region.

The project was found to be feasible, and the CHSC received further funding to help with their relocation costs. While the shift has been put on hold due to COVID-19, the bigger premises mean that the CHSC has been able to stay open and continue providing education opportunities and a tourist attraction for visitors from outside of town. It is excellent to see this project making such a big difference to the long-term sustainability of the centre.

Students in a classroom with their teacher learning about science.

Gai Sypher, who is the Coordinator of the CHSC, said of the project; “Drought is far reaching across Australia and the recent rain has only given hope. Drought is part of the Australian landscape. We need to invest in our rural communities to attract visitor who will spend money to boost our rural economy.”

“Thank you for this wonderful opportunity that has funded the feasibility study. We have actioned recommendations from the study and are scheduled for a relocation in June.”

Gai Sypher – CHSC Coordinator

Red Ridge Interior, a creative community organisation that provides opportunities for learning, connection and community in Queensland’s Central West, knows how hard it can be to tackle tough times. After being drought declared for six years, the townships of Winton, Longreach, Barcaldine and Blackall really needed a boost.

With the help of a $60,000 grant from the Tim Fairfax Foundation, and community partnerships with Central West Suicide Network, Winton Neighbourhood Centre, Blackall-Tambo Neighbourhood Centre, Longreach Art and Craft Centre, Royal Flying Doctor Service, Central West Hospital and Health Service, Central West Aboriginal Corporation and Queensland Health, Red Ridge Interior was able to hold 46 workshops and three community events in these drought-stricken areas.

Each town engaged in community wearable art workshops to make costumes that celebrated the unique materials, textures and landscape of their towns. A total of 33 costumes were created, with the collection being named ‘Beauty Within the Drought.’ These costumes were then worn by performers during three performances to mark the end of the project.

People were also given the opportunity to travel to Barcaldine to participate in make-up artistry workshops, meaning that performers also had access to local makeup artists. A dance troupe of 25 young people also participated in the performance and showcase of the costume collection.

Within every workshop, layers of physical relaxation, self-care and well-being activities were integrated for participants. These layers of integrated care were individually tailored to meet the needs of the local community. A combination of creative skills development, physical health and emotional wellbeing were important outcomes.

Events were incredibly well received by the community and the costume collection has gained ongoing and widespread interest, with a number of groups and gallery spaces enquiring about exhibiting them.

Louise Campbell, manager of the project, told FRRR this was such an amazing project that would not have achieved what it did without the FRRR grant and partner donor Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.

“The grant enabled us to deliver the best project possible that exceeded all expectations. An exhibition of garments is now hosted in the Grassland Gallery in Tambo and expected to travel across the region. Additional communities have expressed an interest in being involved in future projects of this nature.”

Farmers for Climate Action know that the winds of change are upon farming in Australia – and want to do something about it.

Sid Plant is a fifth-generation cattle farmer in Darling Downs, Qld. It is an old family business and Sid intends to keep it that way for as long as possible.

Over the past five generations a lot has changed for farmers. There are the obvious things – the internet, better farming technology etc. But there is also climate change. Sid knows that if his father had done things exactly the same as his grandfather, and he had done the same as his great grandfather, they would no longer be in the cattle farming business. Science, technology and being open to new ways of doing things is essential. Which is why Sid is a passionate member of Farmers for Climate Action. He has studied climate change for many years so that he can engage with other Australian farmers about it – explaining to them the impacts on agriculture and their livelihoods whenever the chance arises.

Farmers for Climate Action is a not for profit organisation that works with farmers, scientists and other experts to find ways to make farming more sustainable in a world where climate change is having an impact on Australia’s agricultural industries.

FRRR’s Not-for-profit Fundraising account helps FCA achieve it’s goals

The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal and FCA have entered into a partnership to establish a not-for-profit fundraising account, for people who wish to donate to FRRR, obtain a tax deduction, and indicate that their preference is that their donation supports Farmers for Climate Action. This account is primarily concerned with the ‘scale up’ of Farmers for Climate Action, such as expanding their operations around Australia, hosting educational events, running fellowship programs, and spreading the word to ensure that Australian farmers can connect with experts and advocate for change to create sustainable farming practices that will serve Australians well for many years to come.

In the first seven months since commencing the partnership, FRRR granted out over $250,000 to FCA. FCA have encouraged donors to donate to FRRR, and have received hundreds of donations – ranging in size from $5.00 to large philanthropic sums. FCA CEO Verity Morgan-Schmidt says ‘without the support of FRRR through its Not-for-Profit fundraising account, we would not have been able to receive the same scale of funds from large philanthropic donors [who must give to a DGR-1 organisation] as we have. Being able to direct our supporters to donate to FRRR to receive a tax deductible receipt has widened our pool of prospective supporters.’

Through Farmers for Climate Action, Sid and his family have worked with leading scientists and researchers to pioneer new sustainable research practices to cope with climate change in their area. They have also assisted with revealing how to best apply climate science and forecasting to agricultural planning and risk management.

Farmers for Climate Action works across rural Australia to put those on the frontline of climate change front and centre in creating climate solutions. We’re building the capacity of farmers across Australia to understand and manage climate risks, transform our energy systems, restore carbon in natural and farming landscapes and adopt climate smart agriculture farming practices.

Recently, they raised money to send two young Australian farmers to a climate conference in Paris. Anika and Joshua travelled to Europe so they could learn about sustainable farming efforts around the world and bring the knowledge back to Australia’s farming community.

Without this work, farming in Australia is at serious risk. Climate change poses a huge threat to how our farmers and our farming communities operate, continue to support themselves, and continue to provide Australians with fresh produce.

Donate to Farmers for Climate Action.

Image credit: SBS (

In 2012 the Lockhart River community voiced a need for male health initiatives and thanks to funding from FRRR’s Small Grants for Small Rural Communities program the Lockhart River Men’s Cooking Program was born. Lockhart River is a remote Aboriginal community located on the east coast of Cape York, approximately 800km from Cairns (a 12 hour drive on primarily dirt roads), with a population of 542.

The grant of $2,243 provided much needed cooking equipment, nutrition education resources, promotional materials and healthy food to cover the cost of the cooking sessions. The program was a joint project between Apunipima – Cape York Health Council and Disability Services Queensland and was delivered by Apunipima Dietitian Rob Tyson.

Poor nutrition contributes to the high rates of chronic disease amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The program created an opportunity for disengaged men and those with disabilities to take part in regular healthy cooking and nutrition sessions at the Lockhart River men’s shelter.

The program focused on developing the participant’s skills and knowledge in preparing economical and nutritious meals using ingredients available from the Lockhart River retail store. Throughout 2012-2013 the men’s skills and confidence with preparing and cooking meals improved and the feedback about the program was very positive. 

Some quotes from the 2012-2013 participants.

“It was wonderful, I appreciated it and everyone who went there learnt something.”

“It was good and I will keep coming along.”

The success of the program will see 2013 sessions held during the Men’s Group meetings in order to encourage more men to attend the sessions.    

Given the positive feedback and good results of the program Apunipima – Cape York Health Council will continue to support the program throughout 2013-14.