The tropical climate of Mauritius is a long way from Melbourne but this small island renowned for its lagoons, beaches and coral reefs is where Gaetan d’Avoine’s dreams of becoming a bus driver began. This May he celebrates 50 years in the transport industry.
Travelling by bus every day to work in a cold storage facility aged sixteen, Gaetan watched the bus driver navigating along the roads and greeting passengers with interest, deciding he would one day become a bus driver.
Four years later, Gaetan immigrated to Australia with his parents and 7 siblings, starting work on the assembly line at Renault in West Heidelberg before a brief period working at Ford in Broadmeadows.
But Gaetan’s path to realising his dream career began in May 1970, when he started working for the The Met as a tram conductor. Soon after, Gaetan was behind the wheel of the bus, working alongside a conductor. His younger brother Jean-Marie even worked as his conductor briefly.
“Back when I started driving, milkmen used to carry milk on horses and the Eastern Freeway didn’t exist.
“The buses were also very different, the engine was in the front of the bus and in winter it doubled as heater because we were sitting right on top of it. If the bus broke down we had to get the passengers off, lock the bus and walk to the nearest phone box, hoping we had twenty cents to make a call!”
Gaetan’s second passion is sport. Having trained with a professional team in Mauritius, he played in the Victorian Soccer Federation for many years. He also coached a number of teams in the Manningham area including the Eastern Lions, Doncaster Rovers and Manningham United before hanging up his whistle only three years ago.
Gaetan attributes the longevity of his career to his interest in people and skills learnt by coaching soccer.
“Coaching different age groups has taught me the importance of speaking to people as individuals, because nobody is the same.
“Communication with people is so important and allows me to form good relationships with regular passengers.”
Having followed his dream career and reached his goal of 50 years in the industry Gaetan says he isn’t done yet, “I’ve always aimed at goals. I’ve told my two sons the importance of setting goals and for me the biggest goal was to reach my 50 year milestone. It is a big, big achievement. My next goal: I want to keep on driving.”