More than 40 people gathered at Docklands Library on 28 June to discuss the issue of transport, with a particular focus on older people. At the Forum we heard from a number of key speakers, including:
- Rick Lawford, CEO of Link Community Transport
- Colleen Furlanetto, Disability Commissioner for the Taxi Services Commission,
- Amy Atkinson, manager of the Mount Alexander Community Transport Pilot Project from Maldon Community House
- Sue Birch, a Networker for the RANCH Network.
This forum grew from the responses from the Listening Posts held earlier in the year. At each of the 22 communities visited, transport was raised as the most important issue, particularly as it related to access to medical services and social isolation. The aim of the day was to bring together users of transport, organisers of community transport (such as local councils), advocates for older people and older people themselves, to look at the range of transport options available and how they can be increased or improved.
Transport is the linchpin in connecting older people with access to medical services and shopping, vital to being able to maintain a life in your own home. But more than that, without access to good public and other transport services, social connection is almost impossible.
The second half of the Transport Forum workshopped a number of questions that looked at how to improve and extend transport options for older people. The consensus was:
- There is inequity in the provision of public transport, particularly in rural areas.
- Transport is a community asset and should be seen as that.
- Transport should be free for seniors (as in the UK).
- Transport options should be led by local communities but backed by State Government funding, and should be sustainable, rather than just funding pilot programs.
- That infrastructure connected to transport, such as bus stops, pavements, location of bus stops, and driver awareness of people with extra needs, were just as important as the provision of a service.
- New technologies, including driverless cars, could be deployed to assist with booking and running transport systems.
- All people should have access to transport options, and should not be excluded because of inability or not wanting to use technology.
- Oversight and funding for community and other forms of public transport should sit with the Office of Premier and Cabinet.
Since the Forum, COTA Victoria has heard of a good transport story that shows the power of communities getting together to advocate for themselves and government listening to what they want. Trentham, a small town in the Central Highlands, will now have two new bus services to larger towns in their regions. Read more about this story here: https://www.hepburnadvocate.com.au/story/5527081/more-buses-for-town/
It is our hope that rural communities will be able to access this type of public transport in the near future.