Munglinup bus route cuts could force kids to change schools or parents to quit jobs to drive them

Dorothy HendersonCountryman
Munglinup resident Kendall Wickstein says her family will be divided between two communities if son Lincoln, 4, is denied a seat on the bus to their local primary school.
Camera IconMunglinup resident Kendall Wickstein says her family will be divided between two communities if son Lincoln, 4, is denied a seat on the bus to their local primary school. Credit: Picture: Dorothy Henderson

A small farming community in the State’s south has been left reeling after proposed cuts to school bus services could force kids to travel up to 200km a day or change schools to get their education.

It could force one of the region’s only registered nurses to quit her job if her child loses his seat.

Munglinup’s Kendall Wickstein was one of a number of Munglinup Primary School parents in shock after receiving an email in May stating the school’s two bus routes were under review due to low student numbers.

Her son Lincoln, 4, relies on the service to get from their family farm 34km out of town to school each day. She said he had been refused a permanent spot on the Munglinup bus as they were technically 3km closer to Jerdacuttup.

The email sparked widespread community outrage, after which the service sent out an update, that the services would be amalgamated in 2022 based on the current passenger numbers.

“We are being isolated from our own community and our own local school,” she said. “Amalgamating the services would see Lincoln and other students travelling up to 200km a day — but that is only if give him a seat.”

He does not have a permanent spot on the bus as we are 3km closer to Jerdacuttup, so they have refused to give him a permanent seat next year, even though we live in Munglinup.

Kendall Wickstein

Mrs Wickstein disputed the School Bus Service’s claim that it consulted with the community and said their offer to give Lincoln a seat on the bus to Jerdacuttup Primary School instead would isolate them from their own community.

“When I applied for a spot for next year, I explained in my application how Munglinup was more appropriate, yet in their reply letter all they stated was he was denied due to being closer to Jerdacuttup,” she said.

Mrs Wickstein — who provides vital medical care to the region in Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun — is considering resigning to deal with the travel logistics.

I would have to quit my job in order to drive my son to school. That’s a two-hour round trip, making it impossible for me to keep working. If I can’t work, I will lose my nursing registration as I will be unable to keep up the clinical hours it requires.

Kendall Wickstein
Munglinup resident Kendall Wickstein says her family will be divided between two communities if son Lincoln, 4, is denied a seat on the bus to their local primary school.
Camera IconMunglinup resident Kendall Wickstein says her family will be divided between two communities if son Lincoln, 4, is denied a seat on the bus to their local primary school.

Her employers Dr Michael Livingston and his wife Rachael said it was difficult to recruit medical staff to the area and if they lost the two nurses they had on staff due to the bus issue, their services would be impacted.

“It is hard to recruit medical staff to this area,” Mrs Livingston said. “It is rare to get someone who lives in the area and wants to work locally. We have two nurses on our staff that live in Munglinup. If we lose one, or both, because of this bus run issue, our services will be impacted.”

In a letter to members of the Ravensthorpe Shire Council and local politicians, Mrs Livingston added her voice to others from the community expressing concerns over the bus cuts.

“As a local business owner and employer of two nurses in Munglinup, who travel to us for work, it is essential that the community has a service for the children,” Mrs Livingston wrote.

It is a very likely scenario that should the bus fail to run, we will lose at least one crucial staff member.

Rachael Livingston

She also held concerns over the stress-related mental health impacts the school bus uncertainty could have on people in the community.

I also feel as an advocate for mental health improvements in the bush, that a number of parents being put into a quandary regarding transporting children, and having to sacrifice community commitments and careers, this can only have a negative impact on the Munglinup community's mental health collectively.

Rachael Livingston

“I hope that we can cohesively ensure that the vital service of transport for the children of Munglinup continues and that our nurses can continue to service our critical medical service.”

There are also fears it may reduce the ability of farming businesses to attract staff in the midst of a Statewide labour shortage.

“As a business, we need to be able to attract people. We want permanent workers who want to move here with their families and become part of the community,” Mrs Wickstein said.

But without practical access to their local school, she said it would make a move to the area less attractive.

“I am concerned about the future of my children, the future of our business and the future of our community,” Mrs Wickstein said.

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