The devastating effects of the drought may no longer be headline news, but the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) knows that the impacts are still being felt right across the country.
"Drought is still a very real issue – and increasingly so, with communities right across Australia experiencing rainfall deficiencies," explains Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR.
"In many places, January (2019) was the hottest month on record, and more and more townships are facing acute water shortages. The ripple effect this creates within communities is considerable – there’s no money for the little extras that make life comfortable and that many of us take for granted."
However, help is at hand through the Tackling Tough Times Together grants program. It helps communities access the resources they need to support one another through the ongoing effects of the drought. The program supports community-based activities that both help to relieve current stressors and symptoms, and most importantly, build capacity and resilience for the future.
Community groups in drought-affected areas anywhere across the country can apply for grants up to $20,000 or up to $60,000 to support locally-led responses to the drought. A number of grants of up to $150,000 are also available for larger-scale, multi-year projects.
Ms Egleton said that Tackling Tough Times Together funding makes a real difference to drought-affected communities.
"There are different priorities in communities, and Tackling Tough Times Together is deliberately flexible so that local leaders can take the reins on solutions that will have the biggest impact on their communities.
"In some cases, that's supporting young people. UNICEF Australia released their report on the effect that the drought is having on children and young people – forcing them to ‘grow up’ before their time," she said.
"In other communities, it's about putting the focus on alternative sources of income, so communities can survive until the drought breaks, and for others, the priority is to bring people together to support one another."
Some of the projects funded in previous rounds of the program are already either underway or soon to begin. This includes:
- The South Burnett Community Orchestra is hosting a series of six free weekend music workshops for musicians of all standards, culminating in a free community concert and a dinner concert, which will donate proceeds to a non-profit organisation supporting local farmers.
- Beltana Progress Association, in partnership with the Woodfordia Foundation, will host the Festival of Small Halls to present at Beltana on 16 March 2019. The event will bring international, national and local acoustic artists to the newly renovated 140-year-old hall. The event will be combined with a celebration of the completion of the first stage of the Hall’s restoration. An audience of up to 180 is expected.
- The Riverland Division of General Practice Incorporated (RDGPI) recently hosted the Mallee End of Harvest Event for mental health promotion which included presentations by Beyond Blue, Standby Response and Family and Business (FAB) Mentors. The night included music and other entertainment, a free meal and raffles. RDGPI will also run two Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for Suicide Prevention education sessions.
Groups can apply at any time but the cut-off date for the next batch of applications to be considered is 30 April 2019. Expressions of interest for grants in the $150,000 tier must be received by 11 April 2019.
More information on the grant program is available on FRRR's website.