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Regional youth 'isolated' by lack of transport options

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South Australian youth advocates have called on the state’s political leaders to address what they describe as a serious lack of public transport in regional and remote areas.

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Young people living in regional South Australia are finding it increasingly difficult to access education and employment due to infrequent and costly public transport , says South Australia’s peak youth advocacy group.

“This is a huge issue – whenever we consult young people they raise this across South Australia,” Youth Affairs Council SA CEO Anne Bainbridge told InDaily.

“It’s a huge issue in relation to employment and study. Young people are finding they don’t have the transport means to get from their country town to Adelaide or even just around their regional area.”

People without driver’s licences in regional areas are often restricted to private bus services or “dial-a-ride” taxi services to commute in and around their area.

Full-fare bus services from Port Augusta to Adelaide cost more than $60, more than $50 from Renmark to Adelaide and more than $100 from Ceduna to Adelaide.

West Coast Youth and Community Support Service CEO Joanne Clark said Eyre Peninsula residents had been calling for cheaper bus fares for the past five years.

“We’re a growing region and our youth percentage is quite high here and there’s a lot of young people that need support,” Clark said.

“Between Tumby Bay and Port Lincoln we have young people having to source accommodation in Port Lincoln, wanting to maintain their schooling in Tumby, but they can’t afford the travel cost between the two communities.

“When someone is on a really low income, like many young and old people, and they have medication to pay as well as electricity and food, then that extra money to be able to use transport is an issue.”

For many young people experiencing homelessness in regional areas, often a lack of services in their hometown means they are required to commute to Adelaide to access emergency accommodation.

Clark said young people experiencing homelessness in the Port Lincoln area often struggled to fund their passage to the city.

“It’s quite difficult because you can’t ask a homeless service to hold a bed but then it takes 12 hours to catch a bus to Adelaide, so they get on a bus at 7.30 in the morning but then they won’t get to Adelaide until 6.30 at night.

“Those bus tickets are $150, the plane can be upwards of $300 for a one-way fare if you purchase it on the day. That’s completely out of reach for anyone on youth allowance.”

Youth advocates have also criticised the new Provisional Driver (P1) laws, which were introduced by the State Government in 2013 to improve the safety of young drivers.

Under the laws, drivers under the age of 25 are prohibited from driving past midnight or having more than one passenger aged 16 to 20 years (excluding immediate family members).

Clark said although young people are able to apply for exemptions, often they are unaware of the process.

“If you’re working part-time and you get a job, for example, as a glassie in one of the hotels and your job finishes at midnight and you have to then drive 45 minutes to get home, you’re out of the 12 o’clock (curfew)….

“Young people travelling 80, 90, 100 kilometres, sometimes a lot more than that to get to work or schools now are no longer able to carpool either.

“There’s all these added implications that occur and I don’t always think people in Adelaide or Canberra understand our country communities.”

SA Best Legislative Council candidate and Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson said he could relate to people’s frustration.

“I live in a regional area myself and I know too well the frustration a lack of regular and affordable public transport can bring,” he said.

“To be brutally honest [the SA Best Party] don’t have a policy on regional transport.

“This would be a priority for me to improve services to regional communities.”

He said he would be meeting with Bus SA this Wednesday and had already spoken to a group concerned about the safety of young drivers.

Liberal transport spokesperson David Pisoni said his party would review the operation of regional school bus contracts to see if there were opportunities for the greater use of the bus fleet outside of school hours.

“We will work closely with local communities, the contractors, schools and local government to identify these opportunities,” he said.

A Labor spokesperson said the government already funded a range of public transport services in regional areas under service contracts with private operators.

“The State Government provides a range of subsidies and concession reimbursements to attract private operators to provide the services,” the spokesperson said.

“We are always looking to expand our public transport networks, particularly in regional areas, however, it is also necessary to ensure there is enough patronage to make new services viable.”

Clark said the government and community needed to look at a unified approach to improving transport options in regional areas.

“There is a movement happening but I think there’s no strategic direction for the issue,” she said.

“It’s an ongoing issue and probably you need some strategic direction to look at how it’s going to be addressed.”

What young people are saying

Responses to YACSA’s 2014 and 2018 election surveys: 

“Transport will be a big concern for me in the future. I hope to start university in the next couple of years, and I cannot think of a viable way for me to get to Adelaide, and since job availability is extremely low, I don’t even know if I will be able to afford driving.”

“It’s hard for us, even if there is a job it’s in town and it’s too far for us to go.”

“I haven’t accepted an ideal job in town because of the travel.”

“You can only work certain shifts [and it’s] dependent on someone that can take you and pick you up.”

“There’s no public transport. Too hard to find a job – have to get my dad to drop me in and out.”

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