Coming to a traveller's aid

Karli Dettman
Summary 
Travellers Aid has been helping people for 95 years. Travellers Aid today provides a range of services. It helps people with limited mobility. It also provides facilities like showers, baby change and internet access. And Travellers Aid also provides personal care assistants and accessible toilets for people with a disability. I recently visited Travellers Aid at Southern Cross train station in Melbourne. Many people were using the services and facilities. Amy Tingay says Travellers Aid is very important to her. The service has helped her to be more independent.
Posted by: 
Karli Dettman on 28/09/2011
Three men are smiling while standing next to a red V-Line train. One of the men has a cane and guide dog.
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Travellers Aid provides travel and support services for all Victorians

Travellers Aid has been helping people for 95 years. The not-for-profit organisation provides simple and practical support for people from all walks of life.

Wide range of services

Travellers Aid was established in 1916 to offer travel and support services. Women were supported and guided once they stepped on Australian soil from ships. Various services were later established for people with a disability and others with need.

Travellers Aid today provides a wide range of services. They include:

  • A buggy service for people with limited mobility
  • Emergency relief support workers
  • Showers
  • Internet access
  • Baby change and bottle warming facilities
  • Trained personal care assistants.

Personal visit

I recently visited Travellers Aid at Southern Cross train station with my four-year-old daughter. There is also a facility at Flinders Street station. The Southern Cross facility is located under the Bourke Street bridge across from the train station's luggage hall. There was good signage to show us the way. The symbols are easily recognised. But it was a fairly long walk from where we got off on a Belgrave train line platform. People who need assistance can arrange for a Travellers Aid representative to meet them.

We arrived at the Southern Cross Travellers Aid facility about 10am. There were already about half a dozen people there.

Providing support

I tried to imagine how travellers would feel when they arrive in Melbourne for the first time. I am sure they would feel nervous and worried about getting lost. Some might also be emotionally fraught from leaving behind families for a new job in the city. It is great that Travellers Aid can provide some support.

Travellers Aid also provides trained Emergency Relief Officers who can assist people who are vulnerable. For example, they can help homeless people reconnect with their families. They can book a ticket to safely return people to their homes anywhere in Australia.

Several computers are available at Travellers Aid for accessing the internet. I saw a relaxed mother and daughter using one of the computers during my visit. Visitors are charged $5 to use the computers. But many other Travellers Aid services are free of charge.

Accessible toilets

I also watched as a smiling wheelchair user left the accessible toilet facilities with a personal care assistant. Travellers Aid representatives are very proud of their accessible facilities. The facilities include a hoist for people with special needs to use the toilet and changing tables. The facilities are a real boost to people's independence. People can travel into the city and enjoy what it has to offer.

Amy Tingay is a good example of someone who has found Travellers Aid invaluable. Amy is a wheelchair user who found studying at university difficult because of a lack of support. (My university) did not have enough staff, adequate time or space to enable me to use the bathroom when I needed to, Amy says. I decided it was easier to just hang on and not use the bathroom until I got home. This of course was anything but easy. I felt my control, will and general desire to study being overtaken by constant stress.

Amy says she was considering leaving university. I was about to give up when an acquaintance happened to mention a place called Travellers Aid where I could get the help I needed.

Services for everyone

Travellers Aid is also keen to stress that their services are not just for people with special needs. Examples of people they often help include mothers with young babies, regional or international students, and people who are elderly who need support. The buggy service can even take people to their medical appointments. There are also toddler strollers to rent.

Heather is another person who has been very pleased with Travellers Aid services. Heather is deaf blind. She appreciates the buggy service, particularly when she has a heavy suitcase. Heather says assistance with getting from one train platform to another also gives her confidence and independence.

More information can be found on the Travellers Aid website (opens new window).

Readers comments (2)

This service sounds great, but how appalling that someone studying at university has to leave campus just to go to the toilet. Unacceptable. It's sad that a service designed to assist travellers has to make up for the inaccessible nature of the entire city.

Good article Karli. Your article goes to show how a little bit of help can go a long way.

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