New England North West License Training Project

Introduction

The objective of this initiative was to provide a pool of people who are trained and resourced to run classes for people with low literacy to assist them to pass the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) Driver Knowledge Test (DKT) and gain a Drivers Licence and deal with outstanding fines that they may have with the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO).

The need for this project arose out of a previous Transport NSW (TNSW) funded research project conducted in 2005 by the University of New England that looked specifically at the transport needs for Aboriginal communities in the New England North West region. Throughout the consultations every community expressed a desire to have more licensed drivers. The barriers identified were clearly related to low literacy. The added advantages of assisting people to gain a drivers licence included gaining opportunities to secure employment, having more culturally appropriate volunteer drivers to assist with transport to medical appointments, funerals, transport young people to sporting and cultural events and attend to day to day activities like shopping and visiting family and friends.

Following this research, a TNSW funded pilot project was set up in Armidale in 2006 where 17 people with low literacy were provided with a trainer over a 2 week period to assist in understanding the RTA Driver Knowledge Test, practice the RTA Test on computers linked to the internet and gain confidence in understanding the road rules. 8 people were also to be trained by the trainer so that they could conduct future classes.

All 17 participants were checked by SDRO staff and repayment schedules put in place for those with outstanding fines. Birth certificates were applied for if needed. All participants sat the test and all 17 participants gained their Learners Licence or regained an existing licence. Everyone was offered 3 hours paid professional driving lessons to encourage safe driving practices. The success of all participants in this project showed that with adequate support outstanding outcomes are achieved.

Process

Consultation took place with key community people, local police, TAFE staff, Aboriginal Land Councils, Community Development Employment Programs (CDEP), Aboriginal Employment Services, Job Network providers and staff from the government and non government sectors across the region.

It was agreed that towns with high populations of Aboriginal people would benefit by having people trained to deliver programs at the local level. Boggabilla, Moree, Gunnedah, Tamworth, Tenterfield and Inverell were included as the six locations to run the program.

A whole of region approach was taken in partnership with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, TAFE, Indigenous Coordination Centre and non government organisations.

A trainer was secured to deliver the program across the six locations utilising TAFE and community training facilities. Stakeholders from each participating community promoted the training opportunity in their town encouraging people to be trained and receive RTA and SDRO resources needed to implement future training programs.

This project was conducted over a six week period - one week in each location. People were selected from each location from Job Network agencies, CDEP staff, Government agency staff and community people.

Fifty six trainers completed the courses. Each trainer was linked to a contact SDRO and was given a Training Resource Manual. The SDRO agreed to check all future class participants for possible sanctions against applying for a Drivers License and put in place repayment schedules.

Of the pool of trainers, seventeen have conducted courses for people with low literacy in the towns of Moree, Narrabri, Wee Waa, Tamworth, Boggabilla, Armidale, Walcha, Uralla, Guyra, Tenterfield and Inverell. The total as of May 2009 is 380 participants attended courses and sat the RTA Test. 374 of the participants gained an 'L' licence or regained their full licence.

Many of the 56 trainers are from Aboriginal backgrounds living in the targeted communities. Several of these people have been contracted by Job Network agencies to run programs for their clients. Several others are Job Network staff running courses 'in house'. This interaction between trainers and the Job Network agencies enables the program to become sustainable.

SDRO has enhanced their service to Aboriginal communities by employing Aboriginal specific staff, producing culturally appropriate material, setting up Centrepay and other payment options and agreeing to lift sanctions for people who enter into programs set up by the trainers.

Resources

Throughout the planning and implementation stages of the project it was necessary to involve staff/representatives from various organisations.

Main parties involved include:

  • South Inverell Residents Association
  • Job Network Agencies
  • New England TAFE
  • Aboriginal Lands Councils
  • Community Development Employment Programs
  • Department of Aboriginal Affairs
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Indigenous Coordination Centre Tamworth
  • State Debt Recovery Office
  • Roads and Traffic Authority
  • Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • Transport NSW

Funding

TNSW in partnership with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Indigenous Coordination Centre - Tamworth provided funds to contract the trainer over a 6 week period and pay for resources.

The State Debt Recovery Office management supported the project from the outset maintaining a database of trainers that are provided with direct access to identified staff.

The RTA have supported the program from the outset by making available Aboriginal Programs Advisors to assist and advise.

TAFE New England provided training rooms at Boggabilla, Tamworth, Moree and Tenterfield. The Linking Together Centre in South Inverell and Adult Community Education in Gunnedah provided training rooms in these locations. Employers allowed staff to participate in the training.

Details

Government and non government staff working within regions across New South Wales generally have intimate knowledge of their communities within regions and are well networked with each other through regional meetings, local interagencies, local government committees and other forums.

Every region is different so if planning to develop a regional project, you need to ensure that key stakeholders have a regional perspective and also have knowledge of and networks within target communities.

