Program gets residents behind the wheel

THE last time Wayne Swan and Ivy Munro took their two-year-old daughter Armarni to the beach was a year ago – and it rained. 

Now they are looking forward to being able to make it a regular trip after both were given a helping hand to get a learner licence this week. 

Wayne and Ivy were two of the 19 people in Moree who received their Ls as part of Birrang Enterprise’s Western NSW Aboriginal Learner Driver Program. Another eight drivers got their Ps. 

Driving instructor Nick Frail, who ran the course in Moree, said the program was having a big impact in rural and remote communities. 

“It’s a life changing moment, taking that first step towards a licence by getting your Ls,” Mr Frail said. “Then once you get your Ps that’s the first step towards getting a job.” 

It’s not just employment. People who live in country towns like Moree often need access to a car for family and medical reasons. But Mr Frail said without programs like Birrang, many were locked out of getting a licence by lack of opportunities. 

“Some of the people who we’ve worked with in Moree over the last few weeks never thought they’d get their licence,” he said. “They didn’t have the money, they didn’t have a car to practise in or they had fines they couldn’t pay off.” 

Wayne was one of them. Now he hopes he will get work, drive Armarni to kindergarten and get himself to his footy games with the Boomerangs. 

Wayne is one of hundreds to get a licence with the program since it began in 2005. 

Mr Frail said that Birrang was looking at returning to Toomelah and also putting on courses at Boggabilla and Narrabri later this year. 

For those in Moree who missed out this time, Mr Frail said they would be holding another course in the near future. 

“We’re trying to secure funding to come back again,” he said. “It could be in a year, it could be a year-and-a-half, or it could be in two years’ time. It all depends on what funds are made available.”

He thanked the Roads and Maritime Services and Miles Berghan, the DKT learner licence theory trainer for their support.

“The community response in Moree has been great,” he said. 

Mr Berghan, who has coached 146 indigenous people in Moree to get their learners since starting his business last year, said Birrang’s strength was its ability to engage the community.

“Some of the people who went for their licences came from difficult home environments,” Mr Berghan said. “But when I saw Nick meet one of the young guys they connected in a minute and I thought straight away, that boy was going to get his licence. And he did.”

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