New transport service
West Wimmera residents experiencing difficulty getting to non-emergency medical, social and human-services appointments are set to benefit from a new community transport service.
A joint Transport for Victoria and Centre for Participation project, stage one of the planned three-stage Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service, will enable Kaniva, Nhill, Jeparit, Dimboola and Pimpinio residents to access a weekly bus service to Horsham.
The service starts today.
The only Victorian organisation of its kind to receive funding, the Centre for Participation has $125,000 to spend on the first year of a two-year pilot service.
It aims to increase social connectedness while reducing a regional transport gap.
Centre for Participation chief executive Julie Pettett said in 2014 the organisation identified significant transport disadvantages among small Wimmera communities.
“We embarked on a project to develop a cost-effective, volunteer-based model for community transport,” she said.
“It’s so exciting to see stage one come to fruition and we hope our communities will embrace the service and make it their own.”
Rural Outreach Program community engagement officer Christine Picone has worked to get the service off the ground, including establishing an ‘enthusiastic’ volunteer driver base.
“It is absolutely amazing the lengths people will go to help their communities,” she said.
“Our volunteer drivers, who already give their time to many other projects, have generously given up four days of their lives to train for this service.
“Their enthusiasm and excitement are infectious and will positively contribute to change in our communities.
“We are happy to be able to again provide a service, where one has been lacking for a long time, and work towards addressing the rural and remote transport gaps.”
Stressing the service was not just for independent, mobile senior citizens, but also young mothers and other passengers, Ms Picone said a practice run on October 25 highlighted how the service could connect users with large, regional centres.
“We pulled up in Roberts Avenue in Horsham at the exact same time as the V-line bus,” she said.
“The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and will allow our passengers to connect with other transport services, providing an example of how outreach connects our communities.”
Longer term, the pilot service, which has a minimal charge, aims to expand across the Wimmera to include Yarriambiack, Northern Grampians, Hindmarsh and Horsham municipalities.
People seeking more information about the service, or to book a seat can call 1800 952 211.