Back to school vouchers for children affected by bushfires

Back to school vouchers for children affected by bushfires

Students affected by the 2019/20 fire season have been getting a little help with their school expenses thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.  Social Futures, along with the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF), worked through 35 schools to distribute a thousand donated $50 vouchers to families across the Northern Rivers region.    

For the first time, the vouchers were sent electronically for students, or their schools, to print up and exchange for school related kit such as books, clothing and stationery.    

“It was a big job finding just which families had been affected by the fires,” explained Social Futures Senior Customer Experience Officer Kim Riches. 

It was such a widespread disaster.  We relied on the schools to fill in the picture, but even finding the right schools took a bit of work,” she said. 

“I think the last vouchers went to Dundurrabin public School,” she added.  

Dundurrabin, a small community inland from Coffs Harbour with less than 100 residents, was badly affected by the Bees Nest fire of September 2019.    

Social Futures also distributed vouchers through their programs like Mijung Jarjums and the Family Referral service.   

“We already have strong connections with the diverse communities across the region, including in remote or disadvantaged areas,” explained Social Futures CEO Tony Davies.  

“So, when we were asked to help out with this project, we were happy to make use our networks and hard working staff to see the vouchers get into the hands of the families that needed them most.” 

Emily Berry of NCRF said, “The vouchers are for purchasing items that students may have lost in the bushfires and have never been able to replace due to limited funds available in the family. We hope these vouchers help inclusion for the students, that they can more easily fit in to their school environment and go on to realise their potential, instead of feeling different, excluded because of their financial hardship.” 

While the fires were indiscriminate, many regional and disadvantaged communities were significantly affected, with homes lost and, in some cases, the school buildings themselves. 

Michelle Dalgleish, principal at Coutts Crossing Public School said many families faced hardship in the aftermath of the fires due to property damage and loss of livestock.  

“Our school community was affected by catastrophic fire conditions in November 2019. The fires threatened lives and property in the area, forcing the school to be declared temporarily non-operational due to safety concerns when the Coutts Crossing village was evacuated. It was an extremely scary time for students, families and the whole community,” said Michelle.  

“The school has worked hard to deliver a range of social-emotional programs to improve student’s resilience and strengthen coping skills in the aftermath of the bushfires. And now the vouchers have brought some welcome financial relief to families and students,” she said.   

All 86 students at Coutts Crossing received a voucher.   

“The school has worked hard to deliver a range of social-emotional programs to improve student’s resilience and strengthen coping skills in the aftermath of the bushfires. And now the vouchers have brought some welcome financial relief to families and students,”


Couts Crossing School Principal

Northern Rivers transport guides

Northern Rivers transport guides

If you are looking for information about transport options in the Northern Rivers including bus routes, community and medical transport, taxi, coach and other services that operate in your area, visit and download the transport guide for your region.

We have just updated the transport guides for the Ballina, Byron, Clarence, Kyogle, Lismore and Richmond regions to ensure they have the most up to date information about available services. There is also a guide available for Tweed provided by the Tweed Shire Council.

You can also use the link to the NSW Trip Planner to plan journeys using public transport.

This going places website is part of Social Futures Transport Development Project, a regional initiative funded by Transport for NSW, focused on reducing transport disadvantage and improving access to affordable transport options for residents of the Northern Rivers.

For more information about the Transport Development Project email [email protected]

Creative passion rises above the flood

Creative passion rises above the flood

For Ability Links participants Mike Smith and Mathew Daymond, dreams came true on the first weekend in November when they were able to attend the prestigious Artstate 2018 Bathurst with the support of Ability Links Far North Coast (FNC).

The two men are artists with Lismore-based arts company RealArtWorks.Inc. Mike is a musician and songwriter who has been blind since birth, while Mathew is a visual artist and lives with schizophrenia. Both also have an intellectual disability, and both are passionate advocates for their community.

Artstate is a four-year project by Regional Arts NSW to shine a light on excellence in regional arts across the State. The Bathurst event was attended by arts practitioners, government bodies and people engaged in the creative industries across Australia, and showcased the best creative works that regional NSW has to offer.

Over the past two years Mike and Mat have co-led creative initiatives that were a direct response to the March 2017 floods that devastated Lismore. Working with RealArtWorks.Inc, Lismore City Council and Ability Links, the artists were part of ARCH (Arts Recovery Community Hub), facilitating free creative workshops for the community.

They helped develop ‘The Art of Doing Business’ in Lismore, a Creative Lismore and Lismore City Council initiative to reactivate flood-affected CBD shop spaces. Both were also key driving forces behind ‘The Overtopping Performance’, a series of community narratives about recovery and resilience that engaged over 100 local creatives and many more Ability Links participants.

