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May 4, 2017

My Adelaide with Ratu Rusiate Levula Tuivuya (aka Rush)

The city through the eyes of Adelaide's best bouncer.

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  • Interview: Aimee Knight
  • Pictures: Jessica Clark

With a smile almost as wide as his shoulders, Ratu Rusiate Levula Tuivuya is instantly recognisable to Gresham Street regulars. From Fiji via Sydney, Rush now spends his working life on the steps of La Buvette, from which he’s earned himself a reputation as the city’s best bouncer.

He told Aimee Knight what it’s like seeing the late-night side of the city.

“You’ve got to earn respect by showing respect,” says Rush. 

“As soon as they come down the lane way, walking towards me, I’ve already sussed out how old they are, if they’re okay to get in. By the time they’ve reached me, I’ve already made my decision.

“Some people are tipsy when they try to get in – coming along the laneway, staggering. Just before they reach me, they start walking straight. This is my line for them: ‘Sorry, it’s a private function,’” he laughs.

“I love meeting people and sharing the experience. When they come in I ask them, ‘How’s your day?’

“They say, ‘My day was shit.’ Come on! ‘I had a terrible day.’ Come on!

“With this smile, a handshake, and small chat, you change a few seconds of their life.”

“I keep a smile on my face no matter what comes along. The reason that I smile is that I’ve been given back the breath of life, to see another sunrise that gives me the strength to move on with life. Whatever the day brings along is part and parcel. I move on.

“People come and tell me about their problems. I’ve been standing here solving break-ups. I say to them, ‘If he really loves you or if she really loves you, he’ll come back or she’ll come back for you’. That’s true love.

“I hardly use the word ‘hate’. It triggers me to use that word. But I’ve seen a lot of security people mishandling people when they could just calm them down with words.

“I never throw [patrons] out. Don’t need to. If you throw them out, what’s left on your table? They’re the ones that bring your bread and butter.

“There was just one incident since we opened. There was an older guy jumping onto the stool, dancing on it. I was told to take him out, so I walked up to him, tapped him on the shoulder. He looked down at me. I said, ‘Just look around. Are there any teenagers here?’

“He just sat down. When he came out, he gave me a handshake and said, ‘Thank you for grounding me.’

“With this smile, a handshake, and small chat, you change a few seconds of their life.

“I’ve been through hell [but] you can’t judge a book by its cover. You’ve got to jump into their shoes to know how they feel and what they want. You can’t just stand from afar and judge them. Everybody’s got to have a soft side.

“There’s no use holding onto grudges. That’s not life. People say, ‘Enjoy life to the fullest!’ How? Holding onto grudges? Come on! You won’t know what the meaning of life is.

“I want to get into community services. That’s my field. I’ve changed a lot of people.

“I’m very good at moulding people. I started a youth group [in Fiji] with the kids who were chucked out of home.

“Life is like a coin. You can’t talk about one side unless you try the other side. So that’s my life. I can talk about how bad it is, because I’ve been there. I want to try this side, the good life, and I’m enjoying it now,” says Rush.

A punter approaches. “I remember you from last time,” she says. “You’re the best security man.”

Rush offers his hand to help her up the steps. “You have a blessed weekend,” he says.

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