Originally written and published by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) on 10 November 2022.   

Eastern Arrernte Country

Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School (LACS) is one of the most successful remote Aboriginal schools in central Australia and the NT. It is the only school serving the 600-strong community of Ltyentye Apurte (pronounced ‘L-Ginga Porter’, meaning ‘clump of beefwood trees’ in the Arrernte language) or Santa Teresa. A number of the facilities at LACS are communal, notably the library and computers. The community is 83 km south east of Alice Springs in semi-desert country. Temperatures are extreme, ranging from -1 to 45 degrees but there is year-round access via an unsealed road.

The local Arrernte people are bilingual and speak Eastern Arrernte and English (which is often their second or third language). The Arrernte language and cultural program is a key part of the curriculum at LACS.

In Santa Teresa, extreme socio-economic disadvantage is the norm, with residents and the school facing many challenges, notably extremely poor housing and health, high unemployment with minimal employment opportunities, adults suffering from poor mental health and a high number of students suffering from intergenerational trauma. Remote schools in general have a major issue with teacher retention due to the complex challenges of students and their families. The average stay of a teacher in NT schools is 7 months; 9 months in catholic schools. Existing senior staff frequently work 80 hour weeks, regularly wearing multiple hats in part due to a lack of teachers.

According to the Principal at the time, the future of Santa Teresa depends to a great extent on the school providing the optimal best education for Santa Teresa youth: “To make the remote community of Santa Teresa strong, we must make its school strong.”

In 2022, there were 126 students enrolled, from Pre-School to Year 11. All students are Indigenous and bilingual. Most of the teachers at LACS are non-Indigenous and come with a range of experience from mainstream education. The school is also a major employer of the local Arrernte people, with approximately 60% of Indigenous staff filling a multitude of critical support roles. Teachers work as members of a team in partnership with local Indigenous people and Arrernte assistant teachers and tutors.

Isolation and the challenges of living and working in a community context mean that staff need all the support they can get in terms of building resilience. Ongoing change is the norm, with 2020 and 2021 seeing even higher levels of change and uncertainty. There is often a significant turnover of new staff, which presents additional challenges to building trust and a resilient community.

The impacts of these factors are substantial, including very high levels of stress, distraction from the mission of educating students, lower engagement, uncertainty about the future, change fatigue, staff burnout, talent loss and lower trust in leaders.

To try to address this, the Principal at the time knew they needed to help teachers and staff build resilience, sustainable high performance and change agility. They used a $10,000 grant from FRRR, through the Strengthening Rural Communities program, funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, to run the Resilient Educators Program (REP).

The REP began with all teachers completing a Resilience Diagnostic, prior to a two-day workshop. The Diagnostic measured individual resilience in areas such as emotional regulation, self-confidence, compassion, exercise, sleep and nutrition. Staff then participated in a two-day workshop, facilitated by Paul Salmon, called “Thriving Through Change and Challenge”. Each staff member created three goals to help improve their resilience and the option of having an accountability buddy or sessions with a resilience coach to support them in reaching their goals.

After the workshop, the teachers were given access to an app, which provided a detailed resilience report and materials to develop new skills. They also committed to participating in a range of activities in smaller groups and with the whole staff community, such as an evening walking group, weekend trips away and a regular BBQ breakfast. This was followed up with a visit from the Resilience coach, which led to three shared goals being created.

Despite challenges in rolling this out due to the pandemic and its subsequent impacts, staff collaborated to implement wellbeing activities based on their learnings from the workshops and the ongoing use of the Resilience App. They continue to come together as a community to support one another in challenging times.

The outcome has been an improvement on the health and wellbeing of the whole community.

“All staff became more aware of the importance of resilience and the necessity to plan for how to manage stress and cope with the added burden of the pandemic. There is also a greater understanding by leadership of the necessity to prioritise staff wellbeing through strategic planning using an integrated holistic approach,” said Pamela Brown, Acting Principal.

“It has become part of our school culture for staff to check in with each other on how they are travelling, especially concerning sleep, exercise and levels of stress. It is now becoming part of our meetings to start with a partner check in or short meditation activity. We introduced a new wellbeing curriculum program, MindUp for Life, which not only teaches the knowledge and skills children need to regulate their stress and emotion but also supports teachers in building positive relationships with students and the broader community."

