Inspiring initiatives help communities through drought

FRRR and our fellow donors have a long history of helping communities through tough times, including drought. The range of ways in which local people respond to the ongoing impacts of drought are quite inspirational, and below we share snippets of four projects that received some funding support from FRRR.

Bringing Movies to Small Communities, 2007/08

Kids came in their pyjamas with their beanbags when four rural communities screened Charlotte’s Web, Happy Feet and Night at the Museum.

About 300 people turned out to the small southern NSW town of Bunnaloo in the heart of grazing country for the ‘drive-in’ screening on the town’s footy oval.

“We are acutely aware that in difficult times it’s imperative that people maintain social connectedness,” said the local social worker who, with help from local groups, FRRR, the Victorian and local governments, small businesses and the Gardiner Foundation, coordinated the event.

There were also Barbecues and drought support workers mingled to let people know about financial and personal support available.

Outback Training in Mental First Aid, 2007/08

It’s often stock and station agents, vets, local carers, teachers, social workers, Meals on Wheels volunteers, police officers or rural financial counsellors who walk into crisis on farms.

A local counselling support service ran Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshops to help local people identify how to recognise when some-one needs help and what to do in a crisis.

Eighty people from drought-declared areas took part in the two-day workshops in Coonabarabran, Mudgee, Parkes and Young. The training improved people’s ability to recognise mental health disorders, change beliefs about treatment, decrease social distance from people with mental disorders and improve confidence in providing help to others. There was also a media campaign to explain how ill-informed attitudes stigmatise those with mental health problems.

Creating a Place to Play, 2007/08

Sometimes when droughts go on for a while, an off-farm project that provides a little social activity is just the ticket for anxious farmers.

This was the case with the planned rotunda at the pre-school in the northern Victorian dairy town of Gunbower. Fundraising began in 2005 and continued up to the rotunda’s construction last year.

A local mother of three and a dairy farmer explained that dads built it and mums painted it. Finished with internal seating, the rotunda now doubles as a play and lunch area and a concert stage for the pre-school’s three and four-year-olds. “It was a good project,” she said. “It brought the guys into town. They’d spend a few hours there building and we’d get lunch. It was good social interaction.”

Theodore’s Revive & Thrive project, 2010

ABC Rural, ABC Sport and FRRR collaborated to create the Revive and Thrive Challenge, which was won by the Theodore Chamber of Commerce who received a $50,000 grant.

There were three aspects to their project, each of which helped to strengthen community morale and drive economic development. There was

  1. a Landlord's Fund (which helped landlords paint their shopfronts to improve the overall look of the main street;
  2. a Skilled Workers Fund (to subsidise rents to bring skilled professionals and trades-people to the town); and
  3. a New Business Fund (which offered free rent to new businesses).

This 'No Empty Shop Front Policy' stood the community in good stead come the floods of 2011.

Support available

Groups in Queensland and on the NSW Northern Tablelands are invited to put forward similar projects under the Together Through Tough Times grant program.

For more information, contact FRRR on 03 5430 2399 or email us.

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