How Kindred Spirits began
Kindred Spirits is the brainchild of Rhonda Renwick, transport industry proprietor, organisational psychologist, educator and mother of three.
When Rhonda became the sole director of Latrobe Valley Bus Lines in 2008 her vision was to grow and develop Latrobe Valley’s leading public transport provider through working closely with her employees, and the community it serves.
The Latrobe Valley, a major coal and electricity producing region in Victoria’s Gippsland, has been Rhonda’s home for over 35 years and throughout that time she witnessed substantial social and economic changes in the community.
Her work in the fields of education and psychology provides her with an understanding of the stress the community suffered during the economic rationalisation of the 1990’s and the continuing pressure on people due to climate change and political uncertainty. Rhonda’s compassion for people has also taken her into remote regions of Australia and cultivated her connections with the indigenous communities, a relationship that started when she worked at Monash University, Gippsland in the ‘80’s.
To help realise her vision and the dream of leaving a lasting legacy, she established Kindred Spirits Foundation, a philanthropic trust that provides opportunities to empower communities along their journey.
Kindred Spirits does more than just hand out money. It supports people through acts of kindness to make the connections they need to stay on track and reach their destination, Rhonda says. “Connections, tracks and destinations, all sounds a bit like public transport, and in reality public transport, in the form of Latrobe Valley Bus Lines, has been the catalyst in establishing Kindred Spirits Foundation,” Rhonda says.
“Working with Kindred Spirits Foundation is enjoyable and enlightening experience that brings me into contact with some remarkable people.”
Rhonda invited a group of community-minded people she is personally or professionally connected to, to join the Foundation. The Foundation’s founding members and trustees include Kathy Havers who operates Melbourne-based business Catalyst Financial, former bus company proprietor Pam Usher and Ann Shanley, who works for Parenting Australia and has a background in social welfare and research. Leanne Blake, a qualified social worker who also works with Rhonda at the Latrobe Valley Bus Lines, looks after the Foundation’s administration.
In October 2009 Kindred Spirits Foundation ran it first official event, an Asset Based Community Development Workshop to assist people to focus on the positive things about their communities, and build on their strong points rather than dwell on problems and complex challenges.
Approximately 30 people attended the workshop, 20 people from Wadeye an aboriginal community in Northern Territory, 3 women from Latrobe Valley Sudanese Women’s Group and 3 workers from the Parenting Resource Centre in Melbourne. By the end of the workshop each community had positive plans and first steps for their future.
Kindred Spirits focus is not aimed specifically at indigenous communities, and given the close connection with Latrobe Valley, it is anticipated there will be opportunities to work with local communities that could benefit from similar support.
Kindred Spirits Foundation will be officially launched in Latrobe Valley in September this year.