“There is a more holistic focus on wellbeing and resilience with an area created in the staffroom where staff relax and do mindful colouring. Plus, there are opportunities for staff to publicly acknowledge and show gratitude for effort, and pampering products for staff in our rest rooms.”

Staff participating in the Resilient Educators Program.

Cover photo: Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School.

All photos courtesy of FRRR and Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School.

Originally written and published by FRRR on 10 November 2022.

The TFFF thanks Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School for providing permission to reproduce this story.  

Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School is supported through the Connectedness stream in partnership with FRRR.

artisan has been Queensland’s home of craft and design for over 50 years. As the peak body representing makers across the state, it works to support vibrant and thriving communities of craft and design practice while advocating for sector recognition and promoting and supporting contemporary craft and design practices.

artisan provides a platform for emerging and established practitioners alike to showcase their talents, experiment with new techniques, and push the boundaries of traditional craft and design. As a service organisation it offers an incredibly varied range of programs and initiatives, both to the artists it supports and to the public. Featuring a variety of mediums, from ceramics and textiles to jewellery and furniture, artisan’s exhibitions and workshops not only celebrate the skill and craftsmanship of the artists involved but also encourage dialogue and engagement within the broader community.

In 2018, artisan moved to a purpose-built premises on King Street in Bowen Hills, Meanjin (Brisbane) which serves as a hub for exhibitions, workshops, masterclasses, and retail (in-person and online stores) providing a platform to showcase the excellence and diversity of Queensland, Australian, and international craft and design. Here, co-directors Cassandra Lehman and Simone Linssen coordinate innovative ways for the public to engage with craft and design.

artisan gallery, King Street. Elizabeth Shaw and Jeffrey Shaw, Shaw and Shaw: Radical Localism exhibition, 2021.

As a small organisation supporting a diverse and widespread sector, artisan collaborates with individual artists and organisations across Queensland to ensure regional areas of the state see equal inclusion and representation. artisan's major biennial exhibition project, Unleashed, explores the convergence between art and design and platforms the work of emerging regional artists. Unleashed provides an opportunity for emerging artists to showcase their work, make new connections, and acts as a launching point for their future careers.

In addition to facilitating Brisbane based residencies for regional practitioners, artisan provides regional residency programs and further exhibition opportunities for Queensland artists outside metropolitan areas through partnerships with Cooroy Butter Factory Art Centre, Canberra Glassworks, and The Jam Factory.

artisan's partnership with sponsor Wonderkarma has paved the way for a series of exhibitions to tour regional Queensland in 2024, fostering stronger ties with regional artists and audiences. This partnership has also conceived the Find | Keep | Make program, a 2-year ongoing professional development project offering opportunities and support to emerging curators and practitioners. Through the program, students are mentored to develop skills and gain professional experience in exhibiting curated and original objects.

To celebrate its first exhibitions of 2024, artisan is holding a free opening night event at the Bowen Hills premises on Friday, 23 February. Daniel Agdag's The Public Office features intricate cardboard models and a mesmerising stop-motion video; Glen Skien's Object Poems delves into the human condition; Jessica Nothdurft's Silly Girl presents small bronzes; and Jean Bennett's Touched explores textiles, sculpture, and mixed media.

In addition to attending exhibitions, artisan provides many exciting and innovative ways for the public to participate in craft and design and support artists – to suit every taste, design aesthetic, or level of experience. Online and in-person workshops, available to book on artisan’s website, offer instruction in paper art, textiles, clothing, embroidery, and working with clay, wood, and metal.

For those who may be less interested in creating their own works, artisan’s physical and online store is well stocked with an incredible range of jewellery, accessories, sculpture, and homewares.

As a not-for-profit organisation, artisan relies on the support of its community and philanthropic partners to continue its work in shaping the future of Queensland’s craft and design sector.

artisan is a new TFFF partner and is supported through the Resilience stream, which provides multi-year general operational support funding. The TFFF recognises the value of providing support to strengthen artisan’s operational capacity and aims to empower artisan, and organisations like it, to focus on its strategic objectives and effectively realise its goals.

