Lismore driving program goes Australia-wide
By ZOE SATHERLEY
STEVE Fitzgerald never dreamed his passion for helping Aboriginal people learn to drive would lead to a national award.
The Lismore man has just been recognised in the Federal Government's Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards.
His Aboriginal driver education project, Rally for Reconciliation, has been hailed for reducing high levels of driver offending by Aboriginal people.
Now it looks set to be rolled out across the nation and expanded to include nonAboriginal people.
The innovative program, delivered by Lismore adult education college ACE, tackles a number of complex factors that contribute to unlicensed driving by Aboriginal people ? the most common cause of their imprisonment.
These include the lack of awareness of how to obtain a birth certificate, lack of funds to pay for driver knowledge, handbooks or driving lessons, limited literacy and computer literacy levels and the lack of access to vehicles to learn to drive or licensed drivers willing to provide the required 50 hours of driving practise.
Steve, 53, also provides assistance with applications to the NSW State Debt Recovery Office for time to pay to allow disqualified drivers to regain their licences.
The program began in 1994 when Steve was providing literacy support to Aboriginal communities and saw a need to help both younger and older Aboriginal people gain their licence.
He spent his own money to buy a second-hand dual control car, studied to become a licensed driving instructor and developed a proposal which he took to ACE.
In 2000 the program received joint funding from the Roads and Traffic Authority and the NSW Attorney-Generals Department.
Steve said he was always on the lookout for people willing to go on driving rallies with Aboriginal people to help them get experience.
"There are benefits on both sides," he said. "Friendship and understanding in- crease greatly."
For more information, call ACE on 66221903.