Industry stalwart passes

By: Randall Johnston

Few men make an impact on others in the way Melbourne bus industry icon George Sita did

Industry stalwart passes
Melbourne identity George Sita passed away recently after an illustrious career in the bus industry

It’s better to lose money than to lose a friend.

While this is a sentiment you might not expect to hear from a businessman in the ever-competitive bus industry, these are the words Sita Bus Lines owner George Sita lived by.

Immediately following his funeral in Melbourne’s western suburbs, the funeral procession did a final drive through the Sita Bus Lines depot in Footscray as ex and current employees formed a guard of honour and paid their respects.

"It really was a wonderful moment," his son, Cos says.

"That’s the way he would have wanted to go out, via his bus depot."

George was born in the Calabria region of Italy in 1931 and his early years were spent working on the family farm in tough economic and social conditions.

His family was stripped of any small amount of wealth they did manage to accumulate (including his mother’s wedding ring) by ruthless soldiers who terrorised local families, during the brutal reign of Mussolini during WWII.

George’s brother Tony had migrated to Australia years earlier, and so he too set sail in 1951, settling in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

He married his beloved wife Pina in 1955 and continued to work tirelessly in various factory jobs.

Their first child Cos was born in 1957, followed by Charlie, Domenic and Robbie.

His English was not strong, but he taught himself to read by pouring over editions of the daily newspaper.

He established Sita Bus Lines in 1959 after being offered a promotion from bus driver on the Footscray-Avondale Heights, to manager of Barnes Bus Service.

"He didn’t want to be the manager of his friends (the other drivers), so he and his brother in law Frank Bono decided to buy the run, after selling their homes and risking it all in the process,"  Cos says.

So with the shake of a hand and a twinkle in the eye, Sita-Bono Bus Lines was formed.

He then went on to buy Hampton Green Bus Lines, which he operated for a few years before selling it off so he could buy the Williamstown to Moonee Ponds run.

After success with this he was able to buy the remainder of Barnes Bus Services in Sunshine/Deer Park outright.

"He was a generous man who would not hesitate to help people financially and emotionally," says Cos.

"What’s the point is having anything if you can’t share it with others - he used to say.

"He loved playing cards with his drivers; watching Carlton play footy and the boxing.

"He was still a farm boy at heart and had a big garden out the back of the depot where he would grow fruit and vegetables."

George was a keen bargain-hunter and would regularly visit the auctions, looking for a deal.

Aside from family, Sita Bus Lines was the love of his life and he put his heart and soul into the company he built up from nothing.

"To come from where he has come from and to build what he has built…is very rare," Cos says.

Sita Bus Lines is now operated by George’s sons Cos, Charlie and Robbie – with Cos’ son Joe Sita as the current general manager. Domenic operates Kastoria, Broadmeadows and Seymour bus services.

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