Maria Mafrici & Michelle Klein
Passengers in Melbourne’s outer suburbs are benefitting from the efforts of bus companies to attract more female drivers.
Ventura holds open days for women at its Dandenong depot, encouraging prospective drivers to learn more about the industry from women who are leading the way.
Bus driver Maria welcomes these initiatives, saying women quickly become important assets to these companies because of their ability to build relationships.
“We’re loyal. We’re nurturing which is great for the passengers. There are amazing benefits to having us on board.
“The nurturing thing, I’m sure it’s not just me. We’ve all got it in us. If we see something, we’re more likely to check in and ask if we can help.
“I like to make sure elderly passengers can hop on and off the bus alright. I like to check that people know where they’re going when they get off.
“I want to make sure everyone is okay. Young ones, teenagers, someone on their own late at night. Mama Maria comes out. I suppose it’s about my own peace of mind.”
And Maria’s passengers respond to this level of service, sometimes with a wink and smile, and other times with gifts.
“The funniest gift I’ve ever gotten was from a lady who’d just done her shopping,” Maria explains.
“She was so happy with the journey, with the service, the greeting, that she gave me a box of Omo washing powder right out of her shopping bag. So you develop these little friendships.”
Ventura senior supervisor Michelle is conscious that hundreds of passengers are relying on her each day to get to where they need to go. \
She is driven to do everything she can to ensure every service goes out on time.
“Sometimes buses break down and you can run out of buses, so I’ve got a shift to fill but I’ve got no bus,” Michelle says.
“When something like that happens, it really stresses you out, but I don’t like leaving things half done or accepting that something’s too hard to fix.
“There’s always a solution.”
The relationship between bus drivers and their passengers can be a special one.
Michelle says the simple sight of a female bus driver can make someone’s day.
“There’s always someone lovely, almost every shift I’ve had,” Michelle says.
“I’ve had one lady come up and say ‘you know what, it’s so good to see a young female driving because I’ve never seen it before.’
“And it makes you feel good, it brings some happiness into your day. I’ve made someone’s day and they’ve made mine.”