Grants to strengthen community bonds

Published on 06 December 2023

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In a move to foster community connection and support mental wellbeing, Benalla Rural City Council launched its Social Connection Grants on Monday 4 December, with members of the community heavily involved in the process. This initiative is the first of many for Benalla's Social Inclusion Action Group (SIAG), a flagship primary prevention program recommended by the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.

The Benalla SIAG program brings a community-driven approach to community connection and mental wellbeing, empowering locals to collaboratively identify goals and co-design initiatives aimed at enhancing social inclusion. The initiative is made possible through funding provided by the Victorian Government Department of Health.

"This program is a bold initiative from the Victorian Government and is an exciting opportunity to empower the Benalla community to help identify common goals and co-design initiatives to support social inclusion," Benalla Rural City Mayor Danny Claridge said.

“The Social Connection Grants initiative marks an important first step in the SIAG program. It encourages local community groups to organise events and activities that create opportunities for connection and inclusion,” Cr Claridge said.

SIAG member Michele McCrohan said, “These grants will give us new opportunities to meet up with others, have fun, and make new friends.  Whether it's a big or small event, in Benalla, Gooroombat or Tatong, this money will be used by locals for locals. We can't wait to see the amazing ideas put forward by residents for the use of these funds."

Another SIAG member said, “Having lived through the experience of intense grief, anxiety, and social isolation as a survivor of domestic abuse, I see the importance of the work of SIAG. Although it comes with many joys, the summer festive season can be highly stressful for families and an experience of loneliness for individuals living alone, especially with the increasing cost of living we are now experiencing.” 

“I see this funding as a great opportunity for community-led events and initiatives to support safe social connection and inclusion at a grass roots level. I hope to see initiatives arise from this grant which support mental wellbeing and connection across the diverse range of lived experiences of those who make up our community," they said.

The grant round will continue until the end of February or until the $15,000 funding pool is depleted. Local groups are invited to apply for grants of up to $1,000, with applications evaluated on a rolling basis. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to host their events between December and April. Applications will need to satisfy at least one of the two eligibility criteria:

1. Create opportunities for social connection and inclusion.

2. Support positive mental health outcomes and community resilience.

For more information on the Social Connection Grants and the SIAG program, interested parties are encouraged to visit