8 March 2024

New driver program helping Bega Valley youth hit the road (under a watchful eye)

| Claire Sams
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Three people standing around a car

Carina Severs (right) says the supervised driving sessions will operate across Bega Valley Shire. Photo: Deb Austen.

It’s a rite of passage for many young people, promising increased freedom and late-night Maccas runs.

Eden Community Access Centre manager Carina Severs said getting P-plates was not always straightforward for young people in regional areas.

“Transport has long been identified as a major barrier in the Bega Valley Shire for getting employment or furthering your career, getting access to university, and also accessing social activities,” she said.

“[The program] is a valuable way of enabling people to get their licence – and then, the world’s their oyster.”

The Eden Community Access Centre has partnered with other organisations in Bega Valley Shire for the Bega Valley L2P Learner Driver Mentor Program, a free program that matches young learner drivers with volunteer mentors who will supervise them as they work towards their required 120 hours of supervised experience.

“We provide the car, we provide the insurance,” Ms Severs said.

“You just need to step into the car and you have got a great way to give back to your community.”

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The Eden Community Access Centre has also put out a call for Bega Valley adults willing to donate their time and expertise behind the wheel.

The supervised sessions will take place in an automatic car provided by the Eden Community Access Centre.

“We’ll be asking our volunteers to do a short course about mentoring to brush up on skills about mentoring,” she said.

“Our volunteers will also be required to have a few things in place, such as a working with children check.

“But if they are patient and understanding and professional, this is the job for them!”

The mentors must be over 21 and hold a full Australian driver’s licence.

Ms Severs said volunteers were needed from across the region, but especially in and around the Bega area.

“This an across the shire project,” she said.

“It will operate from Bega right down to Eden, and we’d like to expand our range from what we have now to more locations.”

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Participants also receive up to five professional lessons, depending on their skill level.

“Some kids will need just one professional lesson, and others will need more,” she said.

“Then, they’ll come over to our system and that’s where our volunteers step in and help them get their 120 hours for the logbook.”

The aim of the program is to make learning to drive as stress-free as possible – for both teenagers and parents.

“We’ve been hearing that a lot of parents weren’t the best pick for teaching their child to drive, so they would have much preferred to have their child go with somebody else,” Ms Severs said.

“But some parents aren’t available – some youth come from families where both parents work so there’s limited chances [for the supervised hours] or there’s not a vehicle in the family.

“There’s all sorts of barriers to kids getting their driver’s licence.”

The Bega Valley L2P Learner Driver Mentor Program is funded by a collaboration between the Bega, Merimbula and Pambula Rotary clubs, the Pambula – Merimbula Lions Club, Lions International and the Eden Community Access Centre.

Further information and application forms for learner and mentoring drivers are available on the Eden Community Access Centre’s website.

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