Driving equal access to services for Tennant Creek

The remote community of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory has experienced limited transport options for some time. The fifth largest town in the Northern Territory is incredibly remote - 1,000 kilometres south of the territory capital, Darwin, and 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs. Residents without access to private transport have great difficulty getting around in a place where distances are great.

The local not-for-profit organisation, Tennant Creek Transport (TCT), has been determined to give equal access to transport services for the whole Tennant Creek community. Following a research report and community consultation commissioned by the Northern Territory Council of Social Service Inc (NTCOSS) in 2013, it was clear the need for local transport in the area was not being met by government or council services.

With not even one taxi in Tennant Creek, their bus services are critical in providing residents with access to essential services. Members of the TCT spent many volunteer hours over three years, lobbying the government, applying for funding and garnering local buy-in and support for an improved bus service.

In July 2014, they were able to introduce the first ever fixed route service to Tennant Creek utilising a borrowed second-hand bus and running from 7am to 5pm, five days a week. The service was designed to serve the six main community living areas and to stop at the Food Barn, the Hospital and Anyinginyi Clinic twice each hour, once for passengers travelling to or from the North of Tennant Creek and once for passengers travelling to or from the South.

The Four Dollar Bus, as it has become known, was only just kept afloat in the early days through loans from committee members and a transport consultant who had assisted in the development of the service, and before too long dropped its schedule to just sixhours a day on weekdays only.

It’s been a rocky road and a rollercoaster ride for the bus service, and has been rescued from being parked permanently twice. They were also in desperate need of a brand new bus that would also service those with mobility issues. Early in 2015, TCT successfully received a $5,000 grant via the Small Grants for Rural Communities (SGRC) program. Along with funding from a number of other agencies, they were able to purchase a brand new bus with wheelchair accessibility.

To support the new service, the combined funding has also been used to employ two new bus drivers and a part-time coordinator. The new disability friendly bus will operate as part of the fixed bus route, with room for nine passengers or two wheelchairs and smaller number of other passengers.

Now that the service’s wheels are properly turning, TCT members couldn’t be more delighted that now the whole community of Tennant Creek has equitable access to transport and services, an important milestone for their development and a transport organisation, meeting local needs.

You can read their whole story in their 2014/15 Annual Report, available here.

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