Bob is dedicated to making a difference

Bob’s philosophy is simple: “Life really is what you make it and you will only get out of it what you put into it.”

Bob walks the talk, which is evident from the myriad of certificates of appreciation and thank you cards scattered around his home – testament to a gentle giant who, with his calm yet jovial demeanour, energises and encourages people to find their purpose and make a difference, no matter how big or small.

Adopted into a hardworking South Australian family shortly after his birth, Bob developed his intrinsic values at a young age and credits his mother for his tenacity and work ethic.

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At 18, Bob began a career in newspapers when he was accepted for a cadetship. “I worked with (Rupert) Murdoch when he had a newspaper on North Terrace called The News and that’s where I started,” Bob says. “I was there for three years then left and went to the Barossa to be the secretary of the family pub. When I didn’t have anything else to do – which was not very often – I did external studies in mercantile law at the University of Adelaide and that’s when I became interested in public service.”

Bob left Adelaide for Sydney where he began his fruitful 23-year career in the community health sector, the latter part in Canberra.

Throwing himself into his work meant Bob’s personal life was put on the back-burner. “I didn’t get married until I was 37, I was a late starter,” Bob says. “It was a good marriage. Eve was nearly 12 years younger, doing psychology, five languages; she was just clever.”

Bob suffered an enormous loss in 1986 when Eve and their young son were killed in a car crash, after already losing their nine-month-old daughter to a serious medical condition. “Life can fire at you, rightly or wrongly, point blank,” he says. “There are lots of obstacles in life. You can spend your life feeling sorry for yourself, and I know people who have done that.”

Bob is not one to feel sorry for himself. He is a supreme optimist with an unquenchable faith in his ability to see the good in every situation and negotiate a way through stubborn problems. “I learnt a long time ago that my personality is conducive to people, particularly the under dogs,” Bob says. “You have to have a purpose, it doesn’t matter what it is but it’s always got to be involved with community, coupled with the principle of self-help.”

This attitude has enabled Bob to enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding retirement that he has used to make a significant difference to those less fortunate. Through his work with the government, an opportunity arose to adopt a small village up in the mountains of East Timor, only accessible by a donkey. “I knew I was going to retire so I said, ‘I won’t be bored in retirement, we can raise some funds’,” Bob says. “I became involved in a network of private wine tasting clubs where I organised tastings for the sole purpose of raising funds for the village. We raised sufficient funds for various meaningful projects, including providing a generator for power at the village school.”

For Bob, “the connecting link with people is very important”. “I think friendship is very much a special key,” he smiles. “Not friends for work or advantage, not even friends for play and leisure, but friends for living, fair dinkum. Warts and all.”

Chrissie takes the lead on life in her community

“My body sometimes feels like 80 but not me, not this face,” Chrissie beams.

This positive, light-hearted attitude embodies Chrissie to a tee. Growing up, Chrissie was a cheeky, brave and resilient girl who endured a harrowing childhood but always personified an optimistic outlook.

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“My Mum had complications in utero and I was crossed with my legs twisted up over my chest and I couldn’t breathe,” she says. “I had iron bars put on my legs to straighten them out. I was only two years old when we came to Adelaide from Port Pirie so I could go to the children’s hospital.”

Born to conservative Greek parents, Chrissie had a strict upbringing, however, her unwavering cheekiness shone through at every opportunity. “At 15, my Dad tried to arrange for me to meet an older man – he wanted me to have a Greek husband – so I wore my dirtiest old clothes and put a bit of dirt on my cheeks,” she laughs. ”I thought, ‘I’ll fix you’.”

Just two years later, Chrissie met her soul mate, Jim, who was working in the same building. “One day after he finished work, the boss said I can go and say a quick hello to him,” she smiles. “Jim asked if I would like to have lunch or dinner. He said, ‘I am glad you spotted me’. That was 1956. In 1958 we got married.”

Chrissie and Jim enjoyed many years and adventures together. Chrissie, especially, was the life of the party. “I had a football oval for a backyard and we used to have lots and lots of people over,” she smiles. “In my younger days, I was going out with a group; we were all rock ‘n’ roll dancers. I used to do ballroom dancing at the railway institute. Rock ‘n’ roll was my favourite. I was in the dancing championships.”

Chrissie is a social butterfly, an empowering friend to many and passionate about taking day trips and organising community get-togethers. As well as playing indoor bowls for the past 21 years and being part of Findon Community Centre since 1999, Chrissie lives for the day trips ACH Group provides each month. “The bus comes and I get on it, I love it,” she says. “Brett, who takes us on the trips, makes us all burst into laughter and I’ve made some great friends. We also go to the movies and after that we have a coffee or lunch as a group, they are beautiful. I love my indoor bowls. Thursday night is the best night for me – I get my dinner ready and change clothes and get picked up by a lovely couple I know and they bring me home as well.”

This year – 2020 – will be 50 years that Chrissie has been living in the western suburbs, and in her current home for 25. “I am very pleased at having Unity Housing as my landlord,” she says. “If I ring for maintenance or something else, my housing officer will help me straight away. No matter what, I always say to myself, ‘Be happy, don’t worry’.”

After my marriage broke down I moved nine times in 14 months. I was in and out of some very scary and inappropriate housing. Then I got a place in Unity’s boarding house, The Terrace. The staff there literally saved my sanity and my life. Over time, they helped me regain my confidence to create a stable life for myself. Now I’m in my own home within Unity’s community housing program.

Unity Housing Tenant

The thing my family and I appreciate about Unity is that they are so easy to talk to. Unity is very accommodating – their staff members are approachable and very nice people.

Unity Housing Tenant

Unity Housing has given me peace of mind and stability regarding a home and a place to live. My area is very safe and handy regarding my location to bus stops and shops. I love my home and suburb and am very grateful to Unity.

Unity Housing Tenant

I am very happy with my experience of being a Unity Housing tenant. I have always found staff very friendly, approachable and understanding. We have experienced no difficulties with our property, and minor repairs have been completed efficiently and effectively. I also took my children to the tenants' family party, which was a nice way to touch base with staff and other tenants. I do often access the website to see what is available. I am very happy to be a Unity Housing tenant.”

Unity Housing Tenant

Living in our own family home that is wheelchair accessible gives us security, which means we can settle into normal family life again. When the call came from Unity that a new house was available, we felt like we had one the lottery and couldn't believe it was for real.

Unity Housing Tenant

Unity's staff have done nothing but help me. They treat everyone with respect because they know that life is messy- it isn't a perfect, clear path for everyone.

Unity Housing Tenant

Unity got me back on my feet and have given me a life back.

Unity Housing Tenant

I have found over the six years I have been a tenant there has been excellent communication between tenants and Unity Housing. And where there have been issues they have been addressed and resolved.

Unity Housing Tenant