Glen is 54 years old. He’s one of 7 children, and he has a teenage daughter of his own. He’s a proud Aboriginal man of the Yuin Nation.
Until last year, he’d never had a licence.
As a youngster in Nowra he’d ride his bike everywhere, and then as a teenager he moved to Sydney for school. After his daughter was born, he stayed in Sydney with his young family, where he either rode his bike or used public transport to get around.
Things changed when he moved back home recently. Like many regional areas, Nowra doesn’t have reliable public transport. It’s difficult to find secure work, and access school, healthcare and other community services without a license and car. Glen was working a casual job and relying on his bike to get around, when his boss offered him a full-time role if he could earn his licence.
He approached Red Cross for help, where Program Co-ordinator Toni helped him with access to a computer to practice and sit his Driver Knowledge Test.
“Glen came to me as an older person wanting his licence so he didn’t require to do 120 hours, but he’d never had a licence, always ridden a pushbike around or used his own two feet or the bus service if it was available,” says Toni. “We practised his driver knowledge together and I gave him the confidence and built his confidence to take the test and he got it first go.”
Once Glen had his L-plates, the next step was to practice and work towards gaining his provisional license, which is where the NRMA came in. NRMA partners with Red Cross in this program, helping First Nations peoples in Nowra obtain their licence by providing driving lessons to help them get their hours up and feel safe on the road.
“So within the local First Nations community, it's not that easy to find someone to be able to help you get the hours up to obtain your licence,” says Darren, who’s been working with the NRMA for 26 years, and helped Glen practise his driving. “The NRMA, we can help with professional tutelage to ensure that they're staying safe on the road, and they understand the rules, and they have the knowledge and skills to be able to be a safe driver.”
Beyond professional instruction, NRMA’s driver mentors also spend the time needed getting to know their clients, making sure they feel comfortable and confident.
“He was like a brother, he was,” says Glen about Darren. “He’d sit there and have a good yarn with us, make me feel comfortable when you’re in the car. I was a bit nervous, real nervous, getting in with another stranger. I usually bail up, but we started having a good yarn together.”
With Darren’s support, Glen earned his P-plates last year. It’s changed everything for him. He bought his first car, he was promoted to a full-time role at work, and he’s now able to help his friends and family get around town. “If it wasn’t for them, I probably would’ve held back,” says Glen. “Because Darren was helpful and made you feel comfortable in the car and showed you what to do, that helped me really good.”
Darren’s life has also been impacted by Glen. “I have never felt so welcome in my life. The door is always open,” he says. “Glen has invited me to spend time at his place, or take me bush, or get a feed of abalone. Just very fortunate to meet such a gracious soul as Glen, and everyone else in this community that I've met.”
A licence seems like a small thing, but it makes a big difference – to Glen, his family and his community. With the support of Red Cross and the NRMA, he’s found a new sense of confidence, stability and freedom.