Farrer calls for Beagle Bay bus route repairs

Glenn Cordingley
A school bus makes its way along the dirt road en-route to Beagle Bay’s Sacred Heart School.

Kimberley MP Josie Farrer has made a desperate plea for Colin Barnett to intervene and secure funding to repair and maintain a "dangerous" school bus route servicing Beagle Bay, 100km north-east of Broome.

Ms Farrer made the call after riding on the bus with Opposition Leader Mark McGowan and parents from Middle Lagoon on the Dampier Peninsula to Sacred Heart School in Beagle Bay.

During the 1.5 hour journey, which covered about 50km, Ms Farrer was told the track had not been graded for at least four years.

Many children missed classes for a fortnight in April when rains made roads impassable with dangerous washouts, potholes, boggy sand and corrugations.

Jacinta Monck's four children travel to school and back on the bus from the Munget outstation.

She said the journey in the dry season was like driving on an old creek bed.

"In the wet season, the track fills up and becomes one big long lake that sits there for months," she said.

"The bus route is our only way of getting into Beagle Bay and it has become dangerous for our kids and the entire community."

Ms Farrer said overgrown trees made dirt tracks inaccessible along half the bus route, forcing parents to drive their children to drop-off points instead of being able to wait at their driveways.

She said the narrowness of the roads meant tourists had to veer into bush to avoid collision with the bus which was unable to pull off the track, and that there was poor access in the event of an emergency.

Her biggest worry was that no one wanted to take responsibility because it was not in the hands of lead agencies the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Shire of Broome.

Former governing body Beagle Bay Community Incorporated was wound-up three years ago and its reincarnation, the Beagle Bay Community Aboriginal Corporation, cannot afford to pay for the work, Ms Farrer said.

"Where the road is a dedicated road, it is the responsibility of the local government authority, the Shire of Broome in this instance," a DAA spokesman said.

"Where roads are not dedicated, the maintenance responsibility is determined by the circumstances under which they are created.

"For the roads in and around the Beagle Bay community on Aboriginal Lands Trust land, it is the responsibility of the occupiers or users of the ALT land to maintain these roads."

The spokesman said the department would contact and liaise with the community in relation to their concerns.

"The failure to address the obvious safety concerns along this bus route is putting children's safety at risk," Ms Farrer said.

"The DAA is fully aware of the many complex issues Beagle Bay has had to deal with in the past years, including the wind-up of Beagle Bay Community Incorporated, and more support should have been provided on the ground by the department."

She said the crossing between the Billard community and Beagle Bay was one of the worst sections that was regularly almost impossible to pass.

"This is not just an issue of education but also health," Ms Farrer said.

"People living on the outstations cannot quickly access medical attention.

"I understand in the recent past there have been multiple births along the route, as the expectant mothers tried to access the clinic in Beagle Bay but could not due to the terrible road conditions."

Ms Farrer said someone must stand up and take responsibility.

"People are tired of meaningless consultation, they want action," she said.

"Upgrade the school bus route and maintain the road so that the safety of their children and family is secured".