1991 - Emergency relief Trust starts providing twice-yearly grants for emergency relief

15 Jun 2021

Granting priority to vulnerable Victorians

Helping vulnerable Victorians - and those in crisis – has been a consistent priority of the Ross Trust.

When the Ross Trust was formed in 1970, the first Trustees decided one of their three fields of focus would be social welfare.

“With particular regard to assistance to the disadvantaged in breaking the circles in which they are caught and which result in poverty,” the Trustees said at the time.

The Trust’s first social welfare grants in 1972 included contributing to the establishment of a Chair of Social Studies (social work) at the University of Melbourne and paying for research into improving the care and protection system for children.

The Trust also focused on organisations providing emergency relief and material aid to people adversely affected by poverty and disadvantage. 

In 2001 the Ross Trust formalised its approach to helping vulnerable Victorians and established the Emergency Relief Material Aid (ERMA) program. Since inception the Ross Trust has distributed more than $7 million in emergency and material aid to those living in poverty and in crisis.

Ross Trust Chief Executive Officer Sarah Hardy says the ERMA program supported major charities such as Anglicare, Hanover Welfare Services and Wesley Support Service to help them provide emergency relief and accommodation.

“We also partnered with the Brotherhood of St Laurence to help them deliver material aid, like Christmas toys and education packs for vulnerable children,” she says.

The Trust also provided ERMA grants to smaller charitable organisations, such as the Southern Peninsula Community Support, which received more than $700,000 to provide local, on-the-ground support to people in need across the Mornington Peninsula.

SPCS Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Maxwell says the Ross Trust contribution to his organisation is “enormously important”.

“The unmet need down here is way beyond what the three levels of government are funding,” Mr Maxwell says.

“So every dollar that comes outside of that allows us to directly help individuals. These are people whose lives are better and may well have been saved because the Ross Trust has put money in.”

In 2020, Trustees approved a five-year granting strategy that includes a focus on educational equity, biodiversity conservation, as well as responsive grants to help Victorians in crisis.

Responsive grants focus on four areas: natural disasters, emergency relief, building capacity in the not-for-profit sector and human rights.

“These responsive grants are different to our other grants in that they are invitation-only –Ms Hardy says. “These grants are nimble, which means we’re able to respond in a timely manner to areas of need, and they continue to support historical areas of interest for the Trust.

“We were able to quickly provide responsive grants to help communities recover from crises like bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Trust made a priority grant to help children on the Mornington Peninsula learn at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.”

In 2020, Southern Peninsula Community Support also received a responsive grant of $25,000 to help provide COVID-19 emergency relief.

“When the first lockdown hit, the world went to hell in a handbasket in a few days,” Mr Maxwell says.

“The level of disadvantage down here is masked from the rest of the world because we are surrounded by very wealthy suburbs. But the Ross Trust knows that because they have been a part of our community for a long time.

“We rely on volunteers to deliver two of our main programs – food relief and emergency accommodation. In a lockdown, we lost 80 per cent of our volunteers. The Ross Trust called and said ‘we would like to help, with no conditions attached … spend the money where you need to spend it’.

“We were able to use our staff in place of volunteers. We were able to deliver 6000 boxes of fresh food, 4200 boxes of non-perishable food and 3000 frozen meals. We could not have done that to that level if we did not have the support of the Ross Trust.”