With his Yorkshire accent, gentle manner, and cheeky humour, Bill or “Sir William” as he is affectionately known, is a quintessential ‘ten pound pom’, who when arriving in Australia in ‘73 was brave enough to ask immigration for change.
Bill is a regular at BaptistCare HopeStreet Port Kembla, a safe space for people experiencing disadvantage or living on the margins to address key issues and get practical help.
He’s also a volunteer bus driver, rather pleased with his sixty years’ behind the wheel. He drives across the Illawarra region most days, transporting a seniors’ group and children with special needs.
“I’m a defensive driver but I still do my job. I drive up those highways with all the big trucks. I feel rather proud that I’m trusted with driving these people around.”
Estranged from his family, Bill lives alone in a caravan park in a one-bedroom unit which ‘does the job’ but is too hot in the summer.
“I don’t like to spend a lot of time by myself. I’m a bit of a troubled person. I have a lot of problems, including my health. I feel partially relieved as I have a few moralistic people at the centre that give me support.”
After his trips, Bill often heads down to HopeStreet Port Kembla for a meal, a chat, and the support. “It’s the daily meal I have, and I’ve picked up some nice second-hand coats, shoes… all helpful to keep costs down.”
“I like the idea it’s a refuge for many, guidance for myself. We can access a shower, do laundry, get help with Centrelink and legal advice, and keep tidy with the regular hairdresser. I like my hair short and my beard trimmed. I don’t want to be driving a bus with hair dangling over my collar.”
Despite Bill’s own personal concerns, he is a true gentleman who has a keen eye for others’ needs. “There are people worse off than me. When you’re financially hard up, it’s hard to get a house; it’s tragic, some of them live in their cars. But for us all, it’s the staff and volunteers. They are all equal and complement each other, they’re very good to us.”
In fact, it was Bill who drove many of the sixty HopeStreet clients to a special Christmas lunch at the iconic Sublime Point restaurant. He thoroughly enjoyed the festivities; a far cry from the isolation he usually experiences during the holidays.