Cover photo: artisan store front, King Street gallery and store launch, 2018. All photos courtesy of artisan.

artisan is supported through the Resilience stream.

Originally written by the Mission Beach Historical Society for publication by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) on 24 April 2023.   

Djiru Country

In far north Queensland, 150 km south of Cairns, the Mission Beach Historical Society (MBHS) is a fledgling association – two years young and dreaming big.

Last month FRRR’s QLD programs manager visited the MBHS and invited them to write a story to let everyone know about their great work to curate a historical photographic exhibition.

Before the advent of the MBHS in late 2020, Mission Beach had no effective means of making histories and images easily accessible to residents and visitors of this region.

For the two last years, MBHS members have captured and documented some of the Mission Beach histories, having made a bright start with that endeavour. The society’s growing challenge was to find effective ways to share and exhibit MBHS collections. Being without a museum or a building, MBHS relies heavily on online presence and displays. Despite such hurdles, a range of interesting and innovative projects have been undertaken. One of these projects was to present a photographic exhibition.

In 2022, MBHS partnered with Community for Coastal & Cassowary Conservation Inc to receive an $8,925 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, to develop a photographic exhibition ‘Echo of the Past – Historical photographs from Mission Beach, 1890s – 1950s’ and present a series of historical photographs and Djiru cultural objects – coinciding with the anniversary of the 1918 cyclone which devastated the area.

The exhibition project aimed to facilitate cultural connection and transmission of culture of and with Traditional Owners through community engagement, cultural expression and on Country experiences.

The exhibition project was led by MBHS president, Dr Valerie Boll, anthropologist and curator, who worked with Djiru Traditional Owner, Elder and artist Leonard Andy and the Warrangburra Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC – PBC, to source and document Djiru history and photographs. Mission Beach residents were also able to bring in old photographs to be scanned and used to illustrate stories that had been researched by MBHS members. The provided material was then collated.

David Andy, Betty Andy, Kenneth Campbell, Alison Andy, Valerie Boll, and Leonard Andy. Photo credit: J. Larson.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered on 10 March for the opening of the exhibition ‘Echo of the Past’, at the Art Print Frame Gallery and was enjoyed by the wider community until the exhibition closed in April.

A smaller version of the show was displayed at the Mission Beach library, and the exhibition was also shown at other locations in the region for the rest of the year.

Opening of the Echo of the Past exhibition. Photo credit J. Larson.

Cover photo: Valerie Boll and Leonard Andy preparing the exhibition.

All photos courtesy of FRRR and the Mission Beach Historical Society.

Originally written by the Mission Beach Historical Society for publication by FRRR on 24 April 2023.

The TFFF thanks the Mission Beach Historical Society and Community for Coastal & Cassowary Conservation Inc for providing permission to reproduce this story.  

The Mission Beach Historical Society is supported through the Connectedness stream in partnership with FRRR.

International Day of People with Disability is an internationally observed, United Nations sanctioned day that celebrates the contributions and achievements of people with disability and aims to promote community awareness, understanding, and acceptance⁠.

Observed annually on 3 December, International Day of People with Disability in Australia is a joint effort between government, schools, organisations, community groups, businesses, and individuals, and provides an opportunity to be part of creating an inclusive and diverse community for the 4.4 million Australians with disability.

Two of TFFF’s longest partnerships are with regional Queensland arts organisations working to create opportunities for artists and community members with disability. TFFF has been fortunate to build relationships with Crossroad Arts and Dancenorth since 2011 and 2010 respectively.

Crossroad Arts' C.R.U.S.H. 2023. More photos from C.R.U.S.H 2023 are available here.

Crossroad Arts

Mackay based organisation Crossroad Arts has established itself as a leader in inclusive arts practice in Queensland and nationally, co-creating opportunities for social change with artists and communities alike. Crossroad Arts’ annual program of activities is delivered across three streams: Artistic Development, Community Development, and Outreach, offering skill-based training, creating performance works, and delivering a wide range of inclusive workshops, artistic development and social opportunities across art forms.

