BILL D.S. DHILLON

2/10/1937 – 26/1/2013

Bill Dhillon, founder of Gisborne Squash Courts (1972) and Bindi Vineyard (1988), passed on January 26th aged 75.

Bill was born in Punjab in northern India in the small farming village Bahman Wala, just to the south of Amritsar.  His name was Darshan Singh Dhillon.  He would be dubbed ‘Bill’ two decades later at Ballarat Grammar School.

He was the youngest of six children.  His parents farmed a small holding, just a few acres, which was insufficient to support the family.  His father moved to Malaya (now Malaysia) before he was born to establish a plantation of rubber trees and would return every two years to India to see his family.  The three youngest children were born two years apart, the timing coinciding with these annual visits, plus nine months.

The family’s village is now located alongside the India/Pakistan border and close to a major railway line.  During the time of the partition, following the departure of the British in 1947, this area witnessed much violence (estimates number those killed as approximately 500,000) as Hindus and Muslims crossed the border.  Bill (aged 10) and his youngest sister were sent away from this violence to live with another family for a year and a half to a safer town, Preet Nagar (Town of Love).

In 1950 his mother took her family to re unite with their father after he had successfully developed the plantation in Baling, in Kedah, Malaya.  For seven years Bill attended Saint Xavier Institute on the island of Penang where all classes were conducted in English.

In 1958 Bill came to Australia to complete two years of matriculation in order to gain entry to Civil Engineering at Melbourne University.  This period had a profound influence on his life.  Teaching at this time was Kostas Rind, a Lithuanian academic who escaped the Russian persecution (which saw 10% of the population deported) and arrived in Australia as a refugee.  At Ballarat Grammar he rose to become it’s leading maths and physics professor.  Kostas became a mentor and father figure to Bill and introduced him to the culture and pleasures of cellaring and drinking fine table wine.  After two years at Ballarat Grammar School Bill went on to complete his Civil Engineering degree, during which time he met Kaye King (of Bundaleer) whose maternal family, the Dixons, have a continuing connection with Gisborne dating to 1853.

Bill and Kaye Dhillon farmed sheep at Bindi, formerly part of Bundaleer, and to support the family established the Gisborne Squash Courts and Wool and Wheel craft shop in 1972.  This business grew to four courts and played a significant role in the sporting and social lives of the then small township.

After Kaye’s death (1985) Bill determined he would pursue a venture on the land which would give it the opportunity to become self sustaining.  The establishment of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards, now six hectares, in 1988 led to the building of the winery and Bill developed further projects such as farm forestry (15 hectares), reforestation and the preservation of important, rare grasslands.

As the vineyard matured and Bindi wines became established here and overseas he turned his mind to other activities.   Bill learned of Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.  Bill visited Yunus several times to learn more about micro credit (lending to those too poor to receive loans from normal banks, particularly disadvantaged women).  With this in mind, he sought meetings, and developed a rapport, with Noel Pearson at the Cape York Institute.

Bill Dhillon’s motto in life was Balance.  To this end he balanced his energies for family, community, work and the environment.