Partnership with driving difference by Kate Finlayson 18 November 2013
f a young person has had early contact with the juvenile justice system they may have accumulated fine debt which translates to an inability to get a driver’s licence at 18 years old when most other young people are driving to and from family, training and work opportunities. To assist young adults avoid unlicensed driving and share responsibility for community safety, Red Cross Australia and Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ ACT) have joined together to kick-start a driving mentoring program for young people in the Shoalhaven area, south coast NSW. The Learner Driver Mentor Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 17-25 years old will assist young people gain a driver’s licence through their participation in intensive one-onone supervised driving and testing, Marulan Driver Training Centre’s Teenage Driving Program, and Relevant legal education. Annie Vanderwyk, NSW Aboriginal Programs Implementation Manager for Red Cross says she hopes their first cohort of new drivers will become the next driver trainers. “While we will be relying on volunteer driver mentors to kickstart this program, our aim is for
ALS CEO Phil Naden
the program to become a viable business for a local Aboriginal community organisation, and utilising the new drivers to become the learner-driver trainers of the future.” “Not only will there be more licensed drivers in the Shoalhaven area, there will be culturally appropriate training of new learners, thereby sending a big message that Aboriginal people are taking their rights and responsibilities as drivers and community members seriously. “This project is about increasing community safety and personal and family responsibility. “A driver’s licence is a ticket.
The person holding it has a responsibility to their family and community to be safe and to be available to others. “This program aims to send the message that the drivers licence is not just for you, it’s for your mob. “Ferrying children to and from school, family members to work or medical appointments, or at the very least visiting the supermarket for groceries, a driver’s licence is an invaluable asset in a local community. Phil Naden, CEO of Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) says this program is a fantastic and simple initiative to address increasing rates of detention for young Aboriginal adults. “We know that close to 20 per cent of all Aboriginal adults are ‘inside’ because of unauthorised driving offences, like driving without a licence or when disqualified. “Going to gaol for a driving offence is a big price to pay and while NSW traffic laws are currently being examined, the heavy penalties for driving offences cannot be ignored. “The Learner Driver Mentor Program is a welcome initiative to assist young drivers to avoid the criminal justice system. “We hope the program will become a model for other communities around Australia.”