Community is driving force behind village’s new bus

ABOVE: Doug Walsh, Dave Newby, Jess Attwater, Kat Collis, Heather Barber, Alison Newby, Karen Smith, Rhonda Ryan and in front seated, Connie Scholl, with the new community bus.

Susanna Freymark

Hoorah! Rappville has a community bus.

The bus features a cow logo and is covered in sponsor names.

The volunteers behind the birth of the bus wear vivid purple shirts and this matches the signwriting.

Dave Newby is the driving force in getting a bus for the village. He said purple was chosen to honour Andrea Walsh because it was her favourite colour.

“She was the heart and soul of our social club,” Dave said.

“She lost her battle with cancer two weeks before the fire.”

The 2019 bushfires destroyed 23 properties; the pub was saved from flames twice. Residents had to rebuild, recover and find ways to move forward after the disaster.

Dave and the other members of the Rappville Social Club had to decide how best to use the donations coming in from “all over Australia”.

“One idea was a warning siren, another was a water bore – the pub was up for sale at the time too,” Dave said.

He spoke to school principal Kat Collis.

Before the bushfires there were 13 students at Rappville Public School. After the fire, they were down to nine.

“I said to Kat – what if we can get a bus to bring children to our school? She said potentially they could get 50 students,” Dave said,

“That’s where we started to rebuild Rappville with children coming to our school.”

The idea snowballed. A bus was priced for $150,000.

Working closely with resident Connie Scholl, Dave found support from many sources including the Electrical Trades Union, the Maritime Union, Casino RSM Club, the Charcoal Inn Charity Club, Casino Golf Club, Maranoa Baptist Care, Signarama, Red Cross, Casino and Kyogle Lions clubs, Evan head RSL Day Club, Toyota and others.

“It’s been a massive team effort,” Dave said.

The social club stepped up. The members of the club are Doug Walsh, Alison Newby, Connie Scholl, Rhonda Ryan and Annette Newby.

Richmond Valley Council built a shed for the new bus.

Then came the floods in February-March last year. The bus was flooded at the Toyota caryard.

It was covered by insurance and a new bus was ordered.

The bus was on show at the brand new community centre in Rappville at a ceremony to unveil new honour boards to replace the original ones burnt in the fires.

Dave was like a kid with a new toy. His eyes filled with tears as he thanked the people who made a bus for Rappville possible.

The bus is equipped to load wheelchairs and the like.

HART charity will be helping with volunteer drivers.

Federal MP Kevin Hogan said there were moments in life you never forget.

For him, it was the day he came to Rappville 36 hours after the fire.

“I could see and feel the trauma of the community,” Mr Hogan said.

“You were isolated. You had to look after each other.

“This recovery has been driven by the community – not by Sydney or Canberra.”

The wheels of the Rappville Bus will go round and round and help the community to grow – and to thrive.

The new bus. Photos: Susanna Freymark

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