Page 856 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

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Indigenous communities. Government services must specially cater for these groups, and problem-solve in creative ways about how to ensure they are able to access the health, education and other services that they need.

As an example of this, one of the excellent public transport successes that we have implemented through my own directorate is the new flexible bus service and community transport coordination centre. The flexible bus service provides a free bus service that is bookable and travels a flexible route depending on the needs of the patrons. The client base is seniors, people with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Each group is identified as vulnerable in the community and in most cases is transport disadvantaged because of a lack of ready access to other transport alternatives.

The focus is on providing the vulnerable with a service that meets their more specific needs and a reliable and consistent transport interface with these groups. The service utilises the territory’s special needs transport fleet, which are minibuses, and each of them is equipped with low steps and a wheelchair lift. The drivers are aware of the needs of the patrons and assist them where needed. I am told that the drivers, as well as the passengers, of these buses are enjoying the service as it is quite an intimate service and people are actually getting to know each other and establish ongoing relationships.

The service commenced on 1 September last year, in conjunction with the new network 14. As I have explained to members before, in network 14 we tried to make the bus network more efficient and respond to one of the most common demands, which is to straighten out the routes and make them faster and more direct. But, inevitably, as is the case with bus networks, there is a counter to that, and it is that some people have to walk further to their stops. For a fit and healthy person like me, that is no problem, but obviously for some of the older members of our community or people who struggle with mobility that is an issue. So the flexible bus service was designed to mitigate this for people who would be the most likely to struggle to adapt under that change to the network.

It is fair to say that the service had a bit of a slow start as people took some time to learn that it was available. But it has quickly become very popular and up to early March there have been around 4,000 boardings. I understand about 1,000 of these have occurred in just the last month. So we are seeing this service really taking off. I have recently met an occupational therapist who told me that her service promotes the flexible bus service because of their target group when it comes to patients. The flexible transport model is a good one and I hope it will be able to be expanded, because it does not cover all of Canberra yet. But that will of course be a matter for budget consideration.

As the minister for sport, I oversee the inclusive participation grants program, which allocated $80,000 in 2014 to a range of community organisations, including Cricket ACT, Multicultural Youth Services for their football united program, and the ACT orienteering association, among numerous others. The grants are specifically allocated to organisations that increase participation opportunities in sport and recreation for the identified target populations, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, culturally and linguistically diverse people, older adults and people with a disability.

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