24 May 2024, NSW – A new Community Reference Group is giving the Uralla community self-determination in the allocation of New England Solar (NES) project grants and donations.

    The CRG, established in March, brings transparency and local insight to the assessment of community applications for grants and donations through the NES Social Investment Program (SIP) in 2024.

    It comprises five community members with a wealth of local knowledge, along with two ACEN Australia representatives.

    The CRG met for the first time last month and has been busy assessing Round 1 SIP applications and confirming the grant recipients, who will be publicly announced soon.

    The panel will also consider and select a second round of recipients for 2024, with applications for Round 2 set to open in July.

    This year’s CRG is the first to be established under the new Social Investment Program, which replaced the New England Solar’s successful Uralla Grants program that invested a total of $200,000 into the Uralla Shire community during the past three years.

    The community representatives were chosen from a high-quality field of applicants, to represent the community as broadly as possible, including various parts of the Uralla district and surrounds, and a range of cultural and business backgrounds and interests.

    Our 2024 CRG, pictured with New England Solar Project Director Sarah Donnan (left), comprises:

    Georgie (Darlene) McNaughton

    A Balala resident and social anthropologist who is Associate Professor (adjunct) at the University of New England. She has more than 20 years’ experience researching cultural heritage, history and health with Indigenous communities and a 30-year teaching career in the social sciences, publishing more than 50 peer-reviewed books and papers.

    Grant Clark

    A Uralla Property Manager who previously worked for Uralla Shire Council for more than 20 years. Grant is a community golf coach and member of the organising committees for the Uralla Can Assist Poss family fun day and Armidale & Districts Relay for Life.

    Karin Jackson

    A Uralla resident and retired primary school teacher who worked mainly in the New England region and New Zealand during her 45-year career. Karin is a volunteer with the Uralla Community Cooperative and the Uralla Future Fund (TUFF). She also has a couple of roles with the Uralla Show Society, as the Vice President and steward of creative arts and a member of its Pavilion Committee.

    Steven Ahoy

    An Elder with the Anaiwan community and Director of the Iwatta Aboriginal Corporation. An Armidale resident, Steven is the current Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisor for the University of New England in Armidale, and an advisory group member for the Bulaguranda Aboriginal Area around Mt Yarrowyck. He is also a circle sentencing Panel of Elders member for the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.

    Susan Wilson

    A Kentucky resident and retired primary school teacher who has lived in several NSW regional centres and Norfolk Island during her 37-year education career. Susan is a past Organiser of the NSW Teachers Federation for the New England North West.

    $150,000 commitment for 2024

    ACEN Australia has dedicated a total $150,000 to its community grants and donations program, known as its SIP Stream 1, in 2024. The CRG’s local knowledge in selecting the recipients will help ensure those funds make the most effective contributions to the Uralla district and surrounds.

    A further $150,000 has been allocated by ACEN Australia to a SIP Stream 2 for more long-term legacy projects.

    It is part of a commitment by ACEN Australia to invest more than $7 million into the local community over 25 years or more, through grants, sponsorships, donations and other contributions to organisations and individuals bringing positive change in the Uralla Shire.

    Main image: New England Solar Project Director Sarah Donnan (left) with the five 2024 Community Reference Group community members … Georgie (Darlene) McNaughton, Grant Clark, Karin Jackson, Stephen Ahoy and Susan Wilson.