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Helping Ballarat community organisations get and stay connected

5 Apr 2023

Charities and community groups often rely heavily on technology -  but access to facilities and equipment can be out of reach, both logistically and financially.

The Ross Trust is helping to address the problem by providing a $50,000 grant to The Ballarat Foundation, an organisation which has been serving its community for 40 years. With a population of more than 100,000, Ballarat is the third largest city in Victoria. 

The Foundation annually provides more than $200,000 in community impact grants to dozens of groups and projects which respond to disadvantage in Ballarat. The grants are funded through generous community donations which the Foundation pools for distribution.

Foundation CEO Andrew Eales says the establishment of the Ballarat Community Hub is a project that started with the purchase of a rundown building in Lydiard Street in the heart of the city in 2018. The three-level building was purchased by the foundation and is being redeveloped with the assistance of a Victorian Government grant. 

“We had the idea of transforming the building for the benefit of the community,” Andrew says. “We wanted to give Ballarat community organisations, charities and volunteers a space to come together, meet, and work. 

“The COVID pandemic really emphasised the reliance many organisations have on digital capabilities to deliver their activities, but we know that facilities and equipment are often out of reach for small organisations. The new hub will be modern, accessible and adaptable and will give users access to video conferencing, internet and digital capabilities.”

Andrew says a key driver of the project is the Ballarat Vital Signs project, which identified key gaps in social needs, including economic disadvantage, family violence and mental health. The foundation is determined to enable a positive response to the gaps by bringing like-minded organisations together to respond to the needs.

“We see this hub as an opportunity to bring smaller not-for-profits into a centre where costs are much less than a commercial rate, and give them access to technology and networking,” he says. “We will be using The Ross Trust grant to set up video conferencing and IT systems that will allow real collaboration.”

Andrew approached The Ross Trust CEO Sarah Hardy via LinkedIn last year for advice, with the conversation evolving into a funding request. 

“We were interested to learn that a study commissioned by the Ballarat Foundation found its community was facing significant challenges, including a reduction in volunteering, lack of integration between small organisations, and a lack of training spaces for new volunteers,” Sarah says. 

“We felt that funding to fit out the hub so that all the small not for profits will have access to video conferencing and internet connectivity was a great way to support their work.” 

Andrew says the relationship building at the hub would flow on to thousands of people. 

“We’re so grateful that The Ross Trust was able to support and connect us into networks that we wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise – that is just as valuable as the financial contribution,” he says. 

Image From:- Left Ballarat Foundation Chair, Wayne Weaire, Volunteer Mentor, Helen Bloom, State Member for Wendouree, Juliana Addison and Ballarat Foundation CEO, Andrew Eales.