Responding to crises with purpose

Jen TurnerNews

John Callanan with Barbara Swain, founder of Mental Health Support Group and Andy Hamilton, founder of Human Nature Adventure Therapy

Pictured: NRCF Chair John Callanan with Barbara Swain, founder of Mental Health Support Group (MHSG) and Andy Hamilton, founder of Human Nature Adventure Therapy, two local community groups providing vital support services.

Community organisations are well placed to respond directly to community needs arising from current and future crises. However despite providing vital services, many small groups fall through Government funding gaps.

Communities in our region have dealt with drought, bushfires and floods, loss of homes and lives as well as livelihoods. Community service organisations are now grappling with the practical fallout of managing these challenges in a completely disrupted world.

Understanding how communities are responding and what help they need to build resilience and capacity to cope now and into the future is a key aim of the NRCF.

Our role is not only to support these organisations to survive as they recover from recent crises, but also to thrive,” says NRCF Executive Officer Emily Berry.

Emily has led a regional impact research project which involved consultation with community groups across the Northern Rivers, as well as councils across 7 Local Government Areas and community sector peak bodies who have all been tasked with responding to the challenges of rapid change.

“Our aim is to be better informed about what help will be needed when we come to assessing and allocating grants,” said Emily.

Research has shown several key areas of need in the Northern Rivers.

“There are new vulnerable groups emerging within the community, those in financial stress who were not previously on government support, are now in need of support for food, material aid and paying bills,” said Emily. “So there has been a spike in demand for some community services while others have had to temporarily close down during the recent pandemic.”

Meanwhile, a reduction in income for many community organisations who rely on fundraising events and support from social enterprise ventures, such as op shops and community markets, is increasing financial pressures. And many small groups like community halls and sporting clubs, which are largely volunteer run, are not eligible for government funding like Jobkeeper.

In a COVID-19 environment, a reliance on aged volunteers who are no longer able to provide support, has increased pressure on staffing and resources for some organisations.

Avoiding staff burn-out is a key challenge. Services which have been operating throughout all the recent crises have stressed and overwhelmed staff who need support, such as psychological first aid for those recovering from the distress of the recent bushfires.

For many community organisations, recent events have placed them on a steep learning curve, and they have been reflecting deeply on their capacity to deliver in times of crisis.

NRCF Response

To address these issues, and to provide an avenue for people to support their community, the NRCF launched the Resilience and Regeneration Fund to receive donations during Covid-19 and in the aftermath of recent natural disasters To ensure maximum impact, we have partnered with the Portland House Foundation and James Frizelle Charitable Foundation to commit an initial $158,500.

NRCF Chair John Callanan also committed a personal donation to the Fund.

“The NRCF has been committed to standing with our community organisations for over 15 years, with a firm resolve to bring community resources together to help those most vulnerable,” said John. “We have the resources, partnerships and grant making expertise to maximise impact in our own region at this critical time.”

Funds will flow through to a Recovery and Resilience Grants program, focused on supporting crisis recovery, and building resilience within organisations and communities.

“Whilst NRCF cannot solve all the issues, we continue to build supportive and lasting relationships with community organisations across our region,” said John. “Donors can be assured their money is in good hands and will be equitably distributed to greatest effect”.

To support local Northern Rivers community organisations through the Resilience and Regeneration Fund, click here for more information and to donate. Applications for the Recovery & Resilience Grants Program open on 7th July. You can find more information on the Grants Program here.

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