'Universe of Possibilities': New people mover to address transport disadvantage

Jane Stratton, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, Jasmine Baker, Sanaa Hirmiz and Afaf Al-Shammari at Lost in Books. Picture: Chris Lane
Jane Stratton, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, Jasmine Baker, Sanaa Hirmiz and Afaf Al-Shammari at Lost in Books. Picture: Chris Lane

The wheels on this bus will not only go round and round - it will be a community arts centre on wheels.

Introducing the 'The People Movers' and 'Universe of Possibilities'.

The People Movers is a 12-seater van that aims to address transport disadvantage in Fairfield and Liverpool by providing a demand-responsive solution.

The Universe of Possibilities is a mobile community arts centre set in a purpose-built caravan that will bring creative workshops and programming, performances, screenings and events to the community.

A concept design of the project. Image: Huy Nguyen/Think+DO Tank Foundation

A concept design of the project. Image: Huy Nguyen/Think+DO Tank Foundation

The project is the brainchild of Jane Stratton and her team at Think+DO Tank Foundation who also operate kids' multilingual bookshop Lost in Books in Fairfield.

"We know that one of the biggest barriers to participation whether it's the choice of school or doctor, or getting to a place like Lost in Books or the museum is transport," she said.

"So it's not just about money or language proficiency. Transportation and mobility is a really big barrier and we've done research since 2015 including two surveys and what we've learned is that people are saying here's how I can move, but this is how I want to move and they weren't the same.

"We asked a series of questions, including would you say that public transport gets you where you need to go? Would you say it's affordable? Would you say that you need a car? And do you have access to a car? The pie graph was a bigger and bigger no.

"Of course, we can't put a car in the hands of everybody and it's not great for the environment so we thought what if we could come up with a community way of moving around.

"The overwhelming recommendation from our research and community consultation was to develop a collective form of transport to address concerns of risk, trust and safety in the community and enhance accessibility, choice, and connectivity. That is precisely what The People Movers does: 10 - 11 passengers at a time."

The project, which will benefit from $138,200 in funding under the state government's Infrastructure Grants program, is expected to start in April with The People Mover starting in the Fairfield area. The Universe of Possibilities is expected to be operational in mid-2020 which will bring their existing creative music, art and writing programs into the community.

"We're looking at starting a Fairfield East along The Horsley Drive as a starting point, because what we're hearing is that those communities, even though they're a stone's throw away, they're quite isolated," said Ms Stratton, who encouraged the community to take part in their new survey to help them design routes for The People Mover.

"What we are doing now is working out how can the van come to you when you need it. Our objective is to pilot something and to be able to share that data with council, services and transport providers to show that there is a need and how it might be serviced and what we've learned."

The Universe of Possibilities will bring arts programming, skills workshops, performances, screenings and events to CALD and low-income communities and resettlement hubs in regional NSW.

Ms Stratton said they anticipate that it will increase mobility, choice and participation amongst newly arrived and low-income residents.

"The Universe of Possibilities responds to the complaint that there is 'nothing for us or our kids to do', coupled with the transport challenge by bringing high quality, multilingual and engaging programming to low-income communities, allowing us to scale our impact by interacting with up to 100 people at a time," she said.

Lost in Books is a kids' multilingual bookshop.

Lost in Books is a kids' multilingual bookshop.

"We can only move 12 people at a time so that doesn't make an audience and it doesn't fill a workshop. So we're trying to deliver better value for the investment in our programming by being able to take it to community locations... it might be at a school, park or transport hub where we can engage them and offer them really high quality programming.

"It could be music program or writing workshop. Our baby music time is very popular but what if we could go to a place where there are lots of mums who can't make it here."

Opened in 2017, Lost In Books is a social enterprise that operates as a kids' multilingual bookshop, cafe, safe space for women, all-ages creative learning centre and language exchange hub.

"Lost in Books is about multilingual literacy. We have so many people that know how to speak a language other than English and we need to learn how to do a better job of unlocking that potential so that migrants and refugees aren't been told to wait and watch their their kids have success," Ms Stratton said.

"We just feel that it's such a blind spot in the multiculturalism of Australia which is one of our biggest assets that aren't better in appreciating and valuing multilingualism."

Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the Think+DO Tank Foundation was one of 32 projects receiving funding to help local organisations deliver tangible, long-term benefits to the communities they serve. Ms Stratton thanked the government for their support which will allow their vision to become a reality.

The grants, made possible by the Clubgrants Category 3 Fund which re-invests profits from registered clubs' gaming machines into community infrastructure projects, will see community organistaions across the state awarded a total of $4 million to fund local projects.

"We're proud to support these important community organisations that work tirelessly to create resilient, healthy and connected communities," Mr Dominello said.

"The projects they're delivering will boost participation in sport, recreation and arts, social inclusion and disaster resilience - making a real difference in people's lives across NSW."

The Think+DO Tank Foundation are calling on residents to take their survey to share their transport needs and to register as drivers. The survey is available in English, Vietnamese and Arabic. Details: thepeoplemovers.org.au.