Crossroad Arts has been in partnership with TFFF since 2011, and is guided by the Inclusive Arts Advisory Group. Consisting of eight artists who all have a diverse range of lived experience of disability, the Advisory group assists in raising Crossroad Arts’ national profile, and creating connection within their specific community. The Inclusive Arts Advisory Group also provides feedback on accessibility of all program offerings.

Over the three days it was such a fantastic time together with all my new friends and old friends who have come back and travelled a long long way to CRUSH. Thank you to our amazing audience for your applause  and coming along, such a huge audience made us feel so fierce, so proud to share our work together. See everyone next year at CRUSH 2024!!

- Natasha Tomlinson, Crossroad Arts Ambassador and Social Media Officer

Each year, Crossroad Arts delivers a professional development theatre making intensive suitable for all ages, bodies, minds and levels of artistic experience called C.R.U.S.H (Community. Regional. Up Skill. Haven). Last month Crossroad Arts hosted C.R.U.S.H. on Yuwi country in Mackay, and invited artists with disability from across Australia to attend. The program involves three days of workshops in contemporary movement, performance, and theatre, and is delivered in partnership with Dancenorth Australia and La Boite Theatre.

Crossroad Arts' C.R.U.S.H. 2023 wrap up video.

C.R.U.S.H also offered 13 scholarships for people with disability living in remote or regional Australia to contribute to travel and accommodation costs. These scholarships address the lack of professional development opportunities for artists with disability living in the regions.

A person wearing a silver sequinned dress with blonde hair holds their elbow-length gloved hand above their head while seated in an electronic wheelchair.
Maddison Hunt in LOOSE ENDS.

Crossroad Arts celebrates International Day of People with Disability at its annual ‘kooky, social and inclusive’ performance evening and major fundraiser. In 2023, LOOSE ENDS will feature Strictly Wheelchair Dance Group, Groove Movers, With One Voice, Choir of Unheard Voices, Crossroad Arts Crew and more.


Based in Townsville, Dancenorth is one of Australia’s leading contemporary dance companies, and aims to dismantle the barriers to dance and build local, national, and international connections and resilience through dance for all to thrive. Dancenorth empowers and supports artists by providing a creative hub for many artistic voices including a diverse range of choreographers, guest collaborators, artists in residence, and dancers.

Alongside its professional ensemble, touring productions and artist development and leadership initiatives, Dancenorth delivers its TFFF-supported Community Experience Program.  Driven by a dedicated team, Dancenorth works with diverse and minority communities across Queensland using dance to support, enhance, inspire, and heal – bringing communities together.

A person with a red shirt and a person with red hair and a white dress and a colourful arm brace, seated in an electronic wheelchair, dance together. In the background, a person wearing green and a person wearing blue are also dancing.
Dancenorth's International Day of People with Disability performance in 2022.

Dancenorth has been in partnership with TFFF since 2010, and regularly facilitates community arts experiences that encourage individual expression and community spirit, for all people. Each year, Dancenorth creates an original dance performance to celebrate International Day of People with Disability in collaboration with students from Townsville Community Learning Centre. The event, held on Gurambilbarra country in Townsville, celebrates diversity within the community and invites the audience to share in the joy of dance as a foundation to creating connections which enrich and enhance lives.

Four people are facing away from the camera, posing with their arms up. Facing them, a large group of people, including children, copy their poses.
Dancenorth's International Day of People with Disability performance in 2022.

In 2022, students took inspiration from the idea of ‘home’, and this year the group has been inspired by their favourite places.

Dancenorth's International Day of People with Disability 2022 wrap up video.

Dancenorth also facilitates Deeper than Dancing, which explores movement and creativity with older people, people with a disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people. Supported by Regional Arts Australia, and developed closely with local participants, Deeper than Dancing provides a safe and inclusive environment for people to step outside their comfort zone to experience the creative process in action and immerse themselves in creativity and art-making experiences.

Cover photo: Dancenorth's International Day of People with Disability performance in 2022.

All photos courtesy of Crossroad Arts (Image credits: Jim Cullen Photography) and Dancenorth (Image credits: Aaron Ashley).

Crossroad Arts and Dancenorth are supported through the Resilience stream.

