Boy from Dundas Valley to Lord Mayor: Bob’s heart has always been in the suburbs

LORD Mayor of Parramatta Bob Dwyer is proud of his City, with its dynamic development, and exciting projects such as Parramatta Square, the Powerhouse, light rail and a new swimming pool complex coming to fruition. But the Boy from Dundas Valley still has his heart in the suburbs. He takes a trip down memory lane, with Valley girl DI BARTOK

BOB Dwyer, as a working-class Catholic school-boy, would hurtle down the dipping hills of Dundas Valley in his billy cart, his mates in tow.

More than 50 years later, as Lord Mayor of Parramatta, he is now helping to steer his City to even greater heights, while remembering the fun-but-hard days of his youth in the early days of the Housing Commission suburb.

Having moved to Winston Hills 42 years ago, where he and his wife Jenny raised three children, Bob’s heart has always been in the suburbs, though he is excited by the ever-developing progress of Sydney’s second CBD.

It was suburban concerns, fighting for facilities in his neighbourhood, that enticed Bob to run for Parramatta Council as an Independent councillor in 1993 before joining the Liberal Party in 2005.

As the son of strong Laborites, Bob had had a brief flirtation with Labor before deciding the Party was not for him.

While Bob’s father John knew his son was an Independent councillor, he would have been taken aback by Bob Dwyer, Liberal councillor.

“My father died in 2015, thinking I was still an Independent councillor. I could not tell him I had joined the Liberal Party,” Bob said with a smile, as we stood in the cul-de-sac where Bob grew up with his brother and sister, his automotive spare parts salesman dad and his housewife mum Shirley.

But his parents would have been proud of their eldest son, as he trod the road to success from the time he left Eastwood Marist after Fourth Form (Year 10).

“My first job was as a bank clerk for ANZ. My dad thought a lot about the security of a job with the bank,” Bob said.

It was a job Bob liked well enough – even when two blokes with balaclavas stormed into the South Strathfield bank for a good, old-fashioned hold-up.

Bob, just 17, was shaken but not stirred enough to toss in the job.

He enjoyed a sharp trajectory to success with the bank, becoming marketing manager before taking a 12-month break to have a milk run around North Rocks.

“When that didn’t work out, it was back to the bank which led me to handling business migration,” Bob said.

That job entailed a lot of travel to China, Hong Kong, London and South Africa, whetting Bob’s appetite to go into his own migration business.

Today it’s a business that ticks along

After studying migration law by correspondence, Bob was on his way and opened his migration consultancy in Sydney’s Chinatown in 2001.

Today, it is a business that ticks along, allowing Bob plenty of time to be a councillor, and for his role as Lord Mayor, a position he has held since last September.

In a sense, the Lord Mayor of Parramatta is not far removed from that scallywag Catholic schoolboy from Dundas Valley, in that he is not afraid to call a spade a shovel, although he is not in the habit of flinging dirt. Known for his down-to-earth manner, Bob still lapses into Valley vernacular, often having to remind himself that he is more than a councillor – he is the “bloody lord mayor”.

He is grateful for his education at St Bernadette's at Dundas and Eastwood Marist, which stood him in good stead for his life ahead.

“We didn’t have much money but we got by. Dad drove cabs for about 15 years as well as working for Repco selling spare parts,” Bob said.

“We were happy. Everyone helped each other back then and everyone, it seemed, worked,” His childhood house has just been knocked down and a double-storey mansion going up, but much of the quiet cul-de-sac is how he remembers it.

“My mates and I would play cricket in the cul-de-sac and then go down the creek or race billy carts down the hill,” Bob said. Leading the typical Valley boy life, Bob played cricket and soccer at the local club.

As we are visiting the Valley on a hot day, we both remember those hot days in our little, houses with no air-conditioning.

“You couldn’t get to sleep some nights until the southerly buster came through,” he said. “We loved going to Clovelly whenever we could.” When Bob’s parents, who had been living in Panania, were told they were off to Dundas Valley, they thought they were going to the end of the Earth.

“We hadn’t heard of Dundas – it was so far away from the beach and our family,” Bob said.

“But we soon got to like it as everyone was so friendly.” Like my Valley family, Bob’s had chooks in the backyard and gardens well-tended by proud homeowners.

It was a good life that taught Bob that if you worked hard, you could achieve a better life.

And, if you managed to enter civic life, you could help improve the lives of others. “That’s really what it is all about. Forget the politics,” Lord Mayor and Valley boy Bob Dwyer said.

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