Anyone who has ever tried to catch a bus in Melbourne’s outer suburbs will understand the near-necessity of a driver’s licence for managing daily activities such as shopping, picking the kids up from school, and getting to appointments on time. However, for women arriving in Dandenong from places such as rural Afghanistan—where women traditionally spend most of their time in and around the home—even getting into a car may be a new experience, let alone driving one. Unable to speak English, and lacking information about how to start learning to drive, for these women the independence of a driver’s licence initially seemed far out of reach.
With generous support from RACV, over the past two years CatholicCare has guided 57 women from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, El Salvador, Burma and Iran towards the goal of P-plates. Women received group instruction in their own languages from VicRoads, the City of Greater Dandenong, and Victoria Police on subjects including the L-to-P process, road rules, parking, fines, safe driving practices, and car purchase and registration. The women then received up to 20 private driving lessons each in preparation for their driving tests.
On 6 March 2018 we gathered at the CatholicCare Dandenong office to celebrate the achievement of the 14 program participants who recently passed the test and obtained their P-plates. Another 10 women will take their driving tests in April, and the remainder are still working towards their goal. Farnazah Amiri, a new arrival to Dandenong from Afghanistan, is one of those who now has her licence. After six months of hard work, and with her husband’s active encouragement, she became the first in her family to be able to drive. After some early mishaps with her English-speaking phone navigation, she now confidently ferries her children to activities and her husband to appointments. Her next goal? She answers with a smile, “To get a job.”
Above: Staff and participants from CatholicCare's 'Women in the Driver's Seat' program