The Sustainable Cities collective had a huge year, with all systems go as they accelerated their campaign for Better Buses into the 2022 November state election. 2023 has also proven to be a big one so far, with the collective holding the first ever rally for bus reform on the steps of Victorian parliament, and huge wins with peak bodies jumping on board the call for Better Buses.
In July 2022, Researchers at Melbourne University published 2 papers ‘Better Buses for Melbourne’s West’ and ‘Melbourne’s Zero Emission Bus Transition’ to showcase the possibilities for bus reform in Melbourne. Since then, the collective has been able to utilise this work as an example of what’s possible advocate for transformational changes to create a fast, frequent and connected network of clean, electric buses, with 10-minute services all day, every day.
In August, we showed up in solidarity with the Disability Resources Centre for their Get On Track protest. DRC Chairperson Martin Leckey attempted to board the tram at his inaccessible tram stop on Lygon St on each sitting day of parliament. 2022 marked the year that Australia was meant to have met the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002, but they failed to meet their mark by a long shot.
During this time we worked together with OrganiseUs and the PTUA to create a beautiful videography series, sharing stories from teachers, students, mothers and more on how much Better Buses would mean to them. These were then shared at our community forums and across our socials, sharing the community voice on why better buses are important.
October and November were all about the forums, we joined the MTF forum on ‘Transport and the State Election’ where all anyone wanted to talk about was buses! Our Community Organiser Elyse Cunningham met Syeda Zahra, a community activist and resident of the Mt. Atkinson estate in Truganina who shared her experience with Elyse. It was this meeting that, unbeknownst at the time, became the catalyst for the creation of the Mt. Atkinson Residents Group who are actively campaigning for their transport and other needs regularly.
In the lead up to the state election they organised 3 in-person community forums as well as 1 online forum to provide a space for community members to raise their questions and concerns, and share their local knowledge of the issue. We also invited candidates from the state election to share their commitments to better buses. Unfortunately no one from ALP was able to attend any of our in person forums, but we were joined by Williamstown MP Melissa Horne for our online forum in early November.
Western Transport Alliance
Following our forums, a group of passionate local Westies dedicated to improving transport outcomes for Melbourne’s West formed the Western Transport Alliance. The group have met several times this year and are working towards formalising their priorities and structure. Watch this space…
The first few months of 2023 were once again all about deep community organising and strategy work with the collective. Alongside this, we had exciting media moments such as our Dirt Radio interview on 21st Feb for International Mother Language Day with Iqbal and Mamun from the Victorian Bangladeshi Community Foundation.
In February we also joined residents from the Mt Atkinson estate, facilitated through Syeda (whom Elyse met at the forum in October!) to support them in the initial stages of their lobbying of local MP Luba Grogorovitch at a meeting with her office manager, John Ballestrino.
In March, we held a meeting with community in Mt Atkinson to discuss their concerns around buses, and how we as a campaign could support them to achieve their aims.
Mt. Atkinson Estate is 16 minutes by car, or more than 1 hour walking on a busy highway with no footpath. There are no buses, the closest bus stop is more than a 45-minute walk down an unsafe highway full of big trucks and fast cars.
Our group attempted to walk from the Estate to the bus stop, however, the conditions were treacherous. We walked towards Hopkins Rd, crossed wide streets with traffic lights that don’t work yet, until eventually reaching a point where the footpath stops. To get to the closest bus stop from here, residents would need to walk through bushes, on an overpass and on the highway while traffic zooms by at 70 km/hr.
In April we began community action, working alongside Wynbus and Point Cook Action Group to organise a Bus Marathon at Mambourin Estate Werribee.
The event led by Senthill Sundaram was designed to demonstrate the lack of access to public transport in the newer estates, and the urgent need for buses now!
Our collective held a craft session making signs, cardboard buses and banners to bring along in solidarity with the community.
Following Mambourin we then held a second Bus Marathon at the Mt. Atkinson Estate, where a group of around 20 locals joined together and walked through the estate, including children who told us that they want the government to provide a bus for them so they can safely travel to school on their own.
In May we began urgent action to save bus reform. The Victorian government cut huge amounts of funding for public transport, the public service and health in the 2023-24 budget. This included delaying major public transport projects like the Airport rail by 4 years or more. Projects like the Western Rail Plan were also delayed, meaning communities in the West were once again being left behind.
Our collective received word that the entire bus reform strategy was at risk if not adequately funded in the 2023-24 budget, so began a letter writing campaign targeting Treasurer Tim Pallas MP and Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll MP.
These actions culminated in a snap rally for bus reform.
On Wednesday 17th May 2023, community members from Melbourne’s Western suburbs were joined by the 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.
Whilst our rally managed to keep some funding for bus reform in the budget, not nearly enough has been committed to bus reform, and the West still isn’t being prioritised...
Our work over the past few months has turned back toward some deep organising and strategising. The collective have now begun surveying the communities in the West to find out what people need from the bus network, and demonstrate to the government the urgency of reform for communities that need it most. This is an ongoing project and we are working on getting materials translated into multiple languages to make it accessible to more of the community.
In June we joined in solidarity with the newly formed Sydney Rd Accessible Tram Stops campaign at their hugely successful rally for accessible tram stops.
The group are urging the government to ensure that the area has accessible transport while the upfield line level crossing removal works take place. Please sign their petition to add your voice to the call.
Throughout 2023 we have also been running Organiser Training workshops alongside the Act on Climate collective.
The Organising training series is for anyone interested in building their activist skill. It aims to build capacity in our collectives and broader movement.
The collective have also been working throughout the year towards Transport Equity Week set to take place September 17-23rd 2023. This will be a national week of action where individuals and orgs from across the country can demonstrate how transport disadvantage is showing up in our communities, and what we want to see change to make our transport systems more equitable for all!
Find out more here: https://transportequity.org.au/
If you are interested in participating in our collective, then sign up here for updates, or join one of our fortnightly Wednesday collective meetings!