Upper Murray Innovation Foundation goes from strength to strength
Facing regional challenges
Corryong is a small town in the Upper Murray in North- East Victoria. It’s the gateway to the Snowy Mountains, and home to the famous Man From Snowy River Festival. Not unlike many rural Australian towns, the local community faces economic and social difficulties which includes an ageing population and a struggle to retain young people after leaving school. The Corryong Neighbourhood Centre (CNC), which has been involved in youth work and community engagement for more than 15 years, tries to foster opportunities and promote community development through education and social inclusion.
Over the last ten years, the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) have supported the CNC with a number of grants, to enable it to deliver its vision of creating a socially connected, educated and sustainable community by providing education and encouraging participation.
Michael Leonhard, CNC Co-ordinator, explains that the FRRR grants enabled them to continue to grow, and put programs on that responded to the needs of their community.
“The grants helped set us up and put us in a position to be able to act on any opportunities that would provide sustainability enabling us to continue to deliver on our vision. One such example is the purchase of the bakery next door to us.”
So, when the bakery went up for sale in 2015, myself and Sara Jenkins, another CNC co-ordinator, saw the potential – a chance to run a social enterprise that could provide opportunities for vocational training and meaningful employment for youth and long-term unemployed.”
Finance for the enterprise was secured through Social Enterprise Finance Australia (SEFA) and the Upper Murray Community Bakery was borne. It has become an integral part of the community and, in its own right, is a very successful enterprise contributing over $83,000 to CNC operations in its first two years of trading.
UMIF comes to life to support more community initiatives
Last year, the community established the Upper Murray Innovation Foundation (UMIF), operated by the CNC, to ensure the funds generated by the Bakery were used to identify and relieve areas of need within the community. Current activities include supporting the Corryong Food Share, and purchasing a bus (with corporate sponsorship assistance) for the Corryong Youth Space initiative, which is also made available at minimal cost to other active community groups. A valuable servide as there is no public transport in Corryong and Upper Murray!
In June 2017, the UMIF approached FRRR once again but this time to set up a Fundraising Account (previously known as a Donation Account). Primarily they wanted to access philanthropic funds to assist in the purchase of a declining local tractor repair business in Walwa, Victoria.
Mr Leonhard explains that the purpose of opening a Fundraising Account was to be able to leverage off FRRR’s special tax status and have a greater reach in attracting further philanthropic support.
“With the help of another SEFA loan our aim is to re-invigorate and re-equip the premises and operate it as a viable business servicing a widespread rural population. The focus of this second enterprise will be on providing quality training and skill development for local youth, fostering passion for work and learning and understanding community impacts.”
“The business sale has not yet gone through but when it does, it will be a wonderful way to retain apprentices and mechanics in Corryong,” said Mr Leonhard.
Enabling local solutions
One of FRRR’s fundamental tenets is that locals are the best people to make the important decisions about what is needed in their community. But sometimes, they need just a little help and the UMIF is a prime example of this. Fundraising Accounts allow rural communities to use our DGR status, enabling people to make a tax-deductible donation towards their project. It is a relatively simple process and gives communities the ability to attract further funds. We look forward to hearing about the success of UMIF’s latest enterprise once it gets off the ground.