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Magpies call for help

RUNNING ON EMPTY: Betty Stone, 86, is seeking sponsors for the Combined Churches Magpie indigenous music program.
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Betty Stone, 86, is seeking sponsors for the Combined Churches Magpie indigenous music program.

A CLASSICAL music program for young indigenous students is under threat after the Clarence Valley Council discontinued funding last year.

The last thing 86-year-old Betty Stone wants to do is knock on doors in the search for sponsors to keep the Combined Churches Magpie music program running.

But that is exactly what she has to do now that funding requests to various sources, including the council, have been unsuccessful.

The program aims to put indigenous students from the age of 10 through a five-year classical training program that will then allow them to play confidently and be able to take up teaching music to other indigenous kids.

"By helping one student we could end up helping many, many more to learn and enjoy music," Ms Stone said.

The program has had four students for the past two years, but faces a funding crisis.

The first year was funded by Bendigo Bank and then the council funded it for six months but failed to renew funding after June last year.

The Magpies have been funding themselves since then but this can't last," said Ms Stone, the group's president.

"People don't understand the good that comes from music; it is easier to get funding for sports."

The council's acting deputy general manager David Morrison said the council gave Ms Stone's request for funding due regard, but because its benefits essentially flowed to just a few people and didn't have a broader benefit, the request was turned down.

The council was bound to the criteria attached to funding programs, he said.

Ms Stone has made several other grant requests.

If these fail, she is hoping local businesses will sponsor the program worth $4000 per year. She is looking for eight organisations to put up $500 each she said.

"If grant applications do come through they can get their money back," she said.

The Combined Churched Magpie group was formed about 25 years ago to aid reconciliation and has members from across the Clarence Valley.

Ms Stone's Magpies, based at the Saint Matthews Anglican Church in South Grafton, is now the only group left. The music program is affiliated with the New South Wales reconciliation council.

Topics:  magpies, music group


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