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Christie proves dreams can come true

No one in Christie’s family had ever had a driver’s licence and for her, it seemed an unachievable dream.

“When we first met she told me ‘I can’t do this’,” says Jen Cameron. “Her dream as a child was to have a licence, however, it was far out of reach for her because she had little confidence and believed it was impossible.”

Jen is a Red Cross driver mentor helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Wagga Wagga and Nowra, in regional New South Wales, to overcome barriers to pass their licence. With a licence the people she supports, and their families, can more easily find work, take their children to school or the doctor, and access other social and economic opportunities that most people take for granted.

The program is supported by NRMA and their professional driver trainers team up with our volunteer mentors to provide lessons and practical experience.

Jen had no idea just how important a licence was to Christie when they first met. Nor the fears Christie would have to overcome to pass her test.

She was extremely nervous. She explained she had had her learner’s permit for two years but had never driven a car. You could actually see her shaking with fear, tears in her eyes.

For lessons, Jen matched 36-year-old Christie with Gino, one of NRMA’s driving instructors. “The first time they drove, Christie even struggled to put her hands on the steering wheel. Christie often made the same comment over and over – ‘Oh, no I can’t’. Between Gino and myself we had to turn this around to ‘Yes, you can’.”

Christie never missed a lesson and when Jen took her for a preliminary test she saw she drove perfectly. “But when I suggested she tackle the test she nearly cried.

“From my experience sometimes a gentle push into the deep end is needed. I booked her driving test well in advance to allow Christie time to prepare mentally. I rang her nearly every day leading up to her test with empowering conversations to boost her up.”

On the day of her exam Christie drove like a champion and passed first go, says Jen.

There are moments in this program that become emotional and this was definitely one of them. I don’t hold back my tears anymore because it’s stories like Christie’s that touch you.

Jen says afterwards she discovered Christie’s partner of many years had to hand in his licence that same day because of a medical condition.

“We are now working on her brother’s confidence so he can also gain his licence, and this has empowered the rest of Christie’s family to gain their licences too.”

Christie overcame major barriers to achieve her dream of a driver licence. “It’s an uplifting story and shows that going the extra mile for our clients can make all the difference in changing someone's life.”

Over the last 15 months Red Cross and NRMA have helped 54 people like Christie gain a driver’s licence and, in doing so, unlock a brighter future with new opportunities and possibilities.