Holding Steady in Philanthropy - the First Steps Count Child and Community Centre

First Steps Count

VFFF’s involvement with the First Steps Count team in Taree dates back to 2011. At that time, our early place-based work had identified Taree as an area of need and opportunity, and we had come across a local working group, led by Rosemary Sinclair, who by then were already four years into their efforts to realise the First Steps Count Centre. This group of dedicated community members had a vision to create a community hub offering wraparound support, programs and services for children and their families, through an integrated model of service delivery.

VFFF’s first financial contribution in September 2011 was a $49,000 grant to enable the necessary architectural plans and development approvals for the building of the Centre – at the time the aim was to have it operational by March 2014.

We also identified an opportunity to contribute to the construction costs for the centre, to a level significant enough to leverage other funding. In 2012, VFFF approved a potential financial commitment of $1M towards building the centre contingent on a successful funding application to government. VFFF assisted with this funding application and wrote to relevant Ministers and Departments detailing our commitment. That application was unsuccessful, as were many subsequent efforts with both State and Federal Governments over the next seven years.

And then in 2019 the NSW Government committed $2.5M towards building the centre. Following this confirmed government funding, VFFF reviewed our initial 2012 commitment, and increased our contribution to a grant of $1.65M. This included $1.5M towards construction costs and a $150,000 contribution towards the employment of a Transition Manager – a key role to turn this dream into reality.

Eleven years on from the initial discussions, there is now confirmed funding from the NSW Government ($2.5M) and the Federal Government ($3.2M), land provided by Mid Coast Council, alongside the funding from VFFF and many other supporters. In total, VFFF has provided some $1.8M in funding and plenty of encouragement and guidance along the way.

“There have been many changes in our work and lives since 2011, but what has not changed is the passion and resilience of a group of Taree locals – led by Rosemary Sinclair – who never wavered in their belief that local children and families deserved to have this showcase facility."

The pending completion of the Centre is a testament to the hard work of many people. For VFFF, it is also a reminder of what effective philanthropy can look like:

  • Philanthropy that provides early funding to kick start great ideas and also holds steady to keep backing things you believe in – even when it takes a long time.
  • Philanthropy that is prepared to fund flexibly – to provide the funds that are needed to progress the work - such as the cost of early development approvals and the salaries for the team delivering the work.
  • Philanthropy that uses its voice and reputation to encourage others to join us.
  • And philanthropy that is able to work together with multiple levels of government and the not for profit sector to support locally-driven social change.

The forthcoming opening of the Centre will be a special day for many in Taree and for VFFF. We are proud of the role we have played, alongside many others, to make the First Steps Count Centre a reality.

Tim Fairfax AC and Rosemary Sinclair at the First Steps Count Fundraising Dinner
Tim Fairfax AC and Rosemary Sinclair at the First Steps Count Fundraising Dinner

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