Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

FRRR and community groups help young people impacted by bushfires

More than 5,400 students and families in places affected by the Black Summer bushfires are being given a helping hand at the start the new school year, thanks to the generosity of donors from across Australia.

FRRR and community groups help young people impacted by bushfires

Funded through FRRR’s Back to School (BTS) program, students will be able to redeem the $50 gift vouchers for essential school items such as uniforms, school bags or stationery. So far this year, vouchers valued at more than $250,000 have been distributed to families impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires.

FRRR partners with local community groups and Community Foundations who discretely distribute the vouchers to families in need. This means parents don’t have to apply for them but still get the support they need.

The vouchers are funded by FRRR and its donor partners, which include News Corp, Australia Post, Fire Fight Australia concert, Portland House Foundation, UNICEF Australia, J & M Nolan Family Trust, Bertalli Family Foundation, June Canavan Foundation, and Origin Energy Foundation, as well as individual donors.

Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, said that for these students and their families, getting back to school is an important part of the recovery journey.

“As families continue to navigate their recovery journey after the bushfires, they are also dealing with the additional challenges caused by the pandemic.

“These vouchers are a small way of helping students and families to have one less thing to worry about – whether they cover the cost of a pair of school shoes, a couple of school jumpers, or even a sleeping bag that a child can use for school camp,” Ms Egleton explained.

Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) is one of the Community Foundations helping to distribute the vouchers in their region. NRCF Executive Officer, Emily Berry, said that the vouchers are for purchasing items that students may have lost in the fires and have never been able to replace due to financial difficulties.

“We hope these vouchers support inclusion for the students, helping them fit into their school environment and go on to realise their potential, instead of feeling different, or excluded because they are unable to purchase school essentials,” Ms Berry said.

As part of the BTS program, a further 30 Community Foundations and locally-based community groups are helping to distribute 7,000 BTS vouchers to students and families in rural regions not affected by the 2019-20 bushfires.

In total, more than $590,000 has been distributed in vouchers to students and families across Australia through the BTS program this year.

“Last year was tough for everyone, especially for those living in the bush. Fifty dollars may not seem much, but for these families it can help to alleviate the pressure they face at the start of a new school year,” Ms Egleton said.

From our previous experience in supporting disaster-affected communities, we know that young people have been significantly affected by the fires, and it can take families a long time to get back on their feet again. FRRR is conducting another dedicated round of the Back to School program, which will provide vouchers in time for winter uniform and shoes. Applications are open now.

Vouchers were awarded to support the following Local Government Areas:

Bushfire Recovery stream
Alpine (S)Lismore (C)
Bega Valley (A)Richmond Valley (A)
Central Coast (C) (NSW)Snowy Monaro Regional (A)
Clarence Valley (A)Snowy Valleys (A)
East Gippsland (S)Towong (S)
Greater Hume Shire (A)Wingecarribee (A)
Kyogle (A)Yorke Peninsula (DC)
General stream
Albury (C)Cleve (DC)Mid Murray (DC)Streaky Bay (DC)
Alexandrina (DC)Cloncurry (S)Mid-Coast (A)Sunshine Coast (R)
Alice Springs (T)Cowra (A)Moorabool (S)Tatiara (DC)
Ballarat (C)Elliston (DC)Mount Gambier (C)Toowoomba (R)
Ballina (A)Federation (A)Mount Isa (C)Tumby Bay (DC)
Barkly (R)Franklin Harbour (DC)Naracoorte and Lucindale (DC)Tweed (A)
Barossa (DC)Golden Plains (S)Northern Grampians (S)Victor Harbor (C)
Bass Coast (S)Grant (DC)Peterborough (DC)Victoria Daly (R)
Baw Baw (S)Hepburn (S)Port Augusta (C)Wagga Wagga (C)
Benalla (RC)Hinchinbrook (S)Port Lincoln (C)Wangaratta (RC)
Boulia (S)Indigo (S)Port Pirie City and Dists (M)Wattle Range (DC)
Broken Hill (C)Kimba (DC)Pyrenees, VicWhyalla (C)
Buloke (S)Kingston (DC) (SA)Richmond (S)Wodonga (C)
Byron (A)Kyogle (A)Robe (DC)Wudinna (DC)
Campaspe (S)Latrobe (C) (Vic.)Roper Gulf (R)Yankalilla (DC)
Ceduna (DC)Light (RegC)South Gippsland (S)Yorke Peninsula (DC)
Central Darling (A)Lower Eyre Peninsula (DC)Strathbogie (S)

