Aboriginal bus drivers tear down barriers
By HELEN JACK
NORTON BOLT jiggles as he laughs.
Which makes his co-workers start to giggle too.
"He's always laughing," said Margaret Yuke who, with Norton and Willie Simpson, makes up a trio with a difference at Kirklands Buslines in Lismore.
Norton, Margaret and Willie are Lismore's first Aboriginal bus drivers. While blazing a trail for other indigenous people, they are also enriching the lives of the Aboriginal students they take to school.
"We know their parents," Norton said. "So they have to go to school."
Albert Park Public School principal David Bartholomaeus said that while Aboriginal attendance at his school was high, the new drivers were having a positive influence on indigenous students.
Norton said he had been driving buses now for three years, while Willie and Margaret joined the ranks a year ago.
"I love getting up in the morning and seeing the kids' faces," Norton said.
"At first people were unsure when they saw an Aboriginal bus driver, but now they all line up and say 'G'day Norton, how are you?'
"That is a reward in itself; not just for me, but for indigenous people, because it's helping to break down the barriers."
Kirklands manager Dean Petty said Norton had asked him if the company could sponsor other Aboriginal bus drivers.
"It was not a problem, Norton organised it," he said.
"They are not treated any differently to other bus drivers, they are just part of the crew."
Norton said he had helped train 20 Aboriginal bus drivers, with 15 now on waiting lists at Ballina, Tweed Heads, Grafton, Tenterfield, Casino and Wardell.
"It feels good to see more Kooris out there," he said. "It helps to break the cycle."
Margaret said the opportunity to drive came through TURSA. "At first I thought I couldn't do it, but now I am driving the bus through Lismore. It's not hard. "I just take it as it comes."