Wollongong a ‘destination for safe driving’ for refugee entrants

Wollongong a ‘destination for safe driving’ for refugee entrants

Can you believe that collectively, volunteer driver mentors in SCARF’s L2P program held 353 driving sessions with community members in 2016? Not a bad number – especially considering there are only 8 driver mentors!

Now, SCARF’s small but mighty program is expanding – thanks to a grant from Transport for NSW. The grant will fund SCARF’s Destination Safe Driving Project, a new initiative which operates in partnership with various community agencies. The project aims to introduce a range of targeted driver education and awareness-raising activities for people from refugee backgrounds, as well as strengthen the existing L2P program.

SCARF’s L2P Program:

Founded 7 years ago, SCARF’s L2P program connects volunteers, called mentors, with people from refugee backgrounds who are seeking support to gain their Australian driver’s license. What follows is a series of driver mentoring sessions, in SCARF’s L2P car or a learner’s car, where community members are taught NSW road rules and driving skills.

The learners are a diverse group, with some joining L2P for a few sessions before the test, while others taking a little longer. On average, learners require approximately 70 hours of on-road driving practice to develop the skills necessary to take the NSW practical driving test. In that time, whether it is short or long, mentors develop valuable relationships. Mentors are also put in their own learning environment, where they learn about a different culture and another person’s journey.

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A challenge for many refugee entrants seeking to gain their license in Australia is to unlearn rules already internalised from driving in their home countries. As John Ruperto and Carole Carter explain, L2P’s hard-working coordinators, many learners held a licence in their home country and come with a perception that they are already quite skilful drivers. However, their driving experience in their home country does not always equip them to be safe drivers in NSW.

This isn’t made easier when Australian drivers on our roads don’t adhere to the rules and learners witness this. As Carole and John point out, patience is an important virtue for mentors in L2P!

John and Carol (L2P)
Along with the physical challenges come logistical road blocks. Lessons only run at times that are available to both mentors and learners – making organising quite interesting. It can be difficult to match people up, but once it works out, special friendships are formed.

This year, five learner drivers are on the path to success with L2P, with one person having already achieved their P’s. The number of learners is sure to increase and the L2P team are hoping to welcome more mentors in the case of higher demand.

“When they pass, that’s the best moment” – Carole

The Destination Safe Driving Program

There are four main objectives of the program: to run information sessions, strengthen the existing L2P program, provide driving instructor training and deliver community road safety mentoring.

There have already been two positive presentations run by the L2P Coordinators this year. Most recently, a presentation focusing on “road safety and the role of the police” was held at the SCARF office, with the help of local police officers.

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The need for programs like L2P for refugee entrants is great. Driving is an important step toward independence, and often critical to gaining employment. Masoumeh, a participant in the L2P program who successfully gained her license, told us how driving support helped her:

I love driving…I don’t need to wait for my kids to come home and take me out. I can go by myself. My son has just started high school and I can take him to school. I feel much more relaxed because I don’t have to worry about how I will do the things I need to do. I can drive myself and be independent…- Masoumeh

 


 

SCARF is in a critical time. With an unprecedented amount of refugee entrants arriving in the Illawarra in recent years, our resources are stretched, now more than ever. You can help us to help refugee entrants in our community by donating to SCARF or becoming a Champion of Welcome and fundraising. We’re so grateful for any level of support.