Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

The impact of investing in resilience

Hovells Creek Landcare (HCL), NSW received an FRRR grant to support a series of workshops to increase land management knowledge and strategies, at the same time as strengthening community and social connections and wellbeing.

When drought strikes, the toll of the dry land can have an overwhelming impact on a farmer’s livelihood, family and community.

The group has been running workshops on drought and land, and resource management with expert speakers, using a $19,554 Tackling Tough Times Together grant received in the thick of the drought.

These workshops provided Landcare members with the latest thinking and resources for drought management, as well as a social interaction opportunity. They aimed to support farmers and community members to feel that they are doing their best for their livestock, their landscape, their families and themselves – to plan for the future, as much as the present.

To assist with volunteer fatigue impacting the HCL during the demanding drought, the grant also helped to fund a Coordinator to manage the workshops. The Coordinator organised expert speakers, promoted the events and arranged the venues and catering. The grant also funded any expert guest fees and travel expenses.

Experts spoke on topics ranging from managing mental health, to soil and moisture monitoring, and livestock feeding strategies.

Around 50 to 70 people participated, including a mix of Landcare members and local landholders, but with sessions shared online and in newsletters and local media, the insights were shared widely. The participants varied in terms of their level of knowledge and understanding of climate change and its impacts. They all had differing community and individual pressures as a result of the ongoing drought, and were presented with a suite of options to help them respond.

According to one of the former committee members, the workshops had the following impacts on participants: an increase in wellbeing, knowledge and capacity – with much greater awareness of climate change scenarios and importantly the likely local impacts. They learnt about tools, technologies and improved land management practices to effectively, sustainably and productively manage natural resources and adapt to significant changes in climate.

As a result of FRRR’s support for the project, funded by the Stockland CARE Foundation, HCL was able to secure more funding for a soil moisture probe in the Valley to enable producers to access real time moisture levels, rainfall and soil temperature data. This probe will help with plant management and maximise growth opportunities both now and into the future.

The Glen Innes Severn LGA in the New England region of NSW experienced limited rainfall for several years, culminating in severe drought conditions in 2019, and was consequently impacted by the Black Summer bushfires. One local organisation that has been supporting landholders and the community to manage and maintain the natural resource base of the Glen Innes region for the past 31 year is the Glen Innes Natural Resources Advisory Committee (GLENRAC). 

They received a $19,980 grant funded by the Westpac Group from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program to build skills, knowledge and confidence of the Glen Innes farming community through a series of 12 workshops focusing on drought management techniques, natural resources and sustainable agriculture and recovery. The funding was used to cover the costs of advertising, catering, venue hire, and presenters’ fees and travelling expenses.

Fittingly, the first GLENRAC Focus Event was on the hot topic of water management. Some of the other topics in the series included Restoring Earth, Getting through the Dry, Demystifying Carbon, Focus on Renewables and a Farmer Update. Two other events that were well-attended were the Fit Farmers session, and Rural Women’s Day, both attracting around 45 people.

The workshops also provided a forum for peer support and community connection to assist people with drought recovery, helping to reduce the social isolation that often occurs for landholders who are facing dry and challenging situations, and increasing the connection between those facing similar conditions. In all, a total of 424 people participated in the workshops which were held over an 18-month period from February 2019 to July 2020.

Kylie Falconer, GLENRAC’s CEO said, “These events became important opportunities for our local farmers to connect with other people. Many were busy hand feeding, carting water and dealing with the other unanticipated problems from drought, for example machinery break downs, sourcing feed, or renegotiating finance with banks. People really needed an organised forum to come together, to find out new information on drought matters or other emerging issues such as carbon farming and renewable energy.”

Like many other organisations, GLENRAC demonstrated great agility and flexibility when they had to convert their final three workshops into online webinars due to COVID-19 restrictions – a first for the organisation, and one that was received well by the participants.

“I am most proud of the fact that GLENRAC delivered these 12 events to our community when they needed the information and social connections the most. We were able to help when it mattered most, and feedback from participants has been wonderfully appreciative.”

Kylie Falconer, CEO, GLENRAC Inc.

The Next Economy (TNE) was established in March 2018 to support communities struggling with change to build regional economies that are good for both people and planet. 

Since then, TNE has worked with government, industry and community groups in key regional areas to identify opportunities to explore the emerging economic opportunities in acting on climate change by reducing and absorbing carbon emissions across all sectors, and in regenerating land and water resources. 

One of the charitable purposes under TNE’s ACNC registration is the advancement of education. They work in the areas of environmental sustainability and economic development, with a strong focus on rural and regional communities.

In August 2018, TNE partnered with FRRR to establish a Not-for-Profit Fundraising Account to specifically support the educational component of TNE’s activities and their capacity to enable the educational programs to be delivered for the benefit of regional Australians. 

The Fundraising Account considerably enhanced their ability to receive donations from DGR-2 endorsed entities, bequests, and corporate philanthropy. This has enabled TNE to put in place strong systems, policies and procedures to support its ongoing development and delivery of workshops to strengthen the capacity of people working in regional communities across Australia to manage economic change and support the transition to a fairer, zero emissions economy. Funding received through the FRRR donations account has also enabled the delivery of 15 workshops and forums in communities across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.  

TNE offers two main educational training programs: 

  1. A year-long incubator program called Building the Next Economy: Thriving in a Changing World (BNE). The BNE program aims to support people working for regional councils and economic development agencies to identify, research, and implement new economic initiatives. By the end of the year-long program, each region will have developed comprehensive plans for how they will transition to a stronger, fairer and more resilient economy, as well as investment-ready business cases for key initiatives. 
  2. The Transitioning Australia Program. The Transitioning Australia Program is a short course on managing economic change aimed at local councils and others which raises awareness of the range of economic opportunities that are available to communities willing to reduce their carbon emissions. This program will be delivered across eight regional communities in year one and grow as capacity increases – it operates as a fee for service to councils, but fees are able to be varied for other not-for-profit groups. 

The materials generated through both programs will be used to deliver other activities, such as short courses, presentations, workshops and online learning (webinars and podcasts, for example).

The outcome of the education programs includes a stronger partnership and collaboration network locally, which aid in building sustainability.

The Next Economy programs give participants adaptive skills, critical thinking and produce tangible projects that achieve on ground impact. TNE is filling a niche need for accessible education on community-based economic models and clean energy systems, and purposefully aiming to cross cultural and socio-economic boundaries.

Support the work of TNE by donating here.