Australia Post veteran David Grant reflects on 40 years in the mail business

Delivery run: David Grant among the vertical mail sorting frames in the Warabrook mail room. David says the V-sort frames were one of the most notable changes he has seen in his time with Australia Post. Photo: Simon McCarthy
Delivery run: David Grant among the vertical mail sorting frames in the Warabrook mail room. David says the V-sort frames were one of the most notable changes he has seen in his time with Australia Post. Photo: Simon McCarthy

Here are a few things that all happened around the same time:

Honda is working with Australia Post on a new dual-sport motorcycle to replace the model it has been producing since the mid-1960s. It's red and destined to become an Australian icon.

My Sharona is the coolest song on the radio.

Flares are getting ready to make room for straight-leg jeans with the bottoms rolled up. Letter deliveries are on the rise.

And if you called home on a Saturday night at Manilla, chances are a young bloke called David Grant connected you at the exchange.

It's 1979. And Mr Grant is working with Australia Post, after finishing school at 15, delivering telegrams and working the night exchange.

He is living with his coach, playing football by day and working the nights to get by.

The North Tamworth Bears would go on to win the grand final the following year, breaking a long drought.

"I had just rung and told the postman in charge that I would be off all week," Mr Grant says. He played for the Bears year, before shifting to Tamworth City and later to Lakes United, where he played for 11 years and became a life member.

"On the Wednesday, we were at the hotel and next thing the Postmaster walks in.

"He comes up and says 'David, when do you think you'll be back at work?'

Sitting in his office at Australia Post's Warabrook Delivery centre, where he has worked as operations manager, Mr Grant smiles as he tells the story.

"I said: 'As you can see, I'm not real well, but I'll definitely be back Monday'."

"He was a little bit of a practical joker," Peter Woolatson chuckles down the phone line, as he recalls the "skinny guy from Manilla" who came in to start training with the Bears in the late 70s.

Mr Woolatson played the 1980 grand final with Mr Grant and later coached him before his move to Tamworth City.

"He could keep a straight face and then burst out laughing," he says. "He was a good clubman. We had a lot of laughs."

Mr Grant did go back to work that Monday and, in the intervening years, has worked a multitude of Post jobs in the New England, Hunter and Central Coast.

He clocked on at Manilla on June 26, 1978. He will clock off for the last time on Friday.

So much has changed.

Australia Post is delivering considerably fewer letters than it did in those days, and small parcel delivery has taken over as online shopping becomes the norm. These days, parcels account for more than half of the Post's revenue.

In late 2017, Mr Grant took charge of trialling the first of a new line of electric delivery vehicles. The first three-wheeled 'EV' arrived in Newcastle in October. Now, there are almost 100 on delivery runs in the suburbs.

David Grant has worked with Australia Post for 40 years, and has seen in the EV - a three-wheeled electric delivery vehicle currently undergoing trials in the NSW Hunter region.

David Grant has worked with Australia Post for 40 years, and has seen in the EV - a three-wheeled electric delivery vehicle currently undergoing trials in the NSW Hunter region.

It seems fitting that he would sign off with the EV, which, to the outsider, looks like the next generation of the Post.

Over the years, Mr Grant has seen in change from the coalface - from modifications to letter sorting to the ever-forward march of automation. Seeing in the EV feels like the gateway to a new Australia Post.

"It's been good," he says. "It really has."

A few months after Mr Grant started working at Manilla, the Postmaster had asked if he knew how to ride a motorcycle. They needed help with deliveries.

Mr Grant, then around 18 years old, had grown up on the land. His father, Bobby Grant, was a highly-regarded horseman. Of course, he knew how to ride a motorcycle.

"I can ride a horse as good as the next person, but I'd rather ride a pushbike or a motorbike," he says.

"So, I rode a motorcycle around delivering mail for three or four months, and the P-M asked me for my motorcycle license.

A minor complication, and a slightly sheepish grin from Mr Grant.

"They asked me if I could ride a motorcycle. They didn't ask me if I had a license."

Luckily, the local police sergeant agreed. When Mr Grant presented with contrition and asked for a set of Ls, he was issued with a full license.

When Mr Grant arrived in Mayfield in December 1983, he traded in for a bicycle. He was playing for Lakes United and wanted to keep fit.

"There was a fair bit of mail floating around in those days," he says. "We were all on pushbikes."

David Grant's father, Bobby Grant, was a well-regarded horseman and trainer in Northern NSW. Hunter trainer Pat Farrell, who dealt with Mr Grant as a horse breaker, described him as a "top horseman". "The last time I saw him, he was 80 or 90 and still riding," he said.

David Grant's father, Bobby Grant, was a well-regarded horseman and trainer in Northern NSW. Hunter trainer Pat Farrell, who dealt with Mr Grant as a horse breaker, described him as a "top horseman". "The last time I saw him, he was 80 or 90 and still riding," he said.

He had signed on to play the previous year, but an unexpected promotion at Tamworth put the move aside.

He left the Bears to play for Tamworth City and the '83 grand final.

"It was 22-all at full-time. And then we got beat 26-22 off a forward pass and a knock-on."

"The referee was too tired,” he says. “He let it go."

He met a "couple of blokes from Lakes" as he walked off the paddock, and told them that if they could find him work with the Post, he was on board.

"They rang up two weeks later and said they had a job for me at Mayfield as a postie."

Out the country and onto the beach, but it wouldn't be the last time he worked in the New England.

He returned to Tamworth in 2008, before eventually arriving at Warabrook.

"We do go round and round in circles," he says.

In all those years, Mr Grant says the one constant was he could always leave work at work.

"I could never do that with rugby league," he says.

"As a kid, I always played, and Mum would be running me around the countryside to make sure we were at carnivals."

Mr Grant says he wanted to leave school early, but it was his mother who insisted he got a school certificate.

"That probably helped me get the job," he says.

As a younger man, his mind was always on the footy field.

"I would always go home and think how I went wrong in that game," he says.

But when he finally stepped off the field in 1992, with three grand final wins with Lakes United, the focus shifted.

In 1986, the team had travelled to Maitland for a game early in the season. He and his mates decided to spend the weekend at Nelson Bay, where Mr Grant would meet his wife, Cheryl.

They have two sons, Lachlan and Joshua, now both in their 20s.

At work, managerial jobs were starting to materialise.

Mr Grant would go on to spend 12 months working in Sydney, and all corners of Australia Post, while studying business.

He would return to Tamworth as an area manager and spend time on the Central Coast before arriving at Warabrook, where he ushered in the EV.

At 5.30am Friday, Mr Grant will walk into his office, as has done every day, to help coordinate the day's deliveries. And at 2pm he will sign off and go home. He will take the dog for a walk. If there's washing on the line, he will bring it in, and, after 40 years of service, he will get started on his retirement.

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