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Where’s the lollipop person?

Mia Swainson

Crossing a busy road can be difficult for any pedestrian.

Look left, look right and left again. Make a dash across the road. It’s even harder if you’re a small child, or if you’re a mum surrounded by kids, including a toddler and two others under six.

I walk with my kids to Lyneham Primary School most days. We cross Canberra’s 20th most dangerous road, every time. We cross at a pedestrian crossing that experiences a constant stream of cars traveling towards Civic in the hour before school starts. On average, there’s a car every four seconds. It’d be great if there was a lollipop person at our crossing that could bundle both pedestrians and vehicles, making it safer for everyone.

Have you seen a lollipop person directing traffic and school children in Canberra? Highly unlikely.

Canberra is the only place in Australia that doesn’t have a school crossing supervisor program. In fact, in any other place around Australia, the crossing outside my school would be eligible for funding under a school crossing supervisor program.

Why doesn’t Canberra have a school crossing supervisor program? I’ve been asking around and the best answer from anyone in government is that ‘Canberra doesn’t have a program because we’ve never had a program’.

In the right location, school crossing supervisors make it safer for children to walk or ride to school. They encourage active transport and reduce the number of cars on the road. School crossing supervisors also improve traffic flow, by bundling pedestrians. A win for pedestrians and a win for car drivers. A great idea that’s just waiting for the government to take it up.

When my local Primary School’s P&C first asked Minister Gentleman why the ACT was the only place in Australia that didn’t have a school crossing supervisor program, he responded simply that the Government doesn’t have a program. Nothing to see, no new information here. Maybe he was hoping that parents would give up and go away. Well, not this time.

The Council of ACT P&C Associations took things a step further in September last year and put a proposal to trial a school crossing supervisor program to the Education Minister, then Joy Burch. We’ve since heard back that the government views a program, like one that’s run in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania as too expensive. Apparently in Canberra it ‘doesn’t stack up from a cost-benefit perspective’. Interesting that it stacks up everywhere else, except in Canberra.

It’s time for the ACT Government to stand up and support kids walking and riding their bikes to school safely. It’s time for our children to have memories of the local lollipop person. It’s time for a school crossing supervisor program to be funded for high-risk schools in Canberra.

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Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

  • Annette Healy

    On behalf of so many Canberra parents (and pedestrians) I say good work Mia, great to see this story in Her Canberra and The Canberra Times today. Sadly I think there’ll need to be more pressure exerted to achieve a result. It took months of dedicated lobbying to have a crossing installed at our school this year. Not sure why the risk of injury or worse isn’t considered a very high priority.

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