The train driver

Keperra Sanctuary QLD resident Ken Lilley is kept busy with a variety of volunteer jobs, including driving the Roma Street Parklands train.

Before I retired I was an accountant – that was a long time ago, in 1997. My decision to retire at 53 was based on wanting to have more time – as opposed to extra money, and I decided that having more time to myself was much more valuable. There’s no point working until you can’t do anything at all. Everyone I know who’s retired says they end up having so many jobs to do, they don’t know how they’d manage full-time work anyway.

Since I retired, I’ve been doing a few interesting volunteer jobs. I have two at the moment. One is at the Wesley Hospital, working in the research area. I am responsible for keeping their database of samples from surgical operations – mainly cancers – up to date. I’ve done that for a couple of years. One of the downsides of this job was you had to read the reports of the surgery, find out what types of cancer it was and all the implications. I think I’ve learnt more about cancer than I was ever hoping for. At the same time, it was very interesting. I go in one morning a week now and find out what other jobs they have for me, and that’s something I’ve been doing for the last three years.

The other volunteer job I’ve got is at a place call Roma Street Parklands. It’s a park in the city designed purely to look beautiful. I’ve been signed up there as a driver for a train since April this year after doing a training course. It’s a real train – like the train set that every bloke wishes he had. It pulls three or four carriages, holds twenty adults, or more with children. It runs around the roadwork inside the parklands so a lot of care is needed as there you share the path with pedestrians.

I moved the Keperra Sanctuary in June 2010 with my wife Jeanette. She was very ill at that time and we knew we had to move somewhere. Of all the options we had, this seemed like the best of them. Unfortunately, she died three years later. I thought of moving out but I’m glad I stayed. It’s excellent here and I’m on the Resident’s Committee now. It’s very sociable and easy to make friends. If you want to have an argument with someone, you have to try awfully hard. Everybody I’ve encountered has been very amicable, friendly and helpful.

For years I’ve had an interest in photography but I gave it up when Jeanette was sick. Now, I’m finally getting it going again. I’d love to take more pictures overseas. I had two great trips to Europe in 2014 and 2015. I took 8000 photos and believe it or not, I’m still sorting them out. I went to France mainly, but also Malta and Italy. I seem to go to the same places over and over because I like that you get to know the place well; you can get ‘round the city without a map which is excellent, the underground’s easy and you know where to stay. The cities I like the most are Paris and Rome. They’re great places to simply be in for no other reason than to people watch, sit in cafes, go to art galleries.

The sense of community and support at Keperra Sanctuary is extremely high. There are about 280 of us here, of whom you see about 180 often. There are some people who just want to close the door and stay home and that’s ok too. We have a few big social events here – there’s a dinner every month, and Happy Hour on Fridays. There are less men in the village than women, and once a month we blokes get together for a drink, a chat and a laugh. I feel relatively young at 71, and there’s a mix of ages at the village, but once you fit in it doesn’t matter. When you have things in common, age is something you don’t think about.


Find out more about Keperra Sanctuary.