For Kieryn Morley, being part of the Raymond Terrace Driver Training Program was more than just about gaining his licence and independence – it was about showing leadership.
The Tanilba Bay resident, who has just completed year 12 at Hunter River High School, was the first to sign up for the program when it was established in August last year as he wanted to “open doors” for other youths in his community.
“I did the program because I wanted to show younger kids what you can achieve when you set goals, encourage them to go for their licence and have more independence and opportunities, like being able to get work,” Mr Morley, aged 18, said.
“Through the program I was able to get my [learner training] hours up and get my licence. It felt great to be able to get to school and work by myself. I even drove kids to school.”
The now one year old program is a partnership between Port Stephens-Hunter Police District, Raymond Terrace Rotary, Port Stephens Council, PCYC Port Stephens-Raymond Terrace, the Wahroonga Aboriginal Corporation and Raymond Terrace Men’s Shed.
Each group plays a role in the program that focuses on equipping Port youths who do not have access to a car or supervisor with the learner essentials.
Since it was established, six youths have gone through the program and gained their licence. Seven are currently enrolled.
Eight Port Stephens police officers, four Raymond Terrace Rotary and four Port Stephens SES members currently volunteer their time to mentor the participants so they can accumulate the required hours to gain their driver’s licence.
“Having a driver’s licence is probably one of the most important qualifications in securing employment and has even more relevance in the Port Stephens community where access to a car is vital,” Port Stephens-Hunter Police District Chief Inspector Tony Townsend said.
“The existence of the program is the culmination of some significant background work by all partner agencies, who are determined to make a difference for disadvantaged members of the Port Stephens community.”
Before jumping in the car with mentors, program participants complete professional driving lessons and the Police Citizens Youth Centre (PCYC) Safer Driver Course.
Rebecca Fleming, senior activities officer at PCYC Port Stephens-Raymond Terrace, ensures applicants have met the criteria for the program before Jacky Gendre at Raymond Terrