On Wednesday 17th May 2023, community members from Melbourne’s Western suburbs were joined by Friends of the Earth Melbourne’s Sustainable Cities collective, along with folks from many allied community groups and councillors from Maribyrnong City council, at a rally to save bus reform ahead of the budget announcement on May 23rd.
Sustainable Cities community organiser Elyse Cunningham MC’d the event, telling stories she had heard from people in the West paying upwards of $150 a week on petrol, students being fired from their jobs due to unreliable buses, and a family wanting to go back to their home in a rural village in India as at least they have a bus in their community..
There were also powerful speakers from the community including Christian Astourian, who recently started the Sydney Rd Accessible Tram Stops (SATS) campaign. He emphasised the need for accessibility standards for buses, and that accessibility ramps on buses should be regularly checked as they are often broken, leaving wheelchair users unable to catch the bus.
We also heard from Shannon Meilak from Brimbank, who gave an impassioned speech about her experience as a long term resident of the West, watching other areas of Melbourne being prioritised for public transport and other services, whilst the West is continually left behind.
Politicians from the Greens, Liberals, Vic Socialists and Legalise Cannabis parties showed up in support, and attendees heard speeches from Greens transport spokesperson and upper house representative for the Southern metropolitan region Katherine Copsey, as well as liberal party upper house representative for the Western Metropolitan region and former Brimbank councillor Trung Luu. Both emphasised their support the better buses campaign, and solidarity with communities who are affected by Melbourne’s broken bus network.
Maribyrnong councillor Bernadette Thomas also took the megaphone to tell us that council had last week passed a motion to officially endorse and promote the better buses campaign, a step which we hope other councils across the West will follow.
As the first ever rally for bus reform, held in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, drawing a significant crowd and media attention, one thing has become abundantly clear.. People will continue to demand better buses. People will continue to demand that routes are reformed in this term of government. People will continue to demand that the West is prioritised in Victoria’s bus plan.
We are eager to see what funding for bus reform comes out of next week’s budget, and will continue to push the government to provide this essential service to the hardworking communities of the West.