Gaining a drivers licence is important in rural regional NSW in relation to gaining employment, maintaining community and family relationships.

  • Target Aboriginal people to deliver programs to communities with high Aboriginal populations
  • Build productive working relationships with local Job Network agencies that are funded to assist their clients to become job ready
  • Communicate closely with the SDRO, RTA Aboriginal Programs Officers and Office of Fair Trading Aboriginal specific staff
  • Ensure that a service provider and key worker manages the entire project - if the goal is to train people within target communities to run future courses for people with low literacy to assist them in gaining a Drivers Licence
  • Utilise community infrastructure, for example, TAFE, PCYC, Community Colleges, Neighbourhood Centres when sourcing training venues.
  • Ensure that the resources you provide are up to date and complete
  • Once you have a pool of trainers located within target communities and they are ready to run a course with up to 10 participants then offer ongoing support and assist if possible ensuring their success and the success of the group to gain their drivers licence.

Issues

Important issues for consideration when establishing programs to assist people with low literacy to gain a drivers licence:

  • Resources provided to trainers have up to date rules and regulations relating to the RTA and SDRO. Also needed are the copies of all the actual RTA tests (with answers) so that participants can practice in a class environment
  • Ensure that trainers have RTA handbooks for participant use
  • Ensure that a bank of on line computers is available to access the RTA website. Many participants have no previous experience with computers
  • Ensure that all participants have their Birth Certificate / Marriage Certificate as this is needed to gain an RTA licence. Without these documents they cannot sit the RTA test
  • Check with RTA (with participant's permission) that no sanctions exist before they begin a course. If an RTA sanction exists then the participant will not be able to sit the test
  • Check with SDRO that no sanctions exist. If a sanction is in place due to an outstanding unpaid fine then with the participant's permission set up a 'Time to Pay' payment schedule or other agreed arrangement. SDRO will lift this sanction before the participant sits the RTA test if the Trainer is known to them
  • Develop partnership arrangements to offset the cost of buying in a Trainer and Training Resources to get initial pool of trainers who are confident to deliver programs
  • Develop good working relationships with RTA, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, State Debt Recovery Office, and government agencies - state and federal and non government agencies.

Evaluation

This initiative has resulted in many people, both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal, with low literacy to be able to gain a Drivers License. Many of the participants have also used computers for the first time, including internet. Some participants report that they have failed the RTA test in the past and gave up trying, often driving without a license and then attracting fines, court appearances and for repeat offenders a prison sentence.

The opportunity to be supported in a friendly class environment with others from their communities and a Trainer who they respect provides them with the confidence to succeed. Trainers often take participants for a tour of their local RTA and introduce them to staff as part of the course. Trainers also individually work with participants contacting SDRO identified staff who sensitively deal with existing fines and repayment plans.

Some of the Trainers have developed a working relationship with the Office of Births Deaths and Marriages to fast track requests for certificates so that they arrive before the participant sits their RTA test.

SDRO has produced culturally appropriate material explaining what will happen if people don't pay their fines. They have also made available Centrepay facilities and employed Aboriginal identified staff in several locations.

Some Job Network providers have employed the Trainers to run Licensing Programs with their clients on a fee for service basis - creating employment opportunities. Some Trainers are located within Job Network agencies and run programs in-house assisting many clients to gain a license. Other Job Network agencies have set up Mentor Programs - volunteers to assist people to get their 120 hours driving experience before sitting for their 'P' test.

Many people who gain a license have gone on to part / full time employment or further study. They report that the program was the best thing that they have ever done, have gone onto gain a 'P' License and purchase a car. Their lives have changed in a positive way, with new opportunities and the confidence to move forward and realise their goals.

Trainers report that they enjoy working with participants within the programs, assisting and slowly going through all the RTA material ensuring that everyone is very clear about the rules and understand the questions. They want all participants to be the safest drivers when on the road. The fact that out of 380 participants across the New England North West only 6 participants were unable to pass the test speaks for itself of the success of the program.

RTA staff are very supportive of the locally run programs as they have never before seen such a high success rate from the Aboriginal community in gaining a drivers license. Often the participants are block booked over two days and get 98 - 100% pass consistently.

This project has become self sustaining in the sense that services and individuals have improved how the program can work, have made it their own at the local level through Job Network agency programs and the non government sector, for example, Family Support Service. Government agencies have also made positive changes to their processes, removing barriers, providing supports and setting up systems which assist the ongoing development of similar projects across NSW.

The local courts have also picked up on the positive outcomes for program participants and now refer some people from the courts to the program to gain a license and avoid further disadvantage.

Contact details

For further information contact:

Mary Devine
Regional Transport Coordinator New England/North West
Transport NSW
02 6773 7015
mary.devine@transport.nsw.gov.au