Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Freestone is a small, farming community located west of Brisbane, in Queensland. The town has been hard hit by ongoing drought, job losses and declining mental health and wellbeing among community members.

In 2015, the Freestone Memorial Hall began holding ‘Friday friendlies’ to bring community members together for social catch-ups. These events were particularly important as the drought worsened in 2018, with the economy slowing down due to layoffs. As times got tougher, the attendance at the Friday Friendlies increased.

Because of the importance of this social event, the Freestone Memorial Hall wanted to ensure the space was safe, could host the growing number of visitors, and had the updated facilities needed to ensure everyone could come together for a good time.

Freestone Memorial Hall was awarded a $10,000 grant, funded by the Australian Government, and administered by FRRR as part of the Tackling Tough Times Together Grant Program, to upgrade their facilities, install a data projector and integrated PA system and undergo renovations to fix an unsafe floor.

“Since installations and repairs have been completed, we have run five Friday Friendlies with increasing numbers at each Friendly. We are now averaging 50 people per night with a broad cross section of the community coming together to share their experiences of the month. This has proved particularly important as the drought continues,” Simon Goddard, a volunteer committee member for the Hall, told FRRR.
 
“We are even getting people back to the Friday Friendlies as they hear of improved facilities and increasing numbers. It is becoming self-perpetuating and has a very promising future.”

The new projector has been a popular addition for many locals, who enjoy getting together to watch live sports and tournaments. 

The grant also allowed the community group to purchase a fridge, which not only keeps their drinks cold for events, but generates some income for the Hall. This modest but sustainable income makes it possible for the community to host bigger and better events together. So far, the Friday Friendlies continues to be a success for the Freestone community, with many looking forward to attending the gathering every week.

In our fourth and final podcast in this series, journalist Cameron Wilson discovers that a shared interest in conservation and environment can be a potent driver of social cohesion. We discover how botanical art has been an unlikely catalyst for an environmental project in outback Queensland and discuss the reasons why these projects break down isolation.

Speaking with botanical artist Jenny Mace and FRRR and AEGN Board member Annie Grindrod, we learn the value of people getting involved in projects that take into consideration the wider environment, and how this can be something that relieves the pressure of land owners during tough times.

The National Remote Indigenous Media Festival is First Nations Media Australia’s major industry event celebrating achievements and supporting the training of the remote Indigenous media sector. Each year the festival location alternates between remote desert and coastal communities to make it as accessible and relevant for its participants as possible. With the annual change in locations comes the need to source funding.

First Nations Media Australia, formerly known as the Indigenous Remote Communications Association is the peak body representing and supporting the media and communications needs of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The organisation advocates for community-focused broadcasting, providing tools, networks and resources to support Indigenous media organisations and workers to upskill and build their capacity.

First Nations Media Australia secured $5,000 from FRRR’s Small Grants for Rural Communities program, funded by The Pratt Foundation, to purchase iPads, mobile phones and software to help deliver one of the 2017 festival’s key workshops, Working with Mobile Devices.

More than 100 remote Indigenous media outlets and industry partners from across Australia gathered in the community of Irrunytju (Wingellina) on Ngaanyatjarra country – about 1,700 kilometres north east of Perth near the borders of Western Australia and South Australia for an action-packed week-long industry event.

The festival provided an opportunity for delegates to work together toward innovative solutions for the challenges faced by the remote media sector, connecting people, places and stories across the country to strengthen culture, identity, and well-being. It involved industry forums and skills development workshops led by inspiring trainers and facilitators, and in the evenings, time was spent enjoying, acknowledging and celebrating local culture and talent, including movies, music and award presentations.

Some great work was produced during the workshop, including a high-quality animation entitled 7 Sisters, which was created by trainees and showcased at the final day’s workshop presentations to much acclaim by delegates. In most cases, participants were able to work independently after the initial training.

This small grant helped more than 100 people from remote Indigenous communities and media organisations to gain meaningful training and industry knowledge from experienced trainers and Indigenous leaders. Participants left inspired, enthused and more confident about their work in the sector.

Examples of completed work can be viewed on https://firstnationsmedia.org.au/.