Each year, ACF makes grants to a wide range of charitable organisations and projects across Australia and internationally. Although they can be very different in terms of size and scope, they all have one thing in common; a focus on improving the communities in which we live.
Below are some inspiring stories which represent the diversity and scope of ACF’s grantmaking activities.
The Environment Defenders Office – Victoria
In December 2013, the Federal Government announced that Environment Defenders Offices around Australia would lose their federal funding. For many communities wanting to defend their environment from damaging and destructive schemes such as coal mines and logging, this network of community legal centres had been their only accessible source of legal advice and representation.
In Victoria, the Environment Defenders Office (EDO Vic) had a strong record in this area. They had helped Tullamarine locals close a toxic waste dump, taken the State Government to court and forced it to create action plans for threatened species and represented small community groups across the state in countless cases.
The sudden withdrawal of funds left EDO Vic in a position where it faced closure, leaving many Victorians with no accessible representation or advice. This accelerated the shift to an alternative ‘citizen funded’ model, a move the organisation had been working toward for some time.
ACF was able to help quickly by convening members of the ACF Environmental and Community Wellbeing Donors Circle along with the Reichstein Foundation, to discuss a collective giving approach. Drawing on the partnership, the donor circle raised a grant of $20,000 which was matched by the Reichstein Foundation.
On 1 May 2014, the Environmental Defenders Officer – Victoria was re-launched as Environmental Justice Australia, with a new national focus on climate change, biodiversity and healthy communities. At the launch of the new entity, Brendan Sydes, CEO, gave insight into how critical ACF’s support was “The Australian Communities Foundation really stepped into the breach when we most needed support. Their dollar matching offer allowed us to strengthen our end of financial year appeal, meaning more donations from everyday Australians. We set an ambitious target of $100,000 and we reached that. The Foundation’s help was instrumental in getting us there, keeping our lawyers in court and working for reform of our legal system.”
Collingwood Homework Club
The Collingwood Homework Club provides free one-on-one tutoring to students from Prep to Year 12.
The Club operates every Wednesday night serving more than 50 students and involving more than 80 volunteer tutors on a regular basis. The Club aims to encourage the involvement of a diverse range of students who live on or near the Collingwood Housing Estate, as well as volunteers from a broad variety of backgrounds.
Collingwood Homework Club is a volunteer run program which ensures that costs remain low. Recent funding from ACF enabled the Club to refresh its resources, in particular, the purchase of educational books, games and bilingual materials for parents to use with their children.
Seeing Eye Dogs Australia
Seeing Eye Dogs Australia (SEDA) is a national organisation that established its first school for training dog guides in Victoria, on the 10th April 1960.
SEDA merged with Vision Australia on the 1st July 2008 and is a full member of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). SEDA is the only national provider of dog guides specially bred and trained to act as dog guides for people who are blind or vision impaired. These unique dogs provide the ‘gift of independence’ and freedom in day-to-day life by becoming the ‘eyes’ of a person who is blind or vision impaired.
SEDA does not receive any government funding, relying solely on the goodwill and support of volunteers and donors. In early 2015, ACF continued its ongoing support of SEDA with a $35,000 grant to Vision Australia for the purpose of assisting to train Seeing Eye Dogs.
Human Rights Law Centre
In early 2014, ACF launched its first ‘Refugee and Asylum Seeker Donors Circle’ to expose interested donors to expert information on the subject. The donors circle made its first collective grant in March 2014 in response to a call for action by the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC).
This was initiated when Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) National Court launched an inquiry to examine whether the indefinite detention of asylum seekers in Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island was in breach of PNG’s human rights laws. The inquiry provided an important and rare opportunity to penetrate the veil of secrecy surrounding Australia’s offshore processing arrangements.
The HRLC moved quickly and teamed up with Amnesty International, the only non-government organisation to have been allowed to visit the detention centre, to gain permission to participate in the inquiry. Unfortunately, HRLC lacked the resources to ensure
its Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, would be able to provide support on the ground during the case.
This is where ACF’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker Donors Circle stepped in. Within 24 hours, $5,000 in funding from two of the Foundation’s sub-funds had been pledged to cover Daniel’s travel costs. Daniel was also able to inspect the centre along with the
first Australian and PNG journalists ever to be allowed to photograph the facility.
Despite having read every report published on Manus and having previously worked in PNG, Daniel was shocked by the confronting conditions within the Manus detention centre. He described excessively cramped conditions, facilities in disrepair, a heavy security presence and a very tense atmosphere. Although he was not permitted to interview any asylum seekers, he said he was overwhelmed by people desperate to tell someone, anyone, their stories and plead for help.
Amnesty International and the HRLC’s involvement has already helped bring vital transparency, awareness and legal scrutiny of Australia’s practices on Manus Island. The knowledge and first-hand insights obtained formed the basis of the HRLC’s submission and evidence to the Australian Senate inquiry into the violence which led to the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati at the centre. It has also informed the HRLC’s subsequent advocacy in the media and at the United Nations.
McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park
McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park showcases over 100 permanent outdoor sculptures set within a diverse landscape of bracken paths, heathlands, gardens and lakes. Set over 16 hectares of bush and landscaped gardens in Langwarrin on the Mornington Peninsula, McClelland is a not-for-profit organisation committed to the presentation and promotion of sculpture in Australia.
Each year, McClelland provides joy to over 130,000 visitors keen to see the work of prominent Australian sculptors such as Inge King, Lenton Parr, Clement Meadmore and Norma Redpath.
In early 2015, ACF provided McClelland with a $50,000 grant to support the preservation, maintenance and development of the Sculpture Park collection, along with the development and delivery of education programs for youth and students.
The Aspiration Initiative
School completion rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are well below the rates for non-Indigenous students. Current statistics in Australia show that only 3 in every 100 Year 8 Indigenous students are eligible to go to university when they finish school (on their own marks). In Western Australia, it is 1 in 100. Furthermore, those who do make it to university are more than twice as likely to drop out as non-Indigenous students.
The academic enrichment program for Indigenous students is a 5½ year pilot program for Australian Indigenous high school students in NSW, Victoria and WA. The primary aim of the program is for all participants to successfully complete Year 12 and be eligible for university in 2016.
Launched in September 2011, TAI’s academic enrichment program works with 90 Year 8 Indigenous state school students in NSW, Victoria and WA. The program provides cohorts of students with intensive and ongoing educational support through academic camps, tutoring, mentoring, work experience opportunities and other academic resources (for example laptops, books, internet in the home), from the middle of Year 8 until the end of their first year out of high school (over 200 contact hours per year).
In addition to academic excellence, the program focuses on strengthening identity and resilience, and creating a group of students who will support each other through school and further education for the 5½ year duration of the program. A full time Indigenous Coordinator in each state looks out for the students, visiting them in their home communities and at school throughout the academic year.