Social resilience for stronger communities

The Albanese Government’s Future Drought Fund (FDF) will support rural, regional and remote communities across Australia to boost social drought resilience and mental health.

Round 1 of the Small Network grants, funded through the FDF’s Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative, will support 29 projects to host events, training, networks and courses or community infrastructure, to make it easier for communities to manage drought conditions.

A full list of projects is available here.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said the grants were just one example of how the Albanese Government was helping communities to get prepared for dry conditions.

“For a lot of farmers, managing drought is a part of doing agri-business in Australia - they prepare for it, they plan their businesses around it, and when it happens, they are able to get through it,” Minister Watt said.

“But the mental toll of weathering dry conditions impacts more than just farmers. Small businesses in regional communities also take a hit as farmers spend less. Families feel the strain and stress of managing the economics of a less-productive business.

“The Small Network Grants have an emphasis on managing the mental health of the whole community as they deal with the economic downturns and the subsequent mental strain of managing droughts.

“Through these projects, communities can foster stronger connections, collaborate, or even just come together to support each other through the tough times.

This complements the drought preparedness work the Albanese Government is doing through the Future Drought Fund to make available $100 million each year for drought and climate related resilience initiatives, including on-farm sustainability.”

The Small Network Grants is part of the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative, and is being delivered with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR).

CEO of FRRR Natalie Egleton said they had seen strong interest in the program from rural communities.

“When times are tough in remote, rural and regional communities, locals draw on one another through local community groups, networks and community-based services for support. Strengthening those networks, building skills to support mental health and increasing awareness about local systems of support are critical to preparing for the stressors of drought,” said Ms Egleton.

“A key focus of the grants we’ve announced today is on enabling communities to connect and strengthen their social capital so they can better withstand future droughts. Alongside enhancing infrastructure and improving information and communication about drought, we’re funding a range of preventative, wellbeing-focussed initiatives including resilience building workshops, a mental health forum, accidental counselling training and training in early-intervention mental health skills.

“All of these projects will help to strengthen networks and equip locals to be there for one another when drought comes, as it inevitably will. Our partnership with the Australian Government is providing targeted and timely support to help communities be better connected, informed and resourced ahead of the next drought.”

Round 2 of the Small Network Grants is currently open for applications and will also look to support projects that assist in managing mental health in regional communities.

To apply for the Small Network Grants, or for more information, visit Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative – Small Network Grants.