Buses deliver students, progress and some are still supported today
The last article published in the SOUTHERN RIVERINA NEWS relating to the history of the Jerilderie Public School and their preparations to celebrate the school’s 150th anniversary was a synopsis of a speech delivered by Neil McKinnon as Chairman of the P&C in 1967.
In that speech Neil made mention of the five bus runs that were delivering students to the local primary schools in Jerilderie, at that time.
This article elaborates on the fluctuating fortunes those bus runs had on the progress of the schools.
The first school bus to transport country children into the Jerilderie primary schools was that which was known as the ‘Willawa’ bus.
At a public meeting held on February 27, 1957 — at which 19 parents were in attendance — a committee was established under the chairmanship of Kelvin O’Connell to raise funds for the provision of a school bus to ferry pupils from the Boorabanilly/ South Coree area to the Jerilderie primary schools.
The first bus started operations for the school year starting in 1958, and it was driven by a Mr R Fraser.
One year later, in 1959, the Wunnamurra school bus started. Both the Willawa and Wunnamurra buses were being subsidised by the Jerilderie Shire Council.
The explanation given by the Jerilderie Shire Council for getting involved in the bus runs in their initial years was that by maintaining the number of student attendances, the classes and courses offered at Jerilderie schools would be retained. It would lead to maintaining or increasing teacher numbers.
This practice continued until the beginning of the 1960 school year, when the education department introduced universal subsidies for school buses, at the rate of 1/8d per mile.
The success of the Willawa and Wunnamurra bus committees also led to a committee being formed in March 1960 to lobby for the introduction of a Colombo Creek School Bus service.
Then in March 1963, a committee was formed to investigate establishing a school bus service along Wilson Road.
Originally, five families collaborated in purchasing and operating a mini-bus, which transported children from north-west of Jerilderie into the schools, until 1979 when it discontinued due to lack of numbers.
The Wilson Road bus was re-activated in 1995 when a group of landholders in the North Coree area got together to recommence the Wilson Road school bus route.
The renamed North Coree School Bus Committee acquired the assets of the old Wilson Road School Bus Committee, and it ran until ceasing operations at the end of the 2002 school year.
There is anecdotal evidence that suggests a private arrangement of sorts, between landholders in the Hartwood sub-division area off Conargo road, transported some children to Jerilderie public schools between 1960 and 1964.
Before the start of the 1966 school year however, and in response to representations made by landholders and parents in the Hartwood area, the Jerilderie Shire Council once again got involved in the provision of bus services. It resolved that for a period of two years the council would provide a station wagon to ferry children to Jerilderie public schools, with a committee of parents in the Hartwood area being responsible for meeting the running costs of the service.
As the aggregation of farms gained impetus, and children progressed to secondary and university education, the bus runs into Jerilderie primary schools began to disappear.
The first of the bus runs to close was the Hartwood bus, sometime in the 1990s, followed by the North Coree bus run at the end of the 2002 year, as mentioned previously. The remaining users of those two bus runs were, for a time, picked up by the re-routed Willawa bus run, at ‘Kullaroo’ gate on the Conargo Rd.
The Wunnamurra bus run ceased operations at the end of the 2004 school year. The only bus runs still transporting children to the Jerilderie schools are the privately operated Colombo Creek bus run, and the committee-run Willawa bus run.
The ongoing benefit to the schools though, is that the committee-run Willawa school bus is provided to the school free of charge for excursions and/or regional events.
Additionally, while the Wunnamurra bus no longer operates the committee is still active with substantial funds accumulated over the years, at their disposal.
Each year the Wunnamurra Bus Committee divide the interest earned on investments equally between Jerilderie Public, St Joseph’s, and the Pre School.
The Willawa Bus Committee also makes an annual contribution to the three schools, based on an amount per head (currently at $80) for each student attending the respective schools.
Jerilderie Public School will be celebrating its 150th anniversary on Sunday, September 22 this year, so keep your calendar clear for what is shaping up to be a huge weekend.
Jerilderie Public School in 1904.