News

Aboriginal people in driver's seat

At the roundtable discussions last week were (front l-r) driving student David Rawlison, Justice & Attorney General Department senior Aboriginal project officer Jason Lonesborough and driving instructor Gilbert Davis with (rear l-r) Justice & Attorney General Department project officers Barbara Fusitu’a and Catherine Lomas, Jan Levy and Lynne Smith from ACE Community Colleges, and driving instructors Bucky Robinson and Geoffrey McClelland.
At the roundtable discussions last week were (front l-r) driving student David Rawlison, Justice & Attorney General Department senior Aboriginal project officer Jason Lonesborough and driving instructor Gilbert Davis with (rear l-r) Justice & Attorney General Department project officers Barbara Fusitu’a and Catherine Lomas, Jan Levy and Lynne Smith from ACE Community Colleges, and driving instructors Bucky Robinson and Geoffrey McClelland.

The free driving program has enabled more than 140 Aboriginal people to get a licence and employed NSW's first-ever Aboriginal driving instructor, Bucky Robinson, right here in Lismore. Yet despite the success of the ACE Colleges Aboriginal Driving Program, including a national Crime and Violence Prevention Award, it's had a rocky road in terms of funding. It has often fallen through the cracks between departments.

Once again the coffers are running dry, so ACE invited representatives from the Justice & Attorney General Department to Lismore last week so they could talk to local Aboriginal people and hear first-hand how a simple concept is having far-reaching impacts.

The department's senior Aboriginal project officer Jason Lonesborough and two of his colleagues spent three days talking to people from Lismore, Box Ridge, and the Balund-a correctional facility (near Tabulam) who have participated in the project.

"The feedback we got was incredibly positive - there are some great stories," he said. "One guy from Balund-a had been trying to get a licence for years and through the assistance of ACE he got a Work Development Order, paid off his fines over time to the State Debt Recovery Office, and went through the program and got a licence. He now has his independence and is hoping to go and work in the mines. It gives him real freedom."

Mr Lonesborough has now asked ACE to submit a business case and is hopeful for a positive response from the Department for more funding. He said in the future he could see partnerships between ACE, TAFE and the RTA on issues around literacy and the driver knowledge test, but for now getting the Aboriginal Driving Program funded and being rolled out in other parts of the state was his priority.

"The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody stated if there are issues in the community where traffic offences are high or on the increase, particularly in regards to licences, there should be programs to address that," he said. "There's a high incidence of unlicensed offences and general traffic offences in the Lismore area basically because of isolation. Going out to those communities and seeing how isolated they are, you can see they have to get to their means of survival (town), but they don't have a licence and they get caught. It was good to sit down with the communities and have a yarn about the issues that face them every day, and isolation was the biggest issue, and then boredom.

"With a licence they see they can get out and do things and visit family in other parts of NSW. They all want to comply with the law but they need to get the licence in the first place, and for some of them that's quite challenging."

Mr Lonesborough described what he had seen as "quite impressive".

"One lady at Coraki, she's nearly 60, she's never had a licence, but she's driving around on her Ls as part of the program. Her husband's not too well and he'll need some medical help in the future, and her main priority is to be able to drive her husband to and from medical appointments," he explained. "She's already gone out and bought a little car and she's getting her independence. She loves driving, she thinks it's great."

Driving instructor Geoffrey McClelland is obviously passionate about people getting their licence - even if it is 20 years after they learnt to drive.

Geoffrey has been teaching Aboriginal people to drive in Lismore and at the Balund-a for the last 12 months as part of the program. Run through ACE in Lismore, it's an outreach program so the instructors go to where the students live, helping to break down isolation and reduce road offences by making the licence process accessible.

"Some of them have been driving illegally for such a long time, just knowing they are legal when they drive past the police is sort of unbelievable to them," Geoffrey laughed. "Once they have a licence they can get a job; they can start to live; they have independence, legally. It gives them satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, of achievement. It builds their confidence up... There's so many reasons why it's important."

"The pride they have when they get their licence is amazing - the smiles are incredible. It's a great thing to watch."

A self-confessed wild boy in his younger days, Geoffrey said imparting some road wisdom to those who are learning so they can not only obtain but keep their licence is all part of the job description.

"I try to pass on some decent habits to keep them alive - young blokes can do some silly things and I try to get them to understand what they're doing isn't smart. I teach them about speeding, not cutting corners, slowing down over crests, just little things that can make a big difference to their life if they make a mistake."

There are many different people who told their stories during the visit, such as current student David Rawlison, who moved to the big smoke several years ago and let his licence lapse but now, living back on the North Coast, is more aware than ever how useful a licence is.

"There's sufficient public transport down there and there's no way I'd drive in Sydney traffic anyway!" David laughed. "But when I came back to Goonellabah I realised I needed my licence to access essential services - my doctor is in Ballina for instance. We might have the latest buses (on the North Coast) but we have a timetable that belongs in the 1970s.

"The whole driving program has been a really positive experience for me... The message I'd like to get across is that it's time the government stopped looking at quantity and had a look at quality."

Mr Lonesborough hopes to have a clear idea about funding by April and Jan Levy from ACE is waiting with bated breath as she believes in the power of the program to create real and lasting change in Aboriginal communities.

"This is an important program that makes people feel welcome, where we recognise Aboriginal people learn differently to others and they can't always be expected to take part in the rat race. We're sensitive to that, it's a very culturally appropriate program," Jan said. "We're hoping for at least three years of funding so we can really make an impact. The RTA and the Attorney General's office wants to stop people going to jail, to stop the high rate of incarceration in this region, and with funding we can do that without a doubt. Plus we can put young people through our program and begin to break the cycle of re-offending and unnecessarily sending people to jail for traffic offences. These are not bad buggers. We're not talking about horrible crimes - a lot of the time they're driving just to fulfil family commitments."


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

All she wants is to be chosen

TAKE ME HOME: Daisy from pet shop to pound to your place.

Daisy has gone from puppy farm pet shop dog to the pound.

It's time to get your shorts on the big screen

ANIMATED: Citizen To Activist, an animation by David Lowe and Eve Jeffrey, won the Jury Award for best Short Film at Flickerfest 2015 - Byron AllShorts.

Entries for Flickerfest 2017 and Byron All Shorts are now open

These local movies will shine at 10th Byron Film Festival

LOCAL STORIES: One of the films featured this year is The Bentley Effect, a documentary about the Bentley Blockade.

THIS year marks a milestone for the Byron Bay Film Festival

Local Partners

Not just any party, it's the Arty Party!

A family-friendly, child-focused arts festival

More Northern River schools needed to be counted in

John Foreman and Jay Laga'aia at a songwriting workshop earlier this year.

Music - Count Us In will be held in November

All she wants is to be chosen

TAKE ME HOME: Daisy from pet shop to pound to your place.

Daisy has gone from puppy farm pet shop dog to the pound.

It's time to get your shorts on the big screen

ANIMATED: Citizen To Activist, an animation by David Lowe and Eve Jeffrey, won the Jury Award for best Short Film at Flickerfest 2015 - Byron AllShorts.

Entries for Flickerfest 2017 and Byron All Shorts are now open

These local movies will shine at 10th Byron Film Festival

LOCAL STORIES: One of the films featured this year is The Bentley Effect, a documentary about the Bentley Blockade.

THIS year marks a milestone for the Byron Bay Film Festival

Graceful Russian ballerinas will perform Swan Lake

ON STAGE: The Russian National Ballet Theatre brings their production of Swan Lake, the full length classical performance.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre is coming soon

Baird dogged by fears greyhound ban will cost Nationals seat

Mike Baird may hold off on implementing the greyhound racing ban until 2020 as he tries to woo voters back into the National fold before the Orange by-election.

Could Orange by-election force Baird to delay greyhound racing ban?

Are government staffers talking Wentworth Park sale?

Greyhounds race at the Wentworth Park ahead of the industry's July 2017 shutdown.

No answer on whether government staff discussed Wentworth Parl sale

Classic car auction draws buyers from US, Dubai

"He wants everyone to enjoy the cars, the collection got too big'

Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber split

Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber

Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber have split after 11 years together.

Why Chris Hemsworth was spotted wearing nail polish

RED CARPET: Do you think Chris Hemsworth is the typical unpolished but well-natured Aussie bloke?

He's now officially the best bloke in Australia

Testament's new album is a concept album

ROME, ITALY- JULY 27, 2016: Testament photographed at The Roman Collisseium in Rome, Italy on July 27,2016. Gene Ambo

Testament to release new album

'Baby' recreates famous Nirvana cover shot 25 years later

The baby from Nevermind album has recreated the iconic cover shot.

PREVIEW: Luke Cage origin story is a strong addition to MCU

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage.

MIKE Colter stars as latest Marvel superhero to get his own series.

Kate goes down fighting in heated Survivor elimination

Australian Survivor contestant Kate Campbell.

YOGA teacher's 'good guys' alliance fails to get off the ground.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Sunshine Beach property breaks real estate record

The property overlooks Sunshine Beach, as the backyard lawn meets the sand.

Sunshine Beach mansion sale smashes real estate record

SOLD: Historic hotel finds new owner

Post Office Hotel Grafton

Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner

Pub in new hands and heading in a brand new direction

Peppers Airlie Beach put on the market

ON THE MARKET: Peppers Airlie Beach is being for recievership sale by CBRE Hotels and PRD Nationwide Airlie Beach.

Peppers Airlie Beach is being offered for sale.

3500 jobs on the way with new $950 million resort

Residential, tourist, community, and open space on Hummock Hill Island.

PROPERTY developers plan to begin construction next year.