Celebrating 15 years
A message from Baillieu Myer AC
As one of the driving forces behind the creation of FRRR, I am more than happy with the progress of the organisation over its first 15 years.
It has been ably led by its first and only Chairman Ian Sinclair AC, a dedicated Board and two long-serving, outstanding Chief Executives, Sylvia Admans and Alexandra Gartmann.
FRRR's first 15 years is recorded in this report and speaks for itself. Every dollar contributed by government, by philanthropy, by partners, and by individuals has made a real contribution to rural, regional and remote Australia.
I wish FRRR well in the years ahead.
Baillieu Myer AC
FRRR has been connecting rural Australia and philanthropy since 2000. Its formation arose out of concern about economic and social decline in many rural areas. A proposal at the National Regional Summit in 1999, followed discussions between Baillieu Myer AC and then Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson AO.
At the time the Sidney Myer Fund was seeking a way to acknowledge the centenary of the arrival of their name-sake in Australia in a manner that would benefit country people. The Government saw the Summit as a means to find ways that rural and regional Australia might address the decline, especially in the wake of one of the worst droughts in living memory.
The Summit communiqué recognised the ‘opportunity for philanthropy to take a strategic role in enhancing the natural and human assets of regional Australia for community and economic development’.
FRRR was incorporated and awarded charitable status in 1999. The Sidney Myer Fund gifted $1 million and during the Summit, the Prime Minister, John Howard OM AC, pledged a $10.7 million grant to be awarded in 2000, with a further $3.8 million to be offered as an incentive to raise further capital. ANZ Trustees and The Pratt Foundation each donated $1 million. The additional indirect support of the broader Myer Family organisation was invaluable, especially its financial management, governance, accommodation and advice.
Early in its inaugural year, FRRR ran its first grant round, receiving more than 260 applications from across Australia. The program had two parts, the first for high priority projects that could make an impact, and the second with a medium term focus on rural capacity building or economic development.
Among the projects funded in the first round were a number of feasibility studies for community foundations - a relatively new concept. Focused support from FRRR and Philanthropy Australia helped drive the movement forward.
FRRR saw potential for Community Foundations to drive rural and regional capacity building in Australia. Among the first feasibility studies funded was the Bruce Rock Foundation in WA. At the same time, FRRR began to receive requests from these foundations to hold their funds in trust until they had sufficient money to operate independently - the concept of Donation Accounts emerged. It took six years before the first Donation Account – on behalf of the Bendigo and Central Victoria Community Foundation - was opened to receive tax deductible donations.
Finding a permanent home
FRRR was initially based in the Myer Foundation’s premises in Melbourne, then offices were established in Norton Summit, South Australia. This location proved difficult and with the appointment of Sylvia Admans as CEO, FRRR moved to Bendigo in 2002, appropriately the hometown of Sidney Myer’s first store.
FRRR remains Australia’s only national philanthropic Foundation dedicated to rural and regional Australia. Over the past fifteen years we have established a diverse and robust grants program and developed active partnerships in local communities both at the grassroots level and within the philanthropic, business and government sectors.