HORSHAM Rural City Council mayor Pam Clarke has urged West Wimmera communities to embrace the Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service or risk losing it.
Welcoming people to the launch of stage one last week, Centre for Participation CEO Julie Pettett said although it felt like “an incredibly long time” getting to the launch, it was “fantastic” to see it get off the ground and was “worth the wait”.
Spending four years developing a framework to establish a new service, Ms Pettett said that “access to human services, non-emergency medical appointments and education were key areas where gaps were identified, as many small and remote communities have limited, or no, access to public transport.
“We want to help our residents stay in their homes and regions longer, by reducing these transport barriers, and thank the government for their commitment,” Ms Pettett said.
Wimmera Southern Mallee Community Transport Service steering committee chair David Leahy agreed, stating “disconnectedness and isolation in rural areas is a major problem”.
“A lack of access to transport leads to social disconnection and affects mental health and well-being, so it’s pleasing to see this service get off the ground, with more work being done to further improve large-scale transport in the Wimmera,” Mr Leahy said.
Describing the uptake of the service to date as exceptionally positive, he said further uptake would highlight to the state government that it is not a pilot service, but one which is both needed, and will be entrenched, in rural communities.
Commending everyone involved behind the scenes, Mr Leahy highlighted the work of volunteers, commenting the Wimmera is “punching above its weight” with its enthusiastic volunteers.
Officially launching stage one, Cr Clarke said she is passionate about the service.
“My philosophy is that if Horsham is strong, its regions will be strong, and vice-versa,” Cr Clarke said.
“The team have worked hard to fill the gaps for our rural communities and it is important we support this service. It’s vital for the sustainability of our towns.
“We deserve access to basic services to make our ability to live in these communities easier; why should it be just Melbourne who has access to transport?
“I am passionate about this project and I’ll keep fighting for it. If we don’t use it, we’ll lose it,” Cr Clarke said.