Artie is a man with rare drive
WARDELL resident Errol Leeson reckons you could set your watch by his dedicated bus driver, Artie Ferguson.
"Right on 8am, every time, he'd be there. You could count on it," Mr Leeson said.
Mr Ferguson has been a driver with the Tweed, Byron and Ballina Community Transport service since July 2006.
His job involved taking clients to medical appointments as far away as Brisbane and he regularly took Mr Leeson - who had two leg amputations - to outdoor rehabilitation at St Vincent's hospital in Lismore.
"It's a really great service and Artie is a great driver," Mr Leeson said.
But now Mr Ferguson has decided to retire.
His last day on the job was last Friday and he is going to be missed by his passengers.
"What I've liked is just helping people," Mr Ferguson said.
"Lots of people find it difficult to get around the place, so I thought I could do something about it."
Transport service manager Phil Barron said Mr Ferguson started out working 23 hours a week, and became a full-time driver in October 2007.
Drivers help people in and out of vehicles and to their appointments.
But they are also problem-solvers, good listeners and, importantly, excellent drivers.
"On one occasion last year Artie's quick action avoided a major collision on the Pacific Hwy at the Gold Coast," Mr Barron said.
"The client was very thankful for his safe driving skills.
"As a respected elder of the Bundjalung nation, and with personal qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, good driving, patience and caring, Artie has been a real asset.
"He has helped to bridge the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures, as well as - I hope - to close the gap in life expectancy for Aboriginal people."
This is the 10th year of the Aboriginal transport service.
It now does about 16,000 trips a year.
For information visit http://www.community-transport.org.au or phone 1300 875 895.