Bendigo, 7 February 2018: More than $565,000 is being distributed via this year’s FRRR Back to School program, helping rural children and their families to access quality educational experiences. In total, more than 11,000 country children will receive support.

FRRR’s Back to School program provides $50 vouchers that are redeemable at either Target or select local retailers for items necessary to start the school year. They are distributed via community groups that understand their community’s needs and those who most need assistance. This way, families in need receive invaluable support, without having to apply for it.

FRRR’s CEO, Natalie Egleton, said that she is incredibly proud to be able to facilitate a program that helps to change the lives and enhance educational outcomes of school kids in rural Australia.

“The Back to School program means that students and their families in rural and regional Australia who are doing it tough have what they need to start the school year on a positive note. Simply having a uniform that fits, new stationery or a new lunch box for school, just like everyone else, can be the catalyst to get kids engaged again in their schooling. It means they fit in and don’t stand out for the wrong reasons, so they can get on with learning.

“FRRR’s Back to School program has a number of generous donors, including The Origin Foundation, Audi Foundation, Aurizon Community Giving Fund and Scenic World, a number of Community Foundations, as well as many private and individual donors. Without them, this program would not reach those people who really need it. We greatly appreciate their support, as the vouchers make a huge difference.”

Feedback from past recipients confirms that having the right equipment and school uniform gives children a vital confidence boost when they walk in the school gate at the start of the school year.

A Community Foundation in Western Australia that helped distribute previous Back to School vouchers to local schools said the program immensely improved student health and wellbeing. Having the “gear” like their peers enabled these young people to fit in and participate fully.

In another example, a student in Victoria who displayed a talent for cross country running used the voucher to replace his old shoes, which were barely holding together. He went on to perform a personal best in his event and moved up to the next level. The school remarked that this did wonders for his self-esteem which transferred into other curriculum areas.

Chris Hogan is the primary school principal at Deniliquin North Public School. Deni, as the locals refer to it, is a rural town in NSW, 725 km from Sydney with a population just less than 7,500. It is the heart of an agricultural region, largely producing rice and wool, and has suffered significant periods of drought over the last decade.

Chris was happy that Deni North could participate in the 2014 BTS program and distributed 29 vouchers to families in high need that attended his school. “A $50 voucher goes a long way to families that are struggling to put food on the table, let alone buy new school clothes and stationery,” he told us.

“It is a tough reality that kids who ‘standout’ often get picked on at school. All teachers do their best to stop this from happening and talk to students about the need to show empathy, but we can’t be everywhere all the time. Simply having a uniform that fits and shoes without holes can give kids the confidence to participate and learn at school, as well as stand up for themselves,” Chris explained.

Heartfelt thanks

The feedback from the parents who received the vouchers was overwhelmingly positive. It reflects that their needs vary considerably:

  • “Our family lost our home and all belongings due to a house fire. The $50 voucher helped us out greatly at this terrible time. We used it to help purchase school shoes and a sports uniform for our daughter. $50 may not seem like much to some people, but in times of need it can feel like $500. What a great program.”
  • “The voucher helped us to buy things for the kids because treatment for breast cancer is very expensive. Thank you so much, it is much appreciated.”
  • “The voucher was very helpful and timely for our family. It was used to buy a school uniform and shoes that we could not afford. It was very much appreciated.”
  • “Helped to buy skivvy’s for the winter uniform and pencils for the class room. Thank you FRRR and North School.”

The final line of Chris’ report to us was: “As you can clearly see, the $50 vouchers really do make a difference!”

Please donate!

You can help hundreds of other students and families just like these. Even $50 would make a big difference. Donations are tax deductible and 100% of the funds donated go toward this program.