When Sam McArthur moved to Melbourne’s inner west in 1996, she felt like a pioneer. ‘Back then, not many people I knew could see how great the West was. I laugh about it now, but I had friends saying “We’ll never visit you, it’s too far away”.’
Nearly two decades later, Sam loves the lifestyle – but there is one major downside. ‘The sense of community is fantastic. Parks, cafes, schools for the kids – it’s all here. The only problem is the air.’
As the parent of a five-year-old son who has just started Prep at Kingsville Primary, the air pollution issue is becoming even more serious for Sam and her family. ‘My son’s school is 400 metres away from our place. It should be the perfect walk to school through lovely streets laid out in the 19th century.’
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, with air pollution causing serious worry to Sam. ‘We live between Somerville Road and Francis Street, and the walk is awful. A never-ending parade of heavy trucks belch out diesel fumes. They are so huge that sometimes you can feel the ground shaking as they pass. I dread to think what this daily exposure to air pollution loaded with carcinogens is doing to his little lungs.’
There’s no relief on the school grounds either. ‘He’s just started Prep and I’m so happy and proud of him. It should be a fantastic time in his development, but the Prep classrooms are 20 metres from Somerville Road.’
Western Melbourne is an area experiencing huge growth in families with young children. With many people priced out of other parts of Melbourne due to the high cost of housing, and others attracted by the same amenities and strong community feel that keep Sam so attached to Yarraville, the effects of the diesel fumes are felt far beyond this one family.
‘There are 120 preps in my son’s year at school. That’s 120 children breathing in these fumes day after day. You have to wonder what the effects on our children will be – and the cost to our society.’