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Building community capacity in challenging economic, emotional, and ecological conditions

27 November 2023

Bushfire Recovery Fund grant recipient, Mount Beauty Neighbourhood Centre Inc, runs an annual resilience and preparedness picnic, coordinated by their Keep Calm Committee. Credit: FRRR

Local community organisations are key to disaster recovery. Organisation leaders understand the needs of the community and hold important relationships that help to mobilise people and support. Post bushfires, community organisations are well-placed to determine the most effective solutions to support their communities to recover and thrive.

In 2020, the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust partnered with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) and Sidney Myer Fund to establish the Bushfire Recovery Fund. This program was established to build capacity of both established and emerging local not-for-profit organisations and community groups operating in Victorian communities impacted by the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20.

These grants recognise the vital role of each organisation in their community and enable an investment in the skills, tools and resources they need to strengthen and sustain their work for recovery and beyond. The multi-year, bespoke approach had the specific intent of providing surety of support to confidently plan, invest and be responsive to the needs and opportunities that arose in the community – including working through the unprecedented disruption of COVID-19.Natalie Egleton, FRRR CEO

A total of $950,000 was committed to the project, with HMST contributing $570,000 and the Sidney Myer Fund $380,000. FRRR led the program design and delivery, alongside community engagement.

Over their 20+ year history, FRRR has become a respected agency known for working deeply with rural and regional communities across Australia, and for instigating strategic programs that focus on addressing local opportunities and challenges to build community cohesion and strength.

The Bushfire Recovery Fund was an important and timely initiative offering support to local community organisations working in challenging economic, emotional, and ecological conditions, and giving them the capacity to lead projects aimed at longer-term recovery from the bushfires. Grants from the Bushfire Recovery Fund were distributed to nine community organisations located in Alpine, Towong and Far East Gippsland shires.

Recently HMST had the privilege of meeting the dedicated team at Sarsfield Community Association, who received a grant of $105,622 through the fund.

The small township of Sarsfield was one of the most fire impacted communities in the 2019-20 bushfires. Fifty percent of the land in the town was burnt and 80 houses were destroyed (almost 1 in 4 of mainly primary residences).

The Sarsfield Community Association has been the key community agency driving and supporting a range of initiatives within the region, and the funding provided through the Bushfire Recovery Fund enables them to employ a recovery project officer to support the Association and drive key community activities in their work plan. As the Bushfire Recovery Fund draws to a close, Danielle Griffin FRRR’s Program Manager reflected, “it has been such a privilege to build relationships and get to know each of these organisations. They each demonstrate an unwavering commitment to support the future for a thriving community, including the regeneration of Country. With many important learnings and insights already gained in the early stages of these projects, I look forward to following their progress and seeing the impact and outcomes for long-term community recovery through strengthening the capacity of local backbone organisations.”

For further information about the Bushfire Recovery Fund and the grantees please refer to FRRR’s website:  FRRR – Disaster Resilience and Climate Solutions – Bushfire Recovery Fund