Community

All Aboard: How a new bus is reducing social isolation in the Latrobe Valley

Quantum

In an area where public transport is not always an option, a new bus has transformed Quantum Support Services’ Community Connections program, helping to bring isolated aged residents together.

 

It’s a logistical juggling act: in order to deliver their in-demand community programs to as many people as possible, staff at the Morwell-based Quantum Support Services must regularly move their group events around the region while also travelling extensively to meet vulnerable clients at their homes. The acquisition of a 12-seater minibus in 2018, funded in part by a Community Grant, is making it easier for Quantum to connect with its clients.

 

Creating community connections

Quantum staff have wasted no time incorporating the bus into their service delivery, where it has fuelled the Community Connections program, which works primarily with isolated Gippsland residents aged 55 and over.

 

“Using the bus, we’ve been able to bring together groups of older people who might otherwise be very socially disconnected,” says Quantum’s executive director Cindy Pullar. “Now, we can organise an event somewhere and go and collect people who may not have the means of getting there and back.”

 

Quantum also purchased a custom-made bus trailer that incorporates a barbecue, so the organisation can now run outdoors events in different locations more easily. “It’s an all-in-one solution for us,” says Pullar: “we can collect a bunch of people in the bus and take them somewhere nice for an outdoor event without worrying too much about the logistics.”

Reducing social isolation

Quantum is one of the most prominent not-for-profit community-services organisations in Gippsland. It’s the largest provider of homelessness assistance and family-violence services across the region, and also specialises in foster care, youth work and support for older residents. In 2016, Quantum had 98 full-time staff; in 2019, the figure has risen to 162, and the organisation currently has even more vacant roles to fill.

 

Pullar says demand for Quantum’s services continues to grow. The population of Gippsland is swelling, but the spread-out nature of the region and less-than-ideal transport connections are leaving many new residents without the community support they might receive in a large city.

 

“Not all of our residential areas have access to a train station that can transport people to the services they need,” she says, “and even if you are near a train, you might only have one train service in each direction per day. Or the station might be outside of town – most people are lucky to have money for the train ticket, let alone for taxis to and from the station as well.”

 

That’s why Quantum is placing a particular emphasis on the organisation becoming more mobile, and why acquisitions such as the minibus are crucial to its ongoing success.

 

A helping hand

Quantum received funding for the bus and trailer through EnergyAustralia’s Community Grants program, which every year awards funding to community initiatives that are delivering sustainable benefits to the Latrobe Valley in the areas of education and social inclusion.

 

“EnergyAustralia does quite a lot in the region, not just for Quantum,” says Pullar. “They’re very responsive to community need. The Community Grants application process is very user-friendly and clear, and you get personal contact with someone at the company who talks you through what you need to include. You get constant feedback.”

 

She adds: “I’m part of a local theatre group and we have been supported by EnergyAustralia as well. We’ve got a new member this year who wanted to write a grant application for the first time, and EA has given her someone to work with to teach her how to compose an application. You can’t ask for more than that.”

 

Applications for Round 1 of EnergyAustralia’s 2019 Community Grants will be accepted between 1 March and 29 March 2019. Visit energyaustralia.com.au/yallourn for more information.

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