Using their individual National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding packages, the artists have been able to develop their practice and be supported to travel and present their work outside their home on the Far North Coast.

Their presentation, ‘Creating Community Post-Disaster’, was flagged by Accessible Arts NSW as one of its three top picks for Artstate 2018. Mike and Mat were also the only artists with intellectual disability chosen to present at this year’s conference.

Mike on the left and Mathew (wearing glasses) on the right

Using an innovative technique of spoken word and braille, the men co-led sessions and presented the attendees with a poem (see below) that captured the discussions that happened in the room and that were particularly focused on the drought.

“It’s important for people to see and hear people with disability,” Mike says. “Many people still think people with disability can’t do things and they need to be helped to be better.

“But we can show you how we can help YOU build a better world, to be better people and to work together. Telling people’s stories through my music is a way we can understand each other and learn to be a better community of people.”

Both artists used the Artstate opportunity to meet and connect with other creatives and are currently working on a project that will be based in the NSW Central Tablelands, working with drought-affected farmers to tell their stories about community resilience.

Ability Links FNC is happy to support these men who are leading from the front, creating true social change through their practice.



Rural sights are the sound.

Rural sights are the sound

Art builds from the ground

Different communities have different ideas

See through eyes of each other

Does that make sense to you?

Everyone has got paint on them.

Paint the canvas of Life

Express yourself

Rain falls up from the sky

Words will rain from up high.

Parents not Partners course for separated parents

Interrelate’s ‘Parents not Partners’ course provides information and support to separated parents, in order to focus on the needs and best interests of their children. The next course commences in October and runs for three consecutive Thursdays.

This is a three-session program for separated parents in conflict over their children. It is designed to improve emotional and developmental outcomes for children in separated families by:

  • raising parents’ awareness of the impact on their children of the ongoing conflict in their family
  • providing them with knowledge, tips and strategies to be able to focus on their children rather than on their issues or conflicts with the other parent.

Separated parents attend the course individually.  

This course is run each Term. Cost: $150 full fee / $90 Concession rate (Pension card holders).

The next course commences in October and runs for three consecutive Thursdays (18 Oct, 25 Oct, 1 Nov). Another course will commence on Thursday 29 November.  Both held at Interrelate, 5 Anzac Close, Lismore. 

Additionally, on-going case management and support for separated parents can be accessed through the Parenting Orders (Building Stronger Families) program at Interrelate. Please contact Don or Rebecca – 6623 2700. 


Post expires at 1:13pm on Thursday November 29th, 2018

Free workshops for family and friends supporting a loved one with a mental health condition 

Mission Australia is offering free workshops on Communication for Carers (Grafton, 15 November) and Understanding the Carer Role (Yamba, 28 November) for mental health carers.

Communication for Carers 

This workshop explores and practices the skills of effective communication, including interpreting and using non-verbal cues, as well as techniques for assertive communication.

It will also look at the benefits of good communication for relationships and our own wellbeing. There will be plenty of practical resources to take home.

Grafton: Thursday 15t November 10am-12pm, mental health carers support group
CRANES Centre, 11 Kemp St, Grafton

Understanding the Carer Role

The purpose of this group is to offer carers a foundational understanding of their role. The role of the mental health carer is put into context along with some insight into the challenges, losses and gains. Boundaries will also be a focus, as carers are in a position of constantly giving and as a result can lose sight of who they are, their rights, and their sense of self. This course will also give carers the chance to meet others in a similar situation.

Yamba: Wednesday 28 November, 10am-1pm
Treelands Community Centre, Treelands Drive, Yamba
For further info or to RSVP please contact Leanne Gilchrist, Education and Training Coordinator Ph: 66237403 Email: [email protected]



Post expires at 11:33am on Wednesday November 28th, 2018

Wisdom Group for women

The Women’s Wisdom Group runs weekly at the Lismore Women’s Health & Resource Centre from 1-3pm on Wednesdays.

It’s a creative space to address topics of empowerment and strength for women and to share and increase our wisdom. Mindfulness, sharing stories and experiences, afternoon tea, song, games and dance.

The Lismore & District Womens Health Centre is at 60 Uralba St, Lismore. Phone: 6621 9800

Find ongoing information about the groups on the Facebook page Lismore Women’s Health and Resource Centre, or on their website


Post expires at 1:52pm on Saturday November 10th, 2018

Delivering services around COVID-19

Social Futures is committed to the continuation of delivering support services in a safe, practical and innovative way while navigating COVID-19.