Everywhere man: more than a decade on the road giving a hand-up to rural Aussies

When Australians are struggling, Andrew Gregory hits the road.  As part of the Mobile Servicing Team, he’s visited around 700 towns and travelled thousands of kilometres in purpose built trucks to deliver desperately needed support around the country.

Based in Wangaratta, Andrew’s worked for the Department of Human Services for over 30 years.  He was one of the first members of the Mobile Servicing Team, starting his road trips in a Winnebago in 2006.  Now he travels in 20 tonne trucks fully equipped with the latest technology to provide the same access to Centrelink and Medicare services as any Service Centre in Australia.

sitting man
Andrew servicing from the original ‘Drought Bus’ in 2006.

After clocking up over 833 days on the road, and crossing the country east to west and north to south, Andrew’s decided it’s time to retire from life on the highway.

“I’ve seen the mobile service completely transform,” Andrew said.

“We launched the first ‘drought bus’ in response to the severe drought that was impacting most of Australia back then.

“Now we operate fully functioning offices on wheels connecting Australians to all kinds of government payments and services. 

“While it’s time for me to leave the Mobile Servicing team, there’s still plenty to do on the road and lots of communities who need our help.”

bus on the field
The original ‘Drought Bus’ Mobile Service Centre launched in 2006.

In April 2019, more than 11,000 farmers across Australia had accessed the Farm Household Allowance. There are potentially thousands of people nation-wide who could be eligible for the payment, but are yet to apply.

“Breaking down the pride barrier has been a big thing we’ve had to focus on,” said Andrew.

“We’re out there, trying to offer a hand-up, rather than a hand-out.”

Andrew’s lasting memory of those he’s met on the road is one of pride and resilience.

“I clearly remember a day when we’d parked the mobile service truck in a side street in a small town. I watched a ute crawl up and down the street past our truck five or six times before it finally stopped,” said Andrew

“Then a bloke eventually jumped out of the car and came into the truck to ask us what support he could access.

“Time and time again I’ve heard people on the road say, ‘Yeah, we’re doing it tough, but Bill down the road’s doing it much tougher than we are – so look after him, we’ll be alright.’”

Andrew and the Mobile Servicing team have also been at the forefront of providing emergency government assistance at times of crisis.

“Our trucks were on the ground during Cyclones Yasi and Debbie, the Black Saturday bushfires and more recently during the North Queensland floods,” said Andrew.

Andrew’s greatest job satisfaction is knowing he’s made a difference.

“People in rural and regional locations often feel like they can’t easily access government services – they’re just too far away. We travel out there and take the service to them,” he said.

“Connecting people to assistance and hearing them thank you for the service you’ve provided, that’s what has given me the greatest satisfaction during my time on road.”

bus on the road
Mobile Service Centre ‘Desert Rose’ in 2019.

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