03 December 2021

Anti-social behaviour is completely out of control across the Darwin Bus Network and the Transport Workers’ Union is calling for urgent action to protect bus drivers following another violent assault.

The TWU received reports that a female bus driver was physically assaulted at approximately 3:15pm yesterday afternoon by a male perpetrator who was under the influence of alcohol.

It is alleged that after several failed attempts to break open the driver protection screen, the perpetrator used the pay slot in the middle of the door to climb on top of the frame where he could reach the driver through the gap.

The attacker proceeded to punch the driver repeatedly in the head and spit on her through the gap in the door. After initially exiting the bus, he returned and began shouting and spitting at the driver through the cage.

The driver activated the duress button and was attended to by Transit Officers a few minutes after the perpetrator fled the scene, and was then taken to hospital for a medical check-up.

It is the understanding of the TWU that the driver is not physically harmed, but is in a state of shock. The TWU’s thoughts are with the driver and her family, and it is our greatest concern that she is safe and receives all of the support and assistance she requires.

TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith was horrified by this incident and said that anti-social behaviour has reached a crisis point across the Darwin Bus Network.

“It is absolutely unacceptable what has happened to one of our hardworking Darwin bus drivers who was just trying to do her job. Nobody should have to go to work fearing that they might be verbally assaulted, physically hit, spat on or have a dangerous weapon pulled on them while simply trying to do their job. It is not good enough,” said Smith.

“What’s even more alarming is that this attack took place during a peak time in the afternoon, when people are returning from work and children are travelling home from school. This bus could have been full of school children who would be put at risk by this appalling behaviour. We can’t simply sit by and let hardworking bus drivers and vulnerable members of our community be put at risk.

“Immediate action must be taken to address the safety crisis across the Darwin bus network. We need more security on buses, serious consequences for perpetrators, and the urgent implementation of a full driver protection system to keep our hardworking bus drivers and members of the community safe.

“Bus drivers no longer feel safe at work, and we won’t rule out drivers taking action and pulling their service on the grounds of safety if something isn’t done to address these serious safety concerns” said Smith.

Following a previous incident in October where a passenger was able to break through the driver protection screen and physically assault a driver, Buslink audited the security system on their buses and upgraded the locking mechanisms.

The TWU acknowledges the swift action of Buslink to address driver safety and upgrade these systems, and is glad it has proved effective at preventing the perpetrator from entering the driver’s space.

However, more needs to be done to address anti-social behaviour and implement a full driver protection system, so that perpetrators cannot reach drivers through gaps in these screens.

The TWU is calling for an urgent meeting between key stakeholders to discuss the situation and practical solutions to address the safety crisis.

The Union has again written to the NT Government demanding a meeting within the next seven days.


Read the TWU's letter to Minister Eva Lawler here: