Buster on the ropes again

BUSTER the Fun Bus is facing the scrapyard for the second time in five years, with the Barnett government cutting its $70,000 funding by the end of the year.

The popular mobile parenting service, provided by Fremantle council, has been operating for over 30 years and is funded by the department of local government and communities.

But the department has been told by the government to get out of service provision, so it’s put its parenting program out to tender.

So far two bidders have contacted the council, but according to a staff report to Wednesday’s finance and policy committee neither have committed to keeping Buster.

• Pippa Louise and Sam enjoy Buster’s toys, but the popular parenting service’s future is uncertain. 

• Pippa Louise and Sam enjoy Buster’s toys, but the popular parenting service’s future is uncertain.

The council opted not to bid for the program after the department also changed its focus to include kids up to 18 years old and demanded it be offered across several local government areas.

Nicola Entwistle, an English ex-pat, says her 18-month-old daughter Asha loves going to Buster.

“Mothers’ groups are great, but when you’re working part-time it’s difficult to organise a meet-up time that suits everyone. With Buster I can just come down and know it will be on,” Ms Entwistle says.

“It’s a great service and it’s very rare to get something these days for free; usually most things are at least $20 a session.

“For ex-pats like me, with no family, it’s a great way of meeting other parents as well.”

Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk says 60 to 80 families use Buster regularly.

“The Barnett government is punishing Fremantle parents because it has mismanaged the budget,” she says.

“The Liberal government has cut a rental subsidy to community based childcare centres and has cut Parenting WA and the Best Start programs.

“All research demonstrates the long-term benefits of investment in the early years, yet it is increasingly obvious the Barnett state government does not value the role parenting programs and community childcare play in the lives of Western Australian families.”

Local government and community services minister Paul Miles says $5.6 million will go into the new parenting program next year. “This includes an amount of $565,000 to provide parenting services in the south west metro region, including Fremantle,” he says.

“This funding will be allocated through an open, competitive tender process, which opened on September 13 this year, and closed on October 27.

“The City of Fremantle, which operates Buster the Fun Bus, was eligible to apply for funding through this process, which is currently in the evaluation stage.”

Cr Rachel Pemberton, who went to Buster with her little sister in the 1980s, says it was another example of cost-shifting by the state government.

On Wednesday, at Fremantle council’s finance committee, councillors voted to write to the state government to lobby for ongoing funding and work with the successful tenderer to continue the service.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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