Rappville celebrates launch of new community bus, with support from the ETU

In December 2020, the ETU donated $40K from our National Bushfire Relief fund to the community of Rappville in northern NSW. Rappville was badly damaged by the bushfires in the 2019-20 summer, losing 23 homes and one of two local sawmills.

The funds formed part of savings for a community bus to get more kids to attend the local school and facilitate community events and projects, breaking a cycle of social, educational and community isolation.

This month Rappville celebrated the launch of their brand-new community bus, bringing a new start for a town that has been through so much.

President of the Rappville Social Club Dave Newby came up with the idea of a community and school bus with the local Principal of the primary school Kat Collis. He wanted to encourage more kids to attend the local school and more families to stay and settle in the area.

“I want to rebuild the community from the kids up. More kids will encourage people to move back the community and that will bring back jobs,” he said. 

Before the fires that devastated the town there were 13 children at the primary school, but many families left the area after the terrible blaze, leaving only nine kids. Many kids couldn’t make the journey from home on their own, but with a school bus, they estimate up to 50 children from the local area could eventually attend the school.

“Unions at their heart are about working together for a better life, and that’s exactly what the Rappville Social club have done with this community bus. We’re proud to be part of their journey as they rebuild after their struggles,” said ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks.

The Rappville Social Club raised over $125K for the community bus, with another $25K coming from a government grant. The MUA also donated $10K.

“We really do appreciate the support of the ETU and the MUA. It’s bloody fantastic,” said Dave.

The journey to secure the bus was not an easy one. After raising an incredible amount of funds, and successfully purchasing the bus, the community was hit with another major disaster – the floods. The new bus, ready and waiting in the dealership in nearby Lismore was completely destroyed by the rising waters.

Thankfully the Social Club had insurance on the bus, but it meant another waiting period of 12 months for a new bus.

Add to that the complexities of running a bus schedule with drivers, bus stops, timetables and community programs, and the social club knew they needed outside help.

Meetings with the Department of Transport were fruitful – the Dept decided to add Rappville as a stop on an existing school bus route to a nearby town, which has allowed more kids to attend Rappville Primary, and meant they didn’t have to wait another 12 months for the community bus. Since then, 10 more kids have joined the local school.

“Now we have incredible momentum, and it’s just the beginning,” said Dave.

The social club also connected with a community rural transport organisation in Lismore which helps support and connect people in the area with services and community events. The organisation is helping the Rappville community get their bus up and running to connect residents with events.

And while the bus now won’t need to be used for the school drop-off, it will be available for things like school excursions, group trips to swimming lessons and lots of community events and services for the whole town. The bus itself has disabled access, has already employed two bus drivers and the community are looking for volunteer bus drivers too.

Local Organiser Steve Magann was instrumental in bringing the idea of supporting Rappville to the ETU National Executive. Accepting a certificate of thanks at the bus launch on behalf of the union, he is proud of the ETU’s involvement in supporting the communities who are hit hard.

 “Unions do a lot of good things but one of the really good things is being able to support communities in need,” he said.

Dave Newby echoed that sentiment, giving thanks not just for this community donation, but for the essential workers who restored power in Rappville after the devastating bushfire period.

“We really appreciate what you’ve done during the fires, all the workers from Essential Energy who restored power to our areas.”

With sincere thanks to:

Local delegate Peter Glasby and organiser Steve Magann

ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks and the ETU National executive

– ETU members who donated to the fund

International unions also generously contributed to the Bushfire Relief Fund including local branches 66, 570, 661 and 527 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) and local branches Northwest 9/0541 and SC/164/BAE  of Unite the Union (Unite).

“On behalf of the people of Rappville and surrounds, I would like to say a huge thank you to the Essential Energy members of the ETU for the massive effort after the fires to restore power to the village.

I think something in excess of 300 poles, transformers and associated works were replaced and power restored to the village in about five days.

Once again a massive thank you to all involved in this. I know it was greatly appreciated by all.” – Doug Walsh

Pictured: Dave Newby and other members of the Rappville Social Club thank Allen Hicks and Steve Magann for the donation. 

Pictured: Rappville residents put out messages of thanks to the essential service workers who helped them fight the fires and restore their community.

Pictured: ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks and ETU NSW organiser Steve Magann with the Rappville social club in 2020. 

This article was publised on 25 May 2023.