State News

Pictured: Barbara Swain, founder of Mental Health Support Group, John Callanan, NRCF Chair and Andy Hamilton, founder of Human Nature Adventure Therapy.

NRCF launches new Fund to help Northern Rivers communities recover from COVID-19

Each unique region of the Northern Rivers is at varying stages of coping with the current health and economic crises. For many, it is not just the fallout of a global pandemic. It’s drought, bushfires and floods.

Community organisations are in an important position to respond directly to community need arising from current and future crises. But despite providing vital services, many small groups fall through the gaps in Government funding. That is why, the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF) has launched the Resilience and Regeneration Fund.

“The NRCF has been committed to standing with our community organisations for over 15 years, with a firm resolve to bring community resources together to help those most vulnerable,” said John Callanan, NRCF Chair. “We have the resources and grant making expertise to maximise impact in our own region right now.”

To ensure maximum impact, the NRCF has partnered with the Portland House Foundation and James Frizelle Charitable Foundation to commit an initial $158,500.

The NRCF has been in consultation with community groups, councils and peak bodies across the Northern Rivers, to gauge where help will be needed most as the crisis abates and as the full impact of the pandemic hits our most vulnerable.

The Mental Health Support Group (MHSG) in Lismore has been helping some of the most vulnerable in our community for 23 years – including domestic violence victims, single parents and young people who have experienced severe mental illness.

“There has been an increase in the number of vulnerable homeless individuals and families and therefore the call on our services has increased considerably,” said Barbara Swain, who set up MHSG two years after her son tragically took his own life.

“COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our group. The social isolation has been awful for those clients who were already struggling, even for some of our volunteers. But we soldier on as we cannot let them down,” said Barbara.

Local psychologist Andy Hamilton founded Human Nature Adventure Therapy to engage young people away from a clinical setting. “For at risk young people who were already struggling with mental health issues, COVID-19 trauma is just one more thing on a long list,” he said. “Staying connected to young people has remained our top priority, and as we talk with them it’s so clear that they need holistic therapeutic support more than ever before.”

Ilze Jaunberzins is the President of Wollumbin Family Support Inc (WFSI) focusing on prevention and recovery from family and domestic violence in the Murwillumbah area. Primarily funded through community donations, they focus on proven methods that have positive impact.

“Our face to face programs of ‘Love Bites’ and ‘Recovery’ have had to stop due to the Government restrictions. We will be facing a huge ‘after shock’ of this pandemic as families have been forced to stay in the confines of their homes. Coupled with easy access to alcohol and stress of unemployment, 1800 RESPECT has already seen a soaring increase of 20% in calls,” said Ilze.

“Both the Federal and State Government response to this rise in family and domestic violence is to provide more telephone help lines. We don’t need more help lines. We need long term safe spaces where women and children can escape to.”

Donations made to the Resilience and Regeneration Fund will flow directly through to NRCF’s Recovery & Resilience Grants Program in 2020, to help community groups like these meet increasing demands on their services and adapt as we all work together to build resilience within our community.

The NRCF will also be partnering with Resilient Bryon, a local not for profit focused on connecting our communities and building a region that is resilient to disasters and crises. According to Jean S. Renouf, an SCU academic, firefighter and founder of Resilient Byron, “To be resilient, communities need to have satisfied their basic needs, which means access to food, water, housing, health, safety and energy.”

Those looking to give locally in the Northern Rivers and be certain that their donations will be distributed where the money is needed most, can visit

For more information:
Resilient Byron