Making an impact

The winners from this year’s Fremantle Business Awards.

WHEN The Fremantle Foundation picked up the top award for its “contribution to Fremantle” at this year’s Business Awards, few would have had an inkling of the behind-the-scenes workload that landed it the honour.

The Foundation really stepped up as Covid pounded hard on WA’s hard borders and the state was still undergoing short, sharp-lockdowns. The impact on families, support services and businesses was hard, and the Foundation’s new CEO Sue Stepatschuk found herself inundated with requests for help.

“We had half a million dollars of requests for everything from Covid kits to food parcels and it was beyond the Foundation’s capacity to respond at that level,” Ms Stepatschuk said.

“But I thought: ‘I’ve got to try’.”

So she flagged setting up the WA Relief and Recovery Fund: Covid-19 to the Foundation’s networks and the philanthropy sector.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation showed great interest so she signed them as a partner and in pretty short time had raised around $300,000 to get out to groups supporting homeless people, Indigenous Australians, families, seniors and arts.

The fund helped the Foundation raise about $1.4 million in donations, and distribute more than $1 million back to the community through 70 organisations for the first time in a single year.

It’s an amazing effort for an organisation run by just a couple of part-timers.

“It’s a part-time role but a full-time commitment, and we have a volunteer board that commit their time, energy and skills, and we have volunteer committees that commit their time, energy and skills as well,” Ms Stepatschuk said.

The Foundation has also been stretching its wings beyond its traditional home.

“Fremantle is the genesis story of the Foundation and has really been built by the community and is a treasured community asset, but it now goes beyond Fremantle.

Ms Stepatschuk said after Cyclone Seroja tore through Northampton in April 2021, a couple of former locals who’d blossomed into AFL stars ran a successful fundraiser and approached the Foundation for help to set up a fund so the money could be channeled back to rebuild the community.

A couple of Esperance farmers who had a blinder of a season also approached the Foundation to help them give something back to their community, and Ms Stepatschuk said she’d now love to see the Freo model rolled out across the state.

“We are small be we have a big impact.”

This year the foundation has had a big impact on CircusWA, which was picked by donors for the big $100,000 grant.

CircusWA were able to successfully pitch their bid against a worthy list of finalists: Foobank WA, My Local Mind and Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation.

Late last month Ms Stepatschuk said the Foundation had successfully raised the $100,000 needed, and anything that came in after that would be donated to the Impact 100 runner-up.


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