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What is Community Transport?
Community transport can loosely be defined as an alternative public transport passenger service which provides services for people who cannot access mainstream public transport .
The inability to access mainstream public transport can impact on many different groups in the community including older people who no longer drive; young people who are not yet able to drive; those with mobility issues (temporary or long term) and people who are financially disadvantaged. It can also be a result of people living in areas where there are no traditional public transport options such as bus, train or tram available. The impact of being unable to access the community can be potentially devastating and have significant impacts on health and wellbeing. The inability to attend doctors, dentist and other appointments, visiting friends and family, a general absence of social connectedness and loneliness can all be experienced when someone is unable to get out and about.
Community transport fills a gap in the transport network by responding directly to the needs of the local community it is servicing.
Because it is a local response to local needs numerous models of community transport exist (you may already be using community transport and not even know it!). For example, it may be the small bus used by your local council to take those who no longer driver to do their shopping; it may involve a volunteer driver using their own car to transport someone to a medical appointment or it may be a local taxi service providing trips outside of its normal operating hours.
While each of these services may look different they have a couple of key features in common:
The service is responding to the needs and demographics of its local community;
The service is filling a gap left by public transport options; and
The service is likely run by volunteers from the local community.
So who can use community transport?
Different community transport operators have different eligibility criteria. For some it may be a requirement that they receive some form of support through their local council – for example being involved in their Home and Community Care Program while other services may simply require a gold coin donation.
Once you have identified a community transport provider in your area your best bet is to contact them to see whether you are eligible to use their services.
Again different operators have different booking processes. Some will require a simple phone call; some services may be booked online and some services may run like a public bus and simply require you to be at a certain place at a certain time in order to catch the service. When you contact the service they will be talk you through their processes and procedures including your eligibility, how to make a booking and how much the service will cost.
What’s this got to do with volunteering?
Most community transport operators do not receive funding from external sources and are therefore largely staffed by volunteers. Volunteers may be retirees who are looking to get involved in their local community; people who have some spare time and like to drive and people just wanting to help others stay healthy and active.
Volunteering with a community transport operator serves two very important functions:
It helps someone who is having trouble accessing their local community to get out and about. This is an important part of overall health and wellbeing.
It allows you to give back to your community while meeting new people and getting out and about too!
What’s involved in volunteering?
Volunteers are provided with all the training they need to undertake the role of a volunteer driver and no previous experience is required, although a full licence and a good driving record is! While the tasks involved in volunteering with a community transport provider will vary, some common volunteer tasks include:
Helping people travel safely and comfortably to and from their homes to activities such as social outings and medical appointments.
Excellent communication and customer service skills and the ability to work with a range of people from diverse backgrounds.
Maintaining vehicles in good all round cleanliness and good running condition.
Sometimes drivers will use their own vehicles to transport people around (while being reimbursed for their petrol expenses) and others will drive small buses (around 11 seaters). For example you may pick up a nearby elderly resident, take them to their doctor’s appointment where you will wait until they’re done and take them back home. At other times you may be called on to pick someone up from their home and drop them off at a social event.
The service you provide can be as varied as the people using it!
How do I get started?
There are a range of community transport operators across the state and you can start by checking with them or your local Council to see if they need drivers.