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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Helping communities cope through multiple crises

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‘Byron’s dead’. That’s the statement that I often hear. Or ‘I never go there anymore it’s lost’ or ‘Byron died years ago’. It always makes me feel a bit sad and defensive. I have such a love for this place, although I curse it when I get stuck in snaking traffic at 8am on a weekday morning or I can’t find a park near where I am going.

Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) executive officer, Emily Berry, and advisor, Maggie Brown are looking at how they can support communities who are building resilience. Photo Jeff Dawson.

Aslan Shand

There has been drought, fire, flood, and disease, and many communities are struggling to keep up with the crises that keep coming their way. Looking at 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 Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) and its recently launched Resilience and Regeneration Fund.

The project has been spearheaded by NRCF executive officer Emily Berry.  She has spent more than six weeks contacting and engaging with community groups large and small, local councils and other key organisations that have been tasked with responding to the challenges of a quickly changing world.

‘We’ve been ringing around the region to see how people are doing,’ Ms Berry told The Echo.

‘Communities in our region have dealt with drought, bushfires and floods, loss of homes and lives as well as livelihoods. Many communities haven’t got funding from the government yet to support them. There are new vulnerable groups emerging within the community, those in financial stress who were not previously on government support, those that are now in need of support for food, material aid, and paying bills.’

Recognising that donations, both national and international, have often failed to reach those most in need, the Resilience and Regeneration Fund aims to funnel the money straight to those communities in need.

‘The NRCF is taking a different approach this year to fund local and regional communities,’ said Maggie Brown who advises the NRCF.

‘We have very clear and transparent lines of accountability to assure donors that their money is going directly to those who need it.’

Who to support?

‘We are looking for the gaps, so that we can encourage groups to work out what they need, and get the money to the right places. It is about getting the communities the funds they need to recover,’ explained Ms Berry.

One of the big issues with COVID-19 has been the age and vulnerability of volunteer groups. The result was that many services were reduced to a skeleton staff because much of the volunteer workforce were vulnerable owing to their age and health issues.

‘This has really shown how important it is that young people get involved in volunteering and building resilience in their communities. Especially if long term support and resilience is to be maintained,’ said Ms Brown.

Another compounding factor is that, with disaster after disaster, volunteer groups are getting burnt out.

‘It is important to think about how to create resilience by thinking through how to be prepared. That’s what these community groups are now trying to do,’ said Ms Berry.

‘People are coming together to form action groups and progress associations to help formulate the plans they have for the recovery of their communities. At NRCF we are providing small grants of up to $10,000. Whilst NRCF cannot solve all these issues, we have the ability to leverage funds through our partnerships with other foundations and individuals.

‘The funding we aim to provide through the Resilience and Regeneration Fund is not about just adding onto what is already there. It is about finding new projects that are coming up with ways to future-proof the community and the organisations that support the local communities who are trying to adapt.

‘It is about looking at what we need over the next three years. Where are our vulnerabilities? The key is [not just] for these organisations to survive – but to thrive through creating and adapting to change.’

Donate

If you are interested in donating to and supporting the Resilience and Regeneration Fund, visit the Northern Rivers Community Foundation.

Get support

Applications for the Recovery and Resilience Grants Program open on 7July. Register your community organisation by subscribing to the Grantseeker News alerts.


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