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) is an annual celebration of the rich cultural and artistic diversity of Australia's Indigenous Art Centres and their artists. In 2023 DAAF celebrated its 17th year, and has secured a reputation as one of Australia’s most significant and internationally recognised arts events.

DAAF is delivered by the DAAF Foundation, which is owned and governed by the Art Centres it represents. It presented an enormously successful 2023 event from 10-13 August, embracing a hybrid in-person and online event concept for the second consecutive year. For the first time, the annual Opening Ceremony on 10 August was open to the public, further fostering a sense of community and cultural exchange.

Combining the traditional in-person art fair experience at the Darwin Convention Centre, on Larrakia Country, with an impressive online e-commerce platform, the event brought together artists and art lovers in a shared passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, design, and culture and created economic opportunities for Art Centres and artists.

This hybrid approach, emphasising both physical and digital interaction, not only allows anyone, anywhere, to ethically purchase artwork directly from Indigenous-owned Art Centres across Australia but also offers insight into the people, cultures, and communities they represent. The Fair also provides visitors with a genuine opportunity to meet Indigenous artists, performers, and Arts Workers from some of the most remote regions of Australia.

DAAF 2023 represented over 1,600 emerging and established artists, with 140 artists attending the physical Fair in Darwin. A record total of 78 Art Centres participated in the event, with 41 Art Centres in the hybrid event, 27 in the physical event only, and 10 in the online-only segment. Approximately 12,000 unique artworks were presented for the public to explore and purchase.

The 2023 Fair saw record sales, with $4.4 million generated by the physical and online fair. Importantly, DAAF takes no commission, ensuring that 100% of sales go directly back to the Art Centres and their communities.

The international appeal of DAAF is undeniable, with the 2023 event attracting 29,031 visitors from across the globe. This included over 15,874 attendees at the physical event and 13,157 unique online visitors. 43.9% of visitors surveyed were from interstate, and 92% of visitors surveyed wanted to revisit Darwin and recommend it to others, further bolstering the region's tourism. Economically, DAAF had a significant impact, stimulating the Northern Territory economy by over $12 million, with $10 million of this generated from in-scope visitor spending.

Bula'Bula Arts booth, Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, 2023. Image Credit: Dylan Buckee

DAAF Foundation’s success extended far beyond the Fair in 2023. Its accompanying Public Program offered an array of immersive experiences, from sold-out masterclasses to artist demonstrations and cultural performances.

Country to Couture returned to the Darwin Convention Centre on 6 August, showcasing 22 unique collections from First Nations designers and artists to a record audience of 1184 members. The collections featured ready-to-wear pieces and collaborations with community Art Centres, exhibited at two different runway shows. The Foundation also hosted the National Indigenous Fashion Awards on 7 August, which celebrated a record 66 nominated designers and artists across six different categories. The Awards, hosted for the fourth year running, had over 400 attendees and were later broadcast on NITV, further expanding DAAF’s reach.

The TFFF has supported DAAF Foundation and its continued growth since 2017, and recognises the importance of the Fair’s elevation of Indigenous artists on a national and international stage. CEO Neal Harvey, along with philanthropic peers, was privileged to be able to attend the Fair in person this year.

The hybrid format of DAAF's 2023 event opened up incredible national and international sales and awareness opportunities for Art Centres, and the Foundation hopes to continue to present the event in a hybrid format in future.

Aerial view of Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, 2023. Image Credit: Dylan Buckee

Cover photo: Red Flag Dancers performance at DAAF 2023. Image Credit: Dylan Buckee. All photos courtesy of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation.

The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation is supported through the Resilience stream.

Originally written and published by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) on 30 September 2021.    

Iningai Country

For years, Central Western Queensland has been heavily impacted by the economic, environmental, and social effects of a prolonged drought. Topology, a grassroots community arts organisation, decided to tackle these impacts and empower their communities with music and performance.

Topology’s goal is to build the creative capacity of their participants and to help increase social connectedness through much needed community-based and intergenerational events. And that’s exactly what they achieved when they launched Top Up Central Western Queensland. This initiative consisted of a series of 12 workshops and a four-day creative bootcamp that culminated in a free community performance in Longreach, which was attended by 2,000 people.

