By CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS
GREATER Dandenong Council’s ban on shopping jeeps for its community shopping bus service appears to be an oddity compared to similar services offered by neighbouring councils.
Frankston, Kingston and Monash councils have more generous baggage limits on their community buses for elderly shoppers, including allowing their passengers to bring shopping jeeps.
Greater Dandenong’s policy, which restricts passengers to one shopping bag only, is under review.
Dandenong North pensioner Grace Willans says she needs the jeep not only for ease of carriage but for security.
Last month, she thwarted a child’s attempt to steal her purse at a shop counter during a community shopping trip to Dandenong Plaza.
Ms Willans said she felt the child’s “little hand” burrowing under her arm and fumbling for her purse. She let fly a judicious elbow to the child’s face, sending him out bawling with his mother.
She has been robbed twice on previous shopping trips. In response, she used elastic hooks to clamp down her jeep’s cover from prying eyes and hands.
“This is why I’m fighting the council for a jeep. It’s more secure.”
This year she took the council to the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission after a community bus driver refused to take her and her shopping jeep home from a trip to Waverley Gardens shopping centre.
Ms Willans, who is legally blind, had been taking her jeep without incident for six months. On that one fateful occasion, she was abandoned to call her own taxi to take her home from the shopping centre.
After her complaint to the commission, Ms Willans had confidential conciliation talks with Greater Dandenong’s community services director Mark Doubleday.
He told the Journal in February that jeeps were banned on occupational health and safety grounds, weighing “more than an allowable limit for a bus to handle”.
“They have also not been included to limit the risk of heavy objects being unsecured.”
The council’s community bus — a 10-seater minibus — stores passengers’ baggage in a bay inside the bus.
Last week, Greater Dandenong chief executive John Bennie said there was provision in the council’s 2013-14 draft budget for a new specialised community shopping bus.
The size of the bus would depend on community demand, he said.
WHAT OTHER COUNCILS DO
■ Jeep (no more than 48cm wide) or three shopping bags (up to 8kg).
■ Runs Monday-Friday for up to nine passengers a trip.
■ Specialised trailer used Tuesday-Friday to store jeeps. No jeeps Mondays.
■ No community shopping bus but offers one-on-one shopping assistance.
■ Jeeps and shopping bags allowed without limits, attached trailer for baggage.
■ Three days a week for up to 17 passengers.
■ Allows folding jeeps and up to two shopping bags.
■ Four-seven trips each week for about 110 passengers.
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