Sisters of the North is the brainchild of a group of women living in Cloncurry North West Queensland who were tired of years of oppressive drought that seemed to have no end in sight. Added with the extreme Summer temperatures we needed respite from the conditions, and we wanted to get women together to focus on us and have a release. As the idea grew, we focused on building resilience in our Community and in our lives, which has become the Sisters of the North mantra.
In early January we were focusing on our inaugural event to be held in April including campdrafting, guest speakers, gala luncheon and live entertainment. Our motivation was to bring the community together to raise spirits and encourage resilience to get through the awful seasons we were experiencing. And so the rain began which gave us an instance of hope that was short lived and has left behind this living nightmare. 8 days of rain, cyclonic winds, cold conditions created this disaster of tremendous loss that will change North West Queensland forever.
Up to 500 000 head of cattle lost, generations of stock genetics decimated, native animals dead and family pets gone. Additionally, the flooding caused hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure damage, crippling livestock and mining industries.
As the devastation of the flooding was exposed, a team of likeminded people started a GoFundMe page on Saturday 9th February and within 4 days had raised $100,000.
The Sisters of the North Charity and Board was a natural development responding to the trust of donors who respected our integrity to do the right thing. From the start we set out to assist flood impacted individuals and families of the 6 impacted Shires – Flinders, Richmond, Winton, McKinlay, Cloncurry and Carpentaria. Using Ambassadors, trusted members of their respective community with the capacity to build relationships through the age-old and truly tested bush telegraph, the distribution of funds are going to be given to the right people. The Sisters of the North team collaborated and researched Local Government and AgForce registers to identify the impacted stations. This organic local approach is key to the Sisters of the North philosophy to support the right people.
Support individuals and families living on stationsimpacted by the flood event to purchase small ticket items and in turn supporting small businesses within the 6 affected Shires. The Sisters of the North model stimulates local small business economy and retrospectively enhances the survival of the North West Queensland communities. We also consider it a ‘ping of hope’ when a recipient receives their voucher code which relates back to raising the spirits of the bush.
Social and Emotional Wellbeing awareness at future Sisters of the North supported in collaboration with Mental Health services providers and respected facilitators to provide programs and strategies to encourage resilience and community connectivity. The Sisters of the North brand, ethos and social media success has been recognised by State and Federal Health Services as a platform to assist with the anticipated mental health risks associated with Natural Disaster and loss.
Building Resilience in Communities and our Lives.
We aim to benefit the broader community by distributing funds at a grassroots level to impacted Primary Producers, Station Managers/Families/Individuals and their Workforce via vouchers that are only redeemable at small local businesses thereby helping to sustain the viability of our regional communities as a whole. We by ourselves and through partnerships seek to establish and support opportunities to enable community connectivity to strengthen resilience as the whole-of-community approach.
Sisters of the North (“SOTN”) was established to bring together our rural communities and in particularly the women as a response to the ongoing drought and provide an avenue of support to assist in building resilience against the ongoing adversity of drought and its related stressors. With the event of the NWQ Flood Disaster, the SOTN was morphed into a greater force with the establishment of the SOTN Charity. It was also recognised that during these times assistance in helping folk deal with the social and emotional health consequences of these trying times is critically important. SOTN continuously aims to enable this through the hosting and/or supporting events or initiatives that provide an outlet to deliver these opportunities.
Hence the SOTN mantra becoming “Building Resilience against Adversity in Community and in Our Lives”. The phenomenal growth also struck a chord with many generous Australian and Overseas donors to support the morphing of an organic, locally inspired intent into a respected delivery of Charity combined with a critical social and emotional wellbeing impact on the NWQ Region.
In February 2019 communities in North West Queensland experienced a once in a lifetime flood event that brought devastation to the whole community – station owners, managers, workers, local businesses and all the families of these parties. As a result, SOTN immobilised itself to raise money with the aim to assist the broader community get through the consequences of this event.
SOTN has identified that the best way to support the broader community was to provide vouchers to flood impacted primary producers (“Recipients” – including station owners, managers, their families and workforce) using donated funds to purchase goods (excluding tobacco) and services at local businesses registered through the use of the LiveVoucher system. LiveVoucher is an “account like” system communicated via SMS that can be presented at participating businesses to be redeemed as a form of payment. SOTN later reimburses the business of the cost of sale redeemed. LiveVoucher is 100% transparent and traceable which assures the generous SOTN donors that the funds remain in the 6 effected Shires of North West Queensland which in turn stimulates the small business economy and sustains viability of the NW community.
100% of funds received in the aftermath of the 2019 Monsoonal event are to be spent in the local communities. The local communities where the funds can be allocated are within the six impacted shires of Winton, Cloncurry, Carpentaria, McKinlay, Richmond and Flinders. The LiveVoucher system will only be redeemable at participating registered local businesses. Funds are preferred to be spent on items (excluding tobacco) needed by community members impacted by the devastating and life-altering event.
Eligible Small Business must operate in any of the above Shires and apply online www.livevoucher.com.
Registered businesses can assist SOTN by advocating the LiveVoucher system by becoming a SOTN Ambassador – apply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Eligible Recipients can apply via:
(a) www.sistersofthenorth.org.au website portal – PDF.
(b) SMS / Email registration portal automatically sent from SOTN database retrieved from Local Council database shared under a Confidential Share Agreement, or from other Government Agencies assisting on behalf of SOTN to reach out to as many eligible people as possible.
In line with the original and on-going purpose for SOTN, and therefore in addition to the LiveVoucher system, community oriented and locally inspired events that strengthen community connectivity and encourage resilience are also a key focus of SOTN. Community events and in particular “grass roots”, locally inspired initiatives are entitled and encouraged to apply and receive funds.
On application, community events that require funding support which promote social inclusion of community members affected by the recent monsoonal floods may apply for a maximum $2500 (GST Free) contribution. Applications are assessed by the SOTN Board and require event organisers to purchase goods and services locally plus support their application with 2 letters of support with one preferably being from their local Shire Council. Events must also be locally inspired and organized with a focus on connecting community and raising the profile of resilience in the community. Applications must be received at least 4 weeks prior to event to allow the SOTN Board to process. See Form C www.sistersofthenorth.org.au
A restricted amount of funds has been allocated to support individuals and families in exceptionally difficult circumstances to purchase items, in some circumstance that may not be able to be sourced locally. Individuals seeking assistance, directly affected by the monsoonal flooding, who have suffered extensive loss, may directly apply to the SOTN Board via email email@example.com. Individuals can also be nominated by community members and can request the application form on behalf of the primary producing community member. The exceptional circumstance must directly relate to the impact of floods ie… Is the circumstance a direct result of the flood? All applications will remain completely confidential. See www.sistersofthenorth.org.au for Exceptional Circumstances form.