Touching campaign to save country kids

Touching campaign to save country kids

Life & Style
The 'one-minute siren' on the Narembeen oval with all of the local emergency service vehicles sounding their sirens in a tribute to those killed on the roads signalled the end of SOCK Week.

The 'one-minute siren' on the Narembeen oval with all of the local emergency service vehicles sounding their sirens in a tribute to those killed on the roads signalled the end of SOCK Week.

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A small country town has made a concerted effort to reduce the high incidence of road trauma on Wheatbelt roads.

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FOR an eastern Wheatbelt shire with 470 residents, a town and four 'locations' on its map and a former deputy premier among its citizens, Narembeen bats well above average in community spirit.

If a problem needs sorting, history shows the Narembeen community will roll up its collective sleeves and get stuck in.

Like when Narembeen township's café looked like closing for good, or the butcher's shop before that, a local co-operative bought the businesses to keep them operating and to provide local employment training opportunities.

So when the community was left distressed and reeling in shock by the deaths of five young people with connections to Narembeen in 2016, each of them killed in crashes on rural roads, something had to be done.

A group of residents sat down with Narembeen Community Resource Centre (CRC) co-ordinator Leanne Brooke-Mee to nut out a plan to stop it ever happening again.

In small communities like this, everybody knows everyone else so the impact of a road death goes right through the whole community. - Narembeen CRC co-ordinator Leanne Brooke-Mee

They came up with a novel name and a concept of a week-long annual road safety awareness campaign in the shire and enlisted the help of the CRC to organise and run a series of special events during that week.

Last month Narembeen CRC won the Insurance Commission Regional Safety Award for its annual SOCK (Save Our Country Kids) Week campaign.

Ms Brooke-Mee and the Shire's executive manager of corporate services, Bonnie Cole, accepted the award and $2000 prize at the 2018 WA Regional Achievement and Community Awards gala presentation at the Hyatt Regency, Perth, on October 19.

"The community has really got behind SOCK Week and this year (its second year) we got surrounding towns like Bruce Rock and Kondinin to join in because the safety messages needs to be spread to as many people as possible," Ms Brooke-Mee said last week.

"Lots of rural communities suffer the loss of loved ones due to poor decisions made when driving on country roads.

"The thing is, in small communities like this, everybody knows everyone else so the impact of a road death goes right through the whole community.

"Local ambulance crews, police officers and firemen all know when they turn up to a car crash that it is more than likely they will know the victim personally," she said.

A significant and telling addition to the SOCK Week campaign - June 25-30 - this year was a strong social media presence via the CRC of local parents who had lost a child in a car crash on a country road explaining the impact of that loss on them and urging young drivers to take care.

"We (CRC) made little videos with some families - not those that had lost loved ones in 2016, that's still too raw - but other families who have lost someone," Ms Brooke-Mee said.

"They were just simple little videos, they didn't have great background music or great camera shots.

Insurance Commission of WA secretary Kane Blackman (left), Narembeen Community Resource Centre co-ordinator Leanne Brooke-Mee with the Insurance Commission Regional Safety Award for the CRC's annual SOCK (Save Our Country Kids) Week campaign and Narembeen Shire's executive manager of corporate services Bonnie Cole.

Insurance Commission of WA secretary Kane Blackman (left), Narembeen Community Resource Centre co-ordinator Leanne Brooke-Mee with the Insurance Commission Regional Safety Award for the CRC's annual SOCK (Save Our Country Kids) Week campaign and Narembeen Shire's executive manager of corporate services Bonnie Cole.

"But they conveyed messages that were heartbreaking and hopefully touched everyone who watched and listened to them.

"We also had a (car crash) survivor (make a video) - she fell asleep at the wheel.

"A couple of the local St John Ambulance volunteers also talked about what the impact of attending road accidents is on them for a video and the police presented some statistics about accidents on country roads.

"The aim of these videos was to raise awareness and show the impact it has on not only on the family and friends, but the whole community."

Naturally, Narembeen's two police officers were heavily involved in SOCK Week, Ms Brooke-Mee said.

They organised for 'Constable Care' to visit the school during the week, and to walk up the main street endorsing the road safety message to shoppers.

As well, the local police launched their own innovative "reverse ticketing" strategy during SOCK Week, she said.

"They were pulling people over for doing the right thing while driving.

"Everyone who was pulled over for good driving went into a draw to win a $300 gift voucher for The Crown in Perth.

"It was won by a woman who had lost her son."

The Narembeen District High School also got involved, with students decorating coffee cups with road safety messages before SOCK Week.

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During SOCK Week those cups were used by the Narembeen Roadhouse to give drivers a free coffee as part of its 'Driver Reviver' contribution.

The Narembeen Hotel and local club also supplied free soft drinks for all skippers during the week.

'Fluoro Friday' was also popular, with all local businesses asked to have their staff wear an article of fluoro clothing to "be seen" and as a sign of support for SOCK Week, Ms Brooke-Mee said.

"While it was a reminder people need to be seen, particularly at night, on the roads, it was intended to be more of a visual reminder to people of the need to take care and to make good decisions when they are driving," she said.

SOCK week culminated with a novel 'one-minute siren'.

"Everyone was invited to the rec centre and to stand for one minute while all our emergency services vehicles, such as the police, ambulance and fire brigade, all sounded there sirens in memory of those we have lost," Ms Brooke-Mee said.

"It was loud, but it was such a touching and special moment for everyone.

"We try and finish SOCK Week with a big community event.

"The first year we spelled out SOCK on the oval with torches and this year we had the one-minute siren."

A sausage sizzle after the one-minute siren officially brought this year's SOCK Week in Narembeen to an end.

Ms Brooke-Mee said the $2000 Insurance Commission Regional Safety Award prize money would go towards making next year's SOCK Week bigger and better again.

"We'd like to spread the take care on rural roads message to other communities because it applies right across the regional area of WA," she said.

"We hope the campaign has influenced many minds, both young and old.

"SOCK Week will continue as an annual event and we want to use its success to invite other regional communities to get involved."

While the initiative has drawn praise, won an award and prize money and added to the Narembeen community's pride in its good works, the aspect of SOCK Week that really makes all the effort by so many people worthwhile is that it appears to have worked.

"There hasn't been anyone connected with Narembeen killed on the roads since we started SOCK Week and that's the best part," Ms Brooke-Mee said.

Insurance Commission of WA secretary Kane Blackman congratulated Narembeen CRC at the awards presentation and said its "co-ordinated approach to engage the entire community and influence driver behaviour" was what captured the judges' attention.

Runners up were the Rotary Club of Geraldton for its driver education program with years 10 and 11 Mid West students and Northam Local Drug Action Group for its #AvonLocalsDrivingChange campaign on road safety.

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"We're all road users and road safety is a shared responsibility, so it was encouraging to receive award nominations from across the State," Mr Blackman said.

The cost of crashes in regional WA for the Insurance Commission last year was over $90 million and it received 2400 new motor injury claims.

The commission estimates it will pay $1 billion in future expenses for regional claims received so far.

Regional areas were "over-represented" in road crash statistics in WA, Mr Blackman said, with about half of all "catastrophic injuries" occurring on regional roads but only 38 per cent of those injured living in a regional area.

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