- Jaswinder Singh from Toowoomba was recently named Regional Queensland Driver of the Year
- Queensland Bus Driver of the Year awards recognise the extraordinary bus drivers who kept Queenslanders connected to work, study, essential services and each other during COVID
- Mr Singh, whose great passion is horses, says he has been welcomed into the local community
Mr Singh juggles two great passions: raising horses and bringing joy to his community from behind the wheel.
“This is the best moment for me and for my community to get this achievement,” the turbaned bus driver tells SBS Punjabi of his award win.
"It feels great to connect with riders and put smiles on their faces."
Forty-one-year-old Mr Singh, also known fondly as 'Jessie', scooped the from a pool of more than 1,000 nominees.
Translink is a division of the Department of Transport and Main Roads with statewide responsibility for buses, trains, ferries and trams across Queensland.
"Around 1,300 nominations were received for the title, then three finalists got selected from each category, and the final winners were announced through public voting," he explains.
A long road
(L-R) Jaswinder, Kate and John - Winners of the Queensland Bus Driver of the Year in three categories. Source: Supplied
Mr Singh is now a well-known face in Toowoomba, having driven many of the bus routes since 2016.
But he says there were challenges in moving to regional Queensland.
"When I migrated to Toowoomba in 2008, a turbaned person was not a common sight for people in the countryside,” he explains.
"You don't see a lot of minorities in rural areas since they mostly live in cities.
"People were always curious in those times but I never had any bad experiences. Everyone was very welcoming.
"Now people specially come and greet me as 'Mr Singh'," he says.
He was the recipient of several nominations for the bus driver awards.
One of those read, "I told him [Jessie] how much he impacted my commute with his kindness, and he told me that he would always be here for me. His kindness made me tear up."
The winners of Translink's bus driver of the year awards were awarded with their trophy at an awards ceremony in Brisbane in early April, and they were also presented with a $1,000 cash prize.
Mark Bailey, Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads, said these awards recognise drivers who go the extra mile to deliver exceptional service.
"The awards provided an opportunity to reward bus drivers' enormous contribution to keep Queenslanders moving and connecting to essential services during the pandemic," Mr Bailey said.
From riding horses to driving buses
Each morning before setting off on his bus route, Mr Singh sees that his horses are groomed and well cared for.
Mr Singh, who hails from Sarhali village, near Amritsar in India’s northern Punjab state, says that he comes from a family with long ties to horses.
Jaswinder Singh shares a special bond with horses. Source: Supplied by Mr Singh.
"My granddad, S Makhan Singh, was a Sikh horseman who was a great rider, and my maternal family also dealt with horses," Mr Singh says.
He explains that across generations, Sikhs have continued a tradition of horsemanship as exercised by a warrior order known as Nihangs.
"We have stud farms back in India, and as soon as I came to Australia in 2008, I was eager to learn more about horses.
A local horse trainer, Ross Coveney, helped Mr Singh pursue his passion.
"Mr Coveney taught me about racing horses, got me trained from the riding school and helped me get the professional license."
Mr Singh now owns horses in a partnership with Mr Coveney.
"It is a blessing to live in this wonderful community and call Australia home," he says.
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