The year has been busy and very effective for the donors to FRRR and for our grant recipients.
As in past years, our major focus has been to help address the ongoing challenges for community groups in small regional, rural and remote areas. Their smaller population base and lower profile often leaves them neglected in national and state funding programs and worthwhile local initiatives struggle without the assistance FRRR provides.
Another priority, too often ignored, has been medium to long term natural disaster recovery support. Fire, flood, cyclone and storms, repeatedly and often devastatingly, are common to our Australian experience. With remarkable generosity the wider community gives for immediate assistance and governments at all levels respond. Yet getting the families and devastated regions back to near normal is neither immediate nor easy. Repairs to property and infrastructure and revitalising the social fabric take time, but even more so does addressing the mental and psychological trauma of the men, women and children involved.
Immediate help is essential, but over the years of our commitment to disaster recovery, the FRRR experience is that community renewal and individual recovery take much longer.
To help better address these priorities, there has been some change in the way FRRR operates.
In the past the majority of donor funds were dispersed within the following year, but increasingly we are engaging in longer-term partnerships. This means FRRR can offer longer-term grants to communities, giving them the ability to pursue extended programs and recovery priorities.
Recognising the unique long-term approach FRRR takes, and our capacity to deliver, the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund (VBAF) entered into an agreement with FRRR for the distribution of $2.7m held for the long term community recovery needs of the 2009 bushfire affected communities. We welcome this partnership.
Working with government, business, private individuals and philanthropic bodies goes to the very heart of our rationale and I am delighted to report this year FRRR increased the number of donors with which we collaborate.
To each donor, I formally record the Board’s sincere appreciation and thanks for your commitment to the wellbeing of those communities which benefit from your philanthropy.
I particularly acknowledge the assistance received from the Federal Government through former Minister the Hon. Simon Crean, who implemented the change to the terms on which the $10m Commonwealth funds held as corpus by FRRR can be invested.
As at 30 June 2013, FRRR had more than $8m committed to future grant programs. Some funds, like the Grants for Resilience & Wellness, are for distribution over a period of up to five years. Other programs (like CIRCLE, which is a new program focused on leadership and capacity building,) will distribute funds over the next two years. Another example of this is the 2011 RRR program, which raised funds in 2011, to be distributed over several years in support of long-term disaster recovery.
Funds for granting have increased, but so too have requests for support, with FRRR funding on average through the year only 34% of the applications received. To meet its charter, FRRR must therefore continue to seek to broaden and deepen its donor base and find creative ways to leverage funds by collaborating with those who are similarly committed to building a stronger rural, regional and remote Australia.
The Directors of FRRR serve voluntarily and I thank them for their ongoing commitment and significant contribution to FRRR. I appreciate their counsel and support.
FRRR has a very capable CEO in Alexandra Gartmann, who is very ably supported by a small, but strong and dedicated team. I thank them for all of their support and hard work over the last 12 months.
Finally but far from least, I would like to thank our Patrons Mr Baillieu Myer AC, Lady Southey AC, Hon. John Anderson, and Patron in Chief Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia for their ongoing support and enthusiasm for FRRR and its purpose. Their foresight in setting up FRRR and their commitment to it, are greatly appreciated.
Much has been achieved by the Foundation but the challenges for so many communities in rural, regional and remote Australia remain. We shall continue to work hard with our partners to help local groups address those challenges.