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Is the Handbrake On?

Is the handbrake on? Adjust the seat. Can you see out of the mirrors? Seatbelt on… We are ready to drive! Recently Moorditj Keila, one of Tearfund Australia’s newest partners, launched an exciting new program to help young Aboriginal people in the south of Perth gain their driver licence.

For many years Moorditj Keila, based in Manning, south of Perth, have been actively praying and working to empower individuals and families to build a community of trust, engagement and participation. Moorditj Keila, which means Happy Healthy Dolphin in the local Nyoongar language, run a Women's group, Men's group, Junior Basketball Club and Women's Fitness classes as well Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid Training and an Aboriginal Health Clinic.

Tearfund supports the Driver Licensing Program through a small grants scheme that aims to enable Christian First Peoples partners to develop new ways to tackle systemic issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Having a driver licence allows young people to understand more about their identity and have greater self-esteem. It is hoped that this will lead to employment opportunities.

Having a driver licence allows young people to understand more about their identity and have greater self-esteem. It is hoped that this will lead to employment opportunities.

“Having a driver’s licence greatly enhances the opportunities for a young person in Australia to get and keep employment, as it is often an essential requirement for labouring type positions, and demonstrates personal achievement. It is a major aid in assisting people to get out of the welfare/poverty trap in which they may find themselves, and also assists the person by providing a secure identity document,” says program manager Natasha Michael.

“A driver’s licence gives the person the opportunity to contribute to family life, even if they don’t have a car, by being able to drive a family member’s car to visit each other, visit mates, get to the footy, go to hospital appointments and attend college or University classes. It also helps families to access Community services.”

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The first group of Aboriginal young adults participating in Moorditj Keila’s Driver Licencing Program.

Part of the process of gaining a licence includes supervised driving hours. To help facilitate this element of the program, Moorditj Keila is arranging volunteer driving supervisors from local churches and other community groups.

The Driver Licensing Program, which was meant to start at the beginning of the year, was held back due to COVID-19. In the meantime, Natasha and the team set up an emergency response to support vulnerable families in their community with food, information and practical care. Now, as restrictions have softened across Western Australia, the team has finally been able to see the driver licence program take off and empower the first round of young participants.

Through Seed Project and Small Project funding, Tearfund’s First Peoples Program seeks to work with Indigenous Christian groups and organisations who wish to deliver projects aimed at reducing poverty and marginalisation in Indigenous communities around Australia. Through these initiatives, Tearfund is committed to providing a platform for the voices of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners to be heard by the wider Australian community.

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Ben Clarke is the Supporter Engagement Officer for Tearfund’s work with the First Peoples of Australia.