School attendance lifts with co-op bus

Daneka HillThe West Australian
To the left stand sisters Caitlin Hicks-Forshaw and Keryn Kalzee from Hicks Civil and Mining, behind them is the bus crew made up by a YIC bus driver (fifth from right) and police, education department, and child protection services officers.
Camera IconTo the left stand sisters Caitlin Hicks-Forshaw and Keryn Kalzee from Hicks Civil and Mining, behind them is the bus crew made up by a YIC bus driver (fifth from right) and police, education department, and child protection services officers. Credit: North West Telegraph, Daneka Hill.

Hundreds of children normally playing truant have been driven to school since a co-operative community bus service was introduced in Port Hedland just weeks ago.

And now a family business has hopped onboard as a financial backer of the pick-up and drop-off service — a step towards making the initiative a sustainable long-term possibility.

South Hedland-based Pilbara District Police Inspector Craig Parkin said the idea had exceeded expectations, with more than 170 children taken to school so far.

“I would say within three weeks, we’ve seen around 170 children through the attendance strategy attending school who normally wouldn’t be there,” he said. The unexpected boost has been provided by indigenous family business Hicks Civil and Mining, which will cover the cost of operating the bus and the driver, both of which are provided by the not-for-profit Youth Involvement Council.

YIC chief executive Vicki-Tree Stephens said without the funding support, the YIC would not be able to keep assisting government agencies with the project long-term.

Hicks Civil and Mining director Caitlin Hicks-Forshaw and business development officer Keryn Kalzee joined the bus run on Wednesday to see the operation in action.

“When I was talking to the teachers and the aides this morning, they are saying it is making an impact, so that means a lot for us, that the money we are giving is impacting,” Mrs Kalzee said.

Ms Hicks-Forshaw said the nine-year-old business had reached the point where it was able to start giving back to the community she and her sister, Mrs Kalzee, were born and raised in.

For the mothers, being able to help other parents in tough situations was a key reason for saying yes to the program.

“Families, grandmas and aunties and uncles that look after kids, to be able to say, you know, ‘here is a service that can help you get to school’, that was the biggest thing about it,” Mrs Kalzee said.

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