Rural and remote parents and boarding schools have been outraged by a ban by Greyhound Australia buses on children under the age of 15 travelling unless accompanied by an adult.
The ban on unaccompanied minors was done “without consultation”, according to the Isolated Childrens and Parents Association and Boarding Schools Australia Association, and will come into effect from September 3.
Boarding schools were informed of the change last Friday by email by Greyhound. The new terms and conditions were posted online today by Greyhound Australia. The change will especially affect parents and children in Queensland, but also some in NSW who do not have access to CountryLink train services and may travel interstate for school or further into NSW.
Richard Stokes, executive director of Boarding Schools Australia Association, said he had asked boarding schools to reply to his email about the change and said hundreds of children would be affected. “In one school it’s 15, in another 25 students,” he said. The data was still coming in.
One parent faced the ordeal of travelling 27 hours on a bus with their child to boarding school, and then another 27 hours for the return.
Mr Stokes said the change was done without any consultation with schools, remote parents or government.
“We now face this ridiculous situation where children under 15 can’t travel on a bus without an adult, but they can on a plane,” he said.
“Boarding schools are doing so much to help country parents in the drought and now we get this.” “The cost of flying is almost prohibitive for remote parents and now they have to face this issue of not being able to put them on a bus.”
Greyhound said in the email the change was brought in because there had been instances of parents or guardians not turning up to collect children at remote bus stops.
ICPA Queensland president Tammie Irons, said if this was the case, then those families should be dealt with separately, and there should not be a blanket ban on unaccompanied children. Greyhound said it had to take some children to the local police station because parents weren’t there to collect the children.
Mrs Irons said there was “no consultation” and the announcement has led to a lot confusion just before the next holidays in September. “There has been quite a backlash over this (against Greyhound) and I don’t think they saw this coming.” She said the news had come very hard for some remote parents trying to cope with the drought, and not able to leave their properties because they are feeding stock.
A comment from Greyhound Australia was being sought.
These are the new rules put on the company’s website today:
“5.5. Unaccompanied children between the ages of 12 and 14 (inclusive) who have a valid Ticket may be accepted for travel if their parent or guardian is present at the terminal on departure and that parent or guardian hands over a signed Unaccompanied Child Form to the driver of the Coach prior to departure. A parent or guardian identified in the Unaccompanied Child Form (and able to provide photo identification to prove this to be the case) must be present to sign for the child upon arrival at the destination. If no parent or guardian is present, we will take the child to the nearest forward police station (i.e. the next police station on the Coach's forward journey). Please be advised we will no longer offer this service as of 3rd September 2018.
5.6. Unaccompanied children between the ages of 12 and 14 (inclusive) will not be permitted to travel on connecting services even where they have a valid Ticket unless the child's parent or guardian that signed the Unaccompanied Children Form is present at the service change. Please be advised we will no longer offer this service as of 3rd September 2018.”