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Oaks Estate welcomes major shift in government attitude to forgotten suburb

Residents of Oaks Estate have welcomed a "fundamental shift" in government thinking toward the forgotten suburb, which they say is finally bringing basic public services for disadvantaged residents.

The government announced on Thursday that it would boost bus services to Oaks Estate, a 180-year-old ACT village which sits right on the NSW border next to Queanbeyan.

Roughly 43 per cent of the homes are public housing, unemployment rates are high, average household incomes are low, and many residents are trying to turn their lives around through drug rehabilitation or post-release corrections programs. 

The lack of bus services to and from Oaks Estate - there are three buses to Queanbeyan daily between Monday and Friday - has been a source of constant frustration for residents.

The Oaks Estate Progress Association has been lobbying for more buses for decades, warning that the lack of services is isolating disadvantaged residents who are dependent on public transport, including to access support services and government programs. 

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris announced on Thursday that three new services would be offered by QCity Transit to take Oaks Estate residents to Queanbeyan. 

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A new direct ACTION bus line to Civic or Woden was not part of that announcement, but residents can transfer from Queanbeyan to Canberra, and then use their Queanbeyan ticket on ACTION buses. 

Association secretary Kate Gauthier said the new services were a step forward for the community, and said residents were still in talks with government about a possible school service.

Ms Gauthier, an outspoken critic of government attitudes to Oaks Estate, praised what she said had been a marked change in approach from ministers and bureaucrats in recent years. 

"I think the government is finally recognising that Oaks Estate is a part of Canberra that they should be serving," Ms Gauthier said. 

"We've really noticed a marked difference in their attitude when we speak and we talk to different directorates."

"So this is part of that, it's only the beginning. It's a really positive step forward."

Ms Gauthier said residents still wanted direct services to Canberra, but would continue to negotiate with the government.

The government also announced a public toilet and upgrades to the local heritage walking trail.

Ms Gauthier said the government had also agreed to help create a community orchard in the suburb. 

"This really is the beginning of normalising Oaks Estate," she said.

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