House with no steps staff front from left,  Leanne Smith, Lachlan Smith, Rhiannon Stokes, Peter Irwin, back from left, Secretary of Richmond Valley Wood Crafters John Gilmour, and Stephen Laws.
House with no steps staff front from left, Leanne Smith, Lachlan Smith, Rhiannon Stokes, Peter Irwin, back from left, Secretary of Richmond Valley Wood Crafters John Gilmour, and Stephen Laws. Northern Star/David Nielsen

Groups facing a cash crisis

JOHN Gilmore fears a lack of funding for community projects will mean plans for a woodworkers shed for elderly and disabled people will go down the drain.

And the Richmond Valley Woodcrafters Club project is not the only one at risk.

According to the Northern Rivers Social Development Council, countless other community groups and services are struggling to make ends meet, with many finding it near impossible to fund the projects needed by the community.

“There are just not enough grants for community projects out there,” said Mr Gilmore, who is secretary/treasurer of the club.

“We've looked online and all the grants are for industries and agriculture. I'm sure it's a much wider problem than just us being affected. Community groups need community grants; they can't all survive on fundraising and donations all the time.”

The woodworkers club has been working tirelessly to raise the $105,000 needed to construct the 15m by 10m shed - to be fitted using woodworking machinery at Alstonville's House With No Steps - since the Federal Government got rid of the former government's Regional Partnerships grant program, which the club had applied under.

It was to be used particularly by retired people who didn't have their own shed, and to train employees with disabilities at the House With No Steps, which is contributing about $10,000 towards the facility.

And now with just $36,000 in its kitty - enough to build the workshop at one third of the size of that originally planned - it has been hit with a $14,000 bill to pay for a new septic system needed to meet council requirements.

Mr Gilmore said it was likely the club would have to downsize its project, which would result in it not being able to cater for as many people.

Either way, nothing could be built until the club had the extra $14,000 needed to pay for the septic system, he said.

Paul Cruickshank, the manager at the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre, said it was the same story throughout the region.

“It's an extremely big issue,” he said. “We receive government funding for most of the services that run from the centre, but the actual centre itself runs on volunteers and the smell of an oily rag.

“It makes things difficult, and unless there is more core funding to go around for the decent community organisations that actually provide things, you end up having to wind things up.”

Tony Davies, CEO of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council, said it was a state-wide issue that particularly affected youth and family services.

“There is very limited funding out there, but nowhere near enough,” he said. “Because community groups don't have a really strong voice, people don't understand how valuable they are and how much they struggle on a tiny amount of funding.

“The State Government needs to value the community sector and appreciate the work it does by allocating more government funding.”

Page MP Janelle Saffin was yesterday unavailable for comment, however a spokesperson from her office said there was a wide range of local, State and Federal government grants available for community groups and organisations - it was just a matter of finding out what was available and whether your group met the criteria to apply.

If you can help the woodworkers club raise the funds it needs for its project by making a donation of goods or cash, call president Jim Edwards on 6686 8892.

For information about community grants, go to www.aph.gov.au



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