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Father daughter duo revels in new bus driving venture

Neither Racine nor Emmanuel thought they would be bus drivers in Melbourne, but now the pair is revelling in hopping behind the wheel for Kinetic

Unlike many in the industry, Emmanuel’s first experience of a bus wasn’t until his adult years. Hailing from South Africa, he had no real memories of taking public transport.

It wasn’t until he moved from South Africa to Australia that he became immersed in the bus world. Nearly 15 years later, he’s forged a career as a bus driver, with a family member also following suit.

“When I came out to Australia, I experienced being a passenger on a bus for the first time,” Emmanuel told ABC.

“I remember the service being very good, but I never thought I’d become a bus driver myself.”

Now, Emmanuel has spent 14 years driving buses for popular Australian operator Kinetic. But it wasn’t always this way. In his formative years in South Africa, Emmanuel was a hairdresser by trade, running his own business. It was his passion and career since his teenage years.

When he moved to Australia, he sought to continue his hairdressing business. It took the loss of an employee for Emmanuel to consider a change in career.

“One of my employees left me to become a bus driver and I found out his earnings were very good,” he says.

“I wondered why I should be responsible for running a business and not being rewarded for it.

“Bus driving requires a different type of an effort than having your own business, I’m able to be more carefree and enjoy myself now.”

His job search landed with Kinetic. After nearly 40 years of hairdressing, he began a career as a bus driver in 2000, working from the Keysborough depot in Melbourne. His depot operates the route 901 and 902 services, which are two of the longest bus routes in the southern hemisphere.

Emmanuel vividly remembers his first shift as a bus driver.

“It was daunting to start with, driving a big vehicle and trying to remember the route,” he says.

“You take some wrong turns, but you live and learn. Eventually, it becomes second nature.”

Emmanuel says that, although bus driving is a completely different vocation when compared to his hairdressing days, both roles have some similarities. He says the customer service lens of both jobs are much the same.

It’s this calm and understanding demeanour that has allowed Emmanuel to flourish as an operator and have no major incidents over his 14-year career to date.

“I treat the passengers well and they treat me well too,” he says.

“I like to take the tension out of situations, which I think has been a key reason as to why I’ve had no issues.

“It’s not just about taking the tension out of other people, it’s about taking the tension out of yourself, including the emotions that you feel in that moment.”

It’s this positive outlook on the bus industry that soon encouraged another member of Emmanuel’s family to get behind the wheel.

His daughter Racine’s first memories of a bus came when Emmanuel first got the job driving buses and the unique celebrations that occurred afterwards.

“When I was in primary school he took us for a fun ride on the freeway,” Racine told ABC.

From school through to university, where she studied science all the way through to a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and a Master of Laboratory Medicine, all Racine can remember doing is studying.

Upon landing a job in a veterinary histology lab preparing tissue samples for testing each day, she soon found out it wasn’t what she had hoped. Emmanuel swooped in, encouraging her to consider joining him as a bus driver at Kinetic.

“I encouraged Racine to consider the job because it’s completely different to working in science and comes without as much pressure,” Emmanuel says.

“I see now that she is very relaxed compared to working in a lab, she enjoys the income, but she’s still young, so we don’t know what the future holds for her.”

From Racine’s point of view, the lure of bus driving provided an opportunity for her to rethink her career desires. After Emmanuel consistently spruiked the bus industry to her, she decided to apply.

Yet when she got through to the interview stage, she was offered a scientist’s position at work and cancelled the interview. It took until a year later for Racine to once again apply a second time and this time leave science for good.

“I could see I wasn’t going up the ladder as fast as I wanted to, and it made sense to then consider being a bus driver,” she says.

Racine (left) and Emmanuel (right). Source: Sean Mortell

“I applied for a second time by myself and didn’t tell my father, I only told him when I got an interview again. The only influence making me come to the industry was him telling me to make the change.”

In July this year Racine landed the job at Kinetic, joining her father at the Keysborough depot. She says the start, including driver training, has been amazing, as she’s been able to step out of a lab and work under the sun.

Racine has been part of the latest wave of women entering into Kinetic’s Women Up Front trainee bus driver program that aims to empower people with diverse work backgrounds to get behind the wheel.

The program has currently seen 53 women join the Melbourne team in the past year. Racine says she’s enjoying the rollercoaster of bus driving, with the highlight being the reactions of passengers seeing her behind the wheel.

She’s also loved being able to help people in a different way than when she was working in a vet lab.

“In the science field, I found I wasn’t helping people or animals directly,” Racine says.

“Becoming a bus driver, you feel like you’re actually helping people in a different way – my mother says that sometimes I act like a therapist for people onboard.

“One passenger got on a bus I was driving and told me his wife died and talked to me about it. By the end of the chat, he said I had made his day better, that was so worthwhile.”

A major part of Racine enjoying her career change has been heading to work alongside Emmanuel. Although the rest of the family isn’t involved in the caper, they have also learnt more about the industry through Racine and Emmanuel.

While it’s different to what the pair both thought their careers would look like, neither would trade in the experience of working together and excelling as bus drivers.

“It’s so awesome to be able to work together, it’s definitely made us become closer,” Racine says.

“Being able to chat about our work helps diffuse any anger or despair,” Emmanuel says.

“It’s great to have our family as a sounding board. It relaxes us, allows us to clear the deck and then look forward to a new day behind the wheel.”

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