Rural Road Safety Month 2023

September is Rural Road Safety Month, and as it draws to a close, I want to reflect on what has been a tragic year on Queensland roads, specifically regional and rural roads.

Rural Road Safety Month is a national community-based initiative from the Australian Road Safety Foundation highlighting the additional risk of driving on or around rural roads. Unfortunately, deaths on rural and regional roads are overrepresented in the national road toll, accounting for almost two-thirds of the 2022 road toll. 

From January to August, 575 people were killed on regional and rural roads across the country. 

That's 575 people who never got to say goodbye to their family, friends and loved ones.

That’s so many more people, friends and family of those 575, left with an irreplaceable void that will never be filled. 

Its families like the Barnett family, who in 2020 lost their daughter Emily, when she was killed in a tragic crash outside of Rockhampton. She was 21 years old.

Parents like Tim and Teagan, the parents of 8-year-old Olivia, who was killed in 2019 when the driver of the car she was travelling in fell asleep south of Bundaberg. 

A 51-year-old man was killed in a motorcyclist crash in Mowbray just days before my recent trip to Cairns. Unfortunately, Far North Queensland has seen too many crashes resulting in serious injury or death.

During my recent trip to Cairns, I met a local family who knows the devastation of experiencing a death on the road all too well. At the young age of 19, Luke Azzopardi was struck and killed while cycling in 2021. The family of Luke – his mum Sue, father Ian, and sister Jasmine – joined me in inspecting the new high-speed off-road Luke Azzopardi Cycleway, connecting Gordonvale with the Cairns CBD. The Luke Azzopardi Cycleway honours the life of Luke Azzopardi and will serve as a timeless reminder of safe road use while encouraging people to be active and ride a bike. 

Every death on our road is a tragic, incomprehensible loss of life. We have seen tragedy after tragedy this year, this month, and the years and months preceding it. 

We know there is no quick fix to road safety. It is an interconnected issue that requires consideration of social, environmental and health factors. 

For our part, the Australian Government is working on harmonising national approaches to road safety. While in Cairns, I hosted a Road Safety Ministerial Meeting, which provided all states and territories, and the Australian Local Government Association as an observer, the opportunity to share learnings on road safety and discuss trends in road user behaviour. 

I also attended the Australasian College of Road Safety Conference. More than 400 conference attendees converged in Cairns to participate in the largest road safety conference in the Southern Hemisphere. The conference unites stakeholders, igniting collaboration and the sharing of expertise. 

The Albanese Government will continue to take road safety seriously, working with state and territory governments to progress on the National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-25 on the path to Vision Zero by 2050.

As Rural Road Safety Month comes to a close, I’ll be thinking of Luke, Emily and Olivia and all those we’ve lost on country roads. I’ll remember talking to Tim, Teagan, Sue, Ian, Jasmine and the Barnetts, and the thousands of loved ones left behind.

The keys to road safety are in all our hands. Each and every single time we get behind the wheel, we have the responsibility to respect the road and be a safer, better road user.

We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, and regional Australians everywhere.