Through [FRRR's] Tackling Tough Times Together program, Topology received a grant of $10,000, funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, as well as separate funding through the Building Better Regions Fund. This money paid the local artists who hosted workshops, as well as covering venue hire and event costs.

One of the things we are most proud of is seeing people of all ages, some with no previous experience of the arts, learn about their own potential for creativity – and to perform in public a new piece they have written and contributed to themselves. The feelings of self-accomplishment and pride achieved by the participants is a real and invaluable outcome of this program.

The Topology team

The program was also the catalyst for Topology consulting with the community on the development of a Regional Creative Hub (RCH). This hub will have lasting impacts for local communities, as it will help to support and upskill rural creative practitioners and community arts organisations.

Top Up Central Western Queensland empowered, educated, and inspired the community to create, perform and tell their stories, while celebrating their community. It was a much-needed reminder of their resilience and their ability to thrive through tough times together.

This mini-documentary showcases some of the highlights from Topology’s Creative Boot Camp which took place in Longreach, QLD in September 2019. This video features a number of young musicians from across the Central Western QLD region alongside Topology’s Creative Tutors.

Young musicians at the Topology Creative Boot Camp in Longreach.

All photos courtesy of Topology.

Originally written and published by FRRR on 30 September 2021.      

The TFFF thanks Topology Inc for providing permission to reproduce this story.

Topology is supported through the Connectedness stream in partnership with FRRR.

Yiliyapinya Indigenous Corporation, a name which translates to "brain" in the Wankumara language, is committed to transforming lives and breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage within Indigenous communities.

Yiliyapinya was founded in 2019 by Sheryl Batchelor, who had observed that the impact of toxic stress and adversity on brain development was contributing to declining brain health among Indigenous communities. Sheryl recognised the urgent need for culturally responsive neuroplasticity programs to combat this issue and help First Nations people live healthy, meaningful lives, and Yiliyapinya was born.

At its core, Yiliyapinya's theory of change is rooted in the belief that neuroplasticity programs can be a catalyst for healing; empowering children, young people, and adults to progress on their individual healing journeys while reconnecting culturally. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganise itself and change in response to the environment and experiences. This understanding drives Yiliyapinya to support Queensland’s most disadvantaged young people to strive for a better quality of life.

The organisation offers a range of targeted programs designed to improve brain health:

  • Yili Program – Providing vital social, emotional, and educational support, including neuroscience-informed activities for 10-17-year-olds involved in long-term school refusals or youth justice.
  • Deadly Brains Playgroup – Working with Inala and Logan Indigenous children aged 0-2 years and their parents, kin, or carers to ensure healthy brain development.
  • Think Smarter Not Harder – A culturally safe training program for Indigenous adults aimed at improving brain health and promoting healing.
  • Knowledge to Action – Offering brain health screening and improvement programs.

As an advocate of a holistic approach to healing, Yiliyapinya partners with other stakeholders, including government and service providers. Yiliyapinya is engaged in systems change, demonstrating the role of healthy brains in shifting the odds for children. Yiliyapinya also believes in the importance of the brain health of caregivers and the child-facing workforce and regularly designs and deliver workshops for organisations, businesses, and schools to enhance cognitive skills.

Craft activities at Deadly Brains Day.

Yiliyapinya is a new TFFF partner and is supported through the Resilience stream, which provides multi-year general operational support funding – the kind of funding for-purpose organisations need most. Yiliyapinya is a comparatively young organisation, although benefits from the significant wisdom and experience of Founder Sheryl Batchelor. The TFFF recognises the value of providing support to strengthen Yiliyapinya’s operational capacity and aims to empower Yiliyapinya, and organisations like it, to focus on its strategic objectives and effectively realise its goals.

Cover photo: Sheryl Batchelor presenting at the Youth Advocacy Centre. All photos courtesy of Yilipinya Indigenous Organisation.

Yiliyapinya Indigenous Corporation is supported through the Resilience stream.

The TFFF has long recognised the significance of the work carried out by Indigenous-led organisations in Australia, and the importance of listening deeply to Traditional Owners, amplifying their voices, and supporting their solutions for meaningful change on their own terms.

