Ausnew Home Care | Central Queensland taxi driver specialising in disability transport retires after 17 years

Central Queensland taxi driver specialising in disability transport retires after 17 years

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Driving people with a disability around Queensland for 17 years has been more than a job for Greg Labbett — it has been a labour of love.

Now on the cusp of retirement, his clients are concerned their life is about to become much more difficult. 

The Rockhampton taxi driver said it was a privilege to provide mobility for people with disabilities and in aged care.

"It's been the most eye-opening experience in my life for the last 17 years, providing service to these wonderful people," the 63-year-old said.

"I feel for my current customers, but I will be there to provide support to them on a personal basis."

Transport challenges

Mr Labbett's clients say his taxi is a lifeline to their community, families, friends and work.

They are worried their lives will be drastically different without him around to help.

A man and four women smiling while they sit and stand around a table in a function room.
Saying their farewells are (from left) Ange Labbett, Taliya Hickson, Madonna McCourt, Greg Labbett and Maxine Ireland.(ABC Capricornia: Aaron Kelly)

Madonna McCourt has been in a wheelchair for 23 years.

She said she would have to wait up to two hours for a taxi that could accommodate her wheelchair before Mr Labbett was around.

"Not with Greg," she said.

"He'll take the groceries and help put them away and won't leave until you're OK."

Every year Mr Labbett takes senior citizens and children around in his cab to look at Christmas lights for free.

"It's just that extra service and he's going to be sorely missed, very sorely missed," Mrs McCourt said.

A woman in a red shirt and man in a black and red shirt stand behind a boy in a wheelchair wearing a blue shirt.
Greg Labbett (right) with Rachel Smith and her son Bailey.(ABC Capricornia: Aaron Kelly)

One of those passengers is Bailey Smith.

"I've known Bailey since he was a young child going to South Rocky special school," Mr Labbett said.

"I've been picking him up now for 16-17 years and you really become part of the family."

More services needed

Mr Labbett said people with disabilities often could not afford modified private vehicles or be accommodated on public transport, so instead, they relied on taxis.

"The taxi industry has experienced difficulties over the last six or seven years," he said.

He said there had been struggles attracting good drivers into the system, which adversely affected the disability and aged care services.

"It's disappointing and it's sad, and from my perspective, we could be doing so much better in that area," he said.

"Just the simple things in life can make these people's daily life pleasurable rather than difficult."

A man in a in a wheelchair waiting to enter a maxi taxi.
Some people can spend hours waiting for a wheelchair-accessible taxi in Queensland.(ABC North Qld: Chloe Chomicki)

DIVAT Home Care Rockhampton director of operations, Sharna Charles, said her organisation ran a wheelchair-accessible bus but more services were needed for people with disabilities.

"You can never cover the needs basis," she said.

"It is a very short source at the moment."

Hanging up his keys

When Mr Labbett retires at the end of this month, he will do so having made lifelong friendships.

A taxi driver wearing a black and red shirt and shorts standing outside a taxi van.
Greg Labbett says he has loved his role helping the community.(ABC Capricornia: Aaron Kelly)

"I'll still keep my friendships with my regular customers and help them out wherever I can, but obviously I can't do that from a taxi point of view," he said.

"I'll still be doing the odd jobs that I do for them from time to time … I'll help them in the garden or help with the shopping.

"At the end of the day, I'll keep my friendships."

Source: ABC

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