Rubber to the road – Merri River School students enjoy new mountain bikes


On farmland located on the northern edges of Warrnambool sits the new Merri River School.

The special developmental school is not the only new thing the students get to enjoy – they’ve just received 10 new mountain bikes with funding from Fonterra.

Merri River School physical education teacher Aidan Nicolson says the school puts a big emphasis on bike education, and the $4,400 grant from Fonterra allowed the cost of the bikes to be completely covered, giving a significant boost to their bike program. 

“When we built the school, we made sure there was a purpose-built bike track – that shows just how important bike education and road safety are to the students,” says Aidan.

“Learning how to ride a bike, and do so safely, creates a level of independence for our students and we’re really grateful for the support of Fonterra.

“Once our students leave school, many of them won’t be able to get their driver’s license, so they will rely on bikes to get them around, whether it be to and from home, the supermarket or job,” says Aidan. 

The school has bought 10 new Apollo mountain bikes from the local bike store – these replace a fleet of mountain bikes that were almost 10 years old and were costing around $1200 a year to maintain. 

Used daily, the new bikes will complement a large range of bikes at the school, ranging from small tricycles, balance bikes, and large tricycles.

“The school, and the students, have many priorities that need to be met and buying a fleet of new bikes, whilst important overall, was not seen as an immediate need. 

“The funding from Fonterra was basically my entire PE and Outdoor Ed budget, so it would be impossible for me to fund this internally, and unfeasible for me to ‘chip away’ and buy one or two each year – having the money in one lump sum has allowed us to run the program as we had hoped to,” says Aidan.

Learning how to ride a bike, and do so safely, creates a level of independence for our students and we’re really grateful for the support of Fonterra.

Aidan Nicolson, physical education teacher, Merri River School 

Fonterra’s Cobden site manager, Nick Hayes, went along to the school to meet the students and check out the new bikes.

“It was fantastic to head along and see the great facility and the passion that all the teachers there have for the student’s development.

“I got to see the school get built, so seeing it in its final form and seeing what they’ve accomplished was incredible.

“And, most of all it was great to see the students on the bikes and enjoying them – that’s what it’s all about.

“We’re always looking for ways we can support and engage our communities across south-west Victoria because we know our industry plays an important role in community development.

“We’re proud that we could play a part in the great work they do – it’s what we at Fonterra like to call Doing Good Together,” says Nick.