At a moment of conversation throughout Australia, we felt it important to use our platform to cast a spotlight on the remarkable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people with whom the TFFF has a relationship, and the transformative work being carried out by those who lead the way toward positive change.

Throughout our 2022-2023 Annual Report, we have identified Indigenous-led organisations or agreements where TFFF funding has directly enabled the employment of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In total, the TFFF made 27 distributions in support of First Nations people and communities in 2023, and 16 of the 40 organisations partnered with were Indigenous-led.

37% of total funding in the past 12 months was directed to First Nations organisations, initiatives, or projects, with a total of $3.4M allocated to Indigenous led organisations and/or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wages.

The Annual Report also highlights three partner organisations led by or working with First Nations members to enact change:

MJD Foundation

The MJD Foundation is a grassroots, Aboriginal-controlled organisation that partners with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities to support families living with Machado-Joseph Disease (MJD) and Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 7 (SCA7).

MJD is a hereditary neurodegenerative disease found worldwide, with a higher prevalence among Aboriginal people with genetic ties to northeast Arnhem Land.

Established in 2008 on Groote Eylandt, the MJD Foundation addresses the lack of services and information for affected families. Its 'Our Way' approach includes primary health and disability support, genetic counseling, therapy, education, respite accommodation, visits to Country, research, and advocacy, and is based on a strong Aboriginal Community Worker two-way engagement model.

Gayangwa Lalara OAM, a Warnindilyakwa woman, plays a vital role in the organisation as Vice Chairperson and Senior Cultural Advisor. Under her leadership, the Foundation has expanded its reach to 26 remote communities, with funding from the FRRR SRC program enabling the development of permanent ‘in-place’ support services in Ngukurr.

Aboriginal Art Co.

Aboriginal Art Co. was founded by Amanda Hayman (Kalkadoon and Wakka Wakka) and Troy Casey (Kamilaroi) in 2019 to combat the issue of inauthentic Indigenous-style consumer products in Australia. The 2022 Productivity Commission revealed that up to 75% of such products were fake, resulting in substantial income losses for First Nations people.

Aboriginal Art Co., as Brisbane's first Indigenous Art Centre, connects Indigenous Art Centres and artists from regional and remote Australia to the Queensland market. It prioritises ethical practices, with approximately 70% of sales revenue returning to artists and art centres, and is working towards the realisation of a self-sustaining and self-determining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander retail and arts industry in Australia.

Aboriginal Art Co. is committed to connecting Indigenous culture and commerce, providing employment and development opportunities that include its artist-in-residence program, retail and gallery assistants, workshop facilitators, caterers, photographers, and models, along with its social enterprise fashion label Magpie Goose.

Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership & Thriving First Nations Kids Initiative

The Thriving Queensland Kids Partnership (TQKP) is addressing the need to ensure all Queensland children and young people have a positive start in life. By working to connect organisations, individuals, services, and systems, and to facilitate shared access to resources, knowledge, and networks, TQKP aims to ensure children, young people and families are supported to thrive.

TFFF has invested in two of TQKP's ten initiatives: the Thriving Queensland Kids Country Collaborative and the Thriving First Nations Kids Initiative (TFNKI). TQKP prioritises supporting the self-determination of child health related First Nations leaders and organisations, working closely with a range of First Nations leaders, organisations and communities, including Queensland Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP) to advance a co-design process for the TFNKI.

Sarah Callinan, a Wangkangurru woman with expertise in early childhood development, has been appointed as the First Nations Strategic Partnerships Lead. Sarah has been involved in a range of initiatives and strategies aimed at improving early childhood outcomes for First Nations children, and has an exceptional understanding of brain and early childhood development. The active involvement of Sarah, Garth Morgan (CEO, QATSICPP) and others will help support First Nations leadership and drive collective effort across systems to better enable Indigenous children to thrive.

View the full 2022-2023 Annual Report here.

Cover photo courtesy of Children's Ground.

The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust (KKT) brings together Indigenous ranger groups, communities, and philanthropic partners in a shared mission: to support the Bininj people of Central and Western Arnhem Land in preserving their country and culture.

By providing critical funding for on ground programs and infrastructure, KKT aims to back Traditional Owners and Djungkay to continue to live on Country and undertake critical conservation and cultural work, supporting the continuation of the world’s oldest living culture.

Along with its partners, KKT works to educate and prepare the next generation of custodians, safeguard cultural knowledge, strengthen the role of local women and protect over 65,000 square kilometres of land and sea country.

KKT recognises the link between cultural heritage, community strength and conservation outcomes, and as such supports bi-cultural education projects to not only provide education that is locally and culturally relevant, but to safeguard traditions and nurture the custodians of the future.

At the request of the Nawarddeken Traditional Owners of the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in West Arnhem Land, the Nawarddeken Academy was established in 2015. The Academy, a bi-cultural, community-owned school, provides access to full-time education in the remote home communities of the Warddeken IPA and educates children in both the Bininj (Indigenous) and Balanda (non-Indigenous) worlds.

The Academy has grown from a single teacher under a tarpaulin in Kabulwarnamyo to three registered independent schools, with additional Nawarddeken Academy schools established in Manmoyi and Mamardawerre at the request of Traditional Owners in 2021. Now, children at all three ranger base communities in the Warddeken IPA have access to education on their homelands, combining traditional Indigenous knowledge and the Australian curriculum.

Nawarddeken Academy Students. Image credit: Stacey Irving.

In 2023, Nawarddeken Academy, supported by the TFFF and other funders, commenced the process of establishing a high school and early learning program, to guarantee Nawarddeken children an On-Country, bi-cultural education for the entirety of their school years. This expansion will include creating purpose-built accommodation for teachers and staff, as well as developing multipurpose classrooms that can accommodate high school students, the early learning program and adult education in the evenings.

The Nawarddeken Academy recently held a camp that brought together all three schools to create a hip-hop song and music video about their culture and communities. Watch the video, titled Cycles of the Land, here:

Cover photo: Nawarddeken Academy Students. Image Credit: Stacey Irving. All photos courtesy of Karrkad Kanjdji Trust.

The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust and the Nawarddeken Academy are supported through the Futureproof stream.

Originally written and published by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) on 15 September 2022.    

On the Tiwi Islands, 80km north of Darwin in the Northern Territory, you’ll find a business called Tiwi Enterprises. It strives for the economic betterment of Tiwi people and their community.

The organisation’s vision is “self-reliance through skills development and productivity”. And it is doing a great job, employing 26 Tiwi people, who make up 75% of the company’s workforce.

Since 2007, this 100% Tiwi owned organisation has grown to include 11 business units, and other Mantiyupwi-owned rental properties and assets:

  • Civil Works
  • Gardening Services
  • Freight Facility Operations
  • Building Maintenance
  • Community Cleaning Services
  • Rental Car Hire
  • Milikapiti Farm and Nursery
  • Accommodation
  • Tuparipiya Bus Company
  • Mantiyupwi Motel
  • Bathurst Island Airport agent
Tony and the new ride on mower heading off to work.

One of Tiwi Enterprises’ contracts is with the Office of Township Leasing for the management of grass height and rubbish removal for the 114 tenants living in the area. In December last year, Tiwi Enterprises received a $10,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant, funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, to purchase additional equipment for its gardening services. Thanks to the SRC funding, it was able to afford a heavy-duty ride on mower to add to its fleet.

A member of the Women's Crew using the ride on mower.

The new mower helped Tiwi Enterprises win another contract to mow all Community Yards on Bathurst Island, which is 321 lots. Many of these yards were overgrown, representing a fire risk, and home to a number of snakes. But thanks to the work of the Tiwi team over an eight-week period, the whole community is enjoying improved safety.

The new contract also meant that nine new employees were hired, four of them women. There will be opportunities for any of these employees to become Leading Hands and Supervisors and to learn new skills including maintenance of machinery, supervising and administration work.

Tiwi future in Tiwi hands

Cover photo: Starting the day on Tiwi Enterprises' new ride on mower. All photos courtesy of Tiwi Enterprises.

Originally written and published by FRRR on 12 September 2022.      

The TFFF thanks Tiwi Enterprises for providing permission to reproduce this story.

Tiwi Enterprises is supported through the Connectedness stream in partnership with FRRR.

The Tim Fairfax Family Foundation is based in Meanjin (Brisbane).