By Sarah Collier
Each year Gardiner Foundation offers community grants of up to $5000 to organisations in Victorian dairy communities. These grants are funded by Gardiner and distributed by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR).
Girgarre Community Cottage was one of the grant recipients for their project to deliver IT training and support to its residents. “The program not only assists people, but also frees up staff to train and recruit additional volunteers,” Kezia Talbot, the centre coordinator said.
The cottage opened its doors in 1984 to help, support and encourage people in rural areas to enrich their lives by developing friendships and new learning skills. “We operate a community car that takes the elderly to medical appointments. We also offer community meals and put together food packages for people in need,” Kezia said.
The township has a long history in dairy farming and employment across the region. The community is an aging population of low socio-economic standing and recent times have seen many services merge to be delivered in online platforms, leaving this demographic in particular more vulnerable.
Thanks to the grant funding, the centre was able to hire a tutor to deliver IT training and support to participants. “We engaged an IT tutor and we have recruited and trained about six volunteers to assist individuals. We also have another volunteer who comes to site who works one-on-one with anyone who needs extra assistance,” Kezia said. “Unless it’s a repeated process and embedded, the elderly have difficulty in retaining new IT skills.”
The project aims to reduce isolation and increase access to services. It will also reduce the stress on staff and volunteers at the centre. “The program commenced in July and we started with onsite weekly classes. They included two four-week courses, teaching participants how to use things like apps and online banking. We’ve also done two courses in Stanhope and two in Girgarre,” she said.
The tutoring program is part of a bigger project, creating a website for the community house and moving services online. “The website will include information about the tutoring services and classes. We’re hoping it will better connect the community to service providers and increase access to the centre,” she said. “The website will be ready in January.”
The website will also allow the community centre to reach more people. “We also publish a Girgarre Gazette in print and online and we’ll able to link it to the website,” Kezia said.
The community grant application can seem daunting, but in the end it’s worth it. “The applications are time consuming, and you have to do your research. But I’m glad I applied for the grant. FRRR and Gardiner provide great support to rural communities and we’re very grateful for the funding we’ve received,” she said.
Since it began in 2002 over $2 million has been successfully funded to over 500 grants across Victorian dairy communities. Applications open in February 2023. For more information, please visit www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/communitygrants.