Driving change

DRIVING CHANGE: A Wagga driving initiative is helping young Aboriginal woman Jojo Niki clock up the hours needed to get her probationary licence, which will change her life dramatically. Picture: Olivia Shying
DRIVING CHANGE: A Wagga driving initiative is helping young Aboriginal woman Jojo Niki clock up the hours needed to get her probationary licence, which will change her life dramatically. Picture: Olivia Shying

INDIGENOUS Australians are at least 25 per cent less likely to have their drivers licence than non-indigenous Australians, a new Wagga initiative is attempting to drive down this gap. 

Without a licence jobs are automatically out of reach.

Wagga’s Alex Niki is determined to change this figure by giving young Aboriginal people access to driving instructors so they can achieve the 120 hours of driving practice before attempting to pass their probationary licence test. 

George Institute research professor Rebecca Ivers said programs such as Wagga’s Driving Change were integral to giving Indigenous people greater mobility and opportunities in the workplace.

Jojo Niki is a single mother of two young girls.

Unlicensed, she relies on Wagga’s infrequent public transport system and friends to ensure she can take her children to school, pre-school and appointments.

She is currently learning to drive through the new program and has already racked up more than 20 hours in the last 10 months. She couldn’t be happier.

“Before I started this program, getting my licence felt like it was a lifetime away,” Ms Niki said. 

Like many other young people Ms Niki said she had had difficulty finding a supervising driver to help her clock the necessary hours.

“My mum lives out of town and my dad does shiftwork; all of my friends are on their Ps so they can’t teach me,” she said. 

Since starting the program Ms Niki has learn to reverse parallel park, do headchecks and drive safely.

“I come in usually twice a week and try and do as much driving as I can fit in,” Ms Niki said.

The results will be life changing.

“I will be able to things without relying on people which will be a relief,” she said. “Not being able to drive and take my children to hospital in an emergency is what scares me more than anything.” 

The program is in desperate need of volunteers to ensure more young people could get on the road to gaining their licence.

To be a volunteer driving instructor you must have a full licence, be over 25 and have a driving check. To find out more contact Mr Niki on 0432 000 909.