Well Done, That Man!

Just down the road from me, is a builing called Tobruk House.  This building is the lodge of The Rats of Tobruk Association. 
I can’t add the pictures in here, so you’ll have to go to the photos section of this space to see them.  There are thumbnails at the end of this text.
I soon realised that the members of this association must be the famous ‘Desert Rats’ of North Africa, about whom I had read as a boy. 
The Auction sign on the front of the building, caused me to think briefly in passing about changes in society, the passing of venerable institutions, the lack of respect for age in our society (as opposed to many other societies in the world), and the driving  role that capitalism and greed play in forcing renewal.
I then heard that a  local businessman had bought the building, and gifted it back to the members in perpetuity.  Who is this guy?  Below some excerpts that I have been able to find out about Mr. Bill Gibbins.
Son of an East Melbourne plumber and boarding house operator, he had been working at TNT when he set up FCL (full container loads) in March 1974. "I was 27 and had two kids and a mortgage," he says. " I borrowed $4000 from the State Savings Bank and said, ‘I’m in business’."  Now the business has about 100 trucks, 3500 containers and 500 on the payroll and "we’ve gone from being a big little company to a little big company".

Bill next hit the headlines as one of a group of smaller operators along with Graeme Samuels, who helped stop Toll Holdings and Partrick Corporation from merging and monopolising the freight-forwarding industry in Australia.  Taking  on such heavyweights as Chris Corrigan (and even Richard Branson, who was flown in to make a submission).

With random acts of philanthropy along the way, such as buying Raelene Boyle’s medals at auction and donating them to the MCG Sports Museum, we return to Tobruk House.  Bill’s father fought in North Africa in World War II, though not exactly a Rat of Tobruk.  Bill says he feels a great debt to those men who sacrificed their youth and others their lives to secure this country’s freedom.  Bill says that he is a baby boomer, born in 1947. He enjoyed all the fruits of their labour, and they didn’t.  Bill’s father died in 1965, but he thinks that he would be pretty happy with the decision.

The price?  Slightly over a million dollars.  The old boys  (the youngest must now be 82), were overjoyed to be able to have their regular Anzac Day dinner, which they thought would be the last, in the hall.  In his speech Bill said, "You guys do what you want with it, hand it over to Korean war veterans, or Iraqi war veterans or whatever, I don’t mind."

Well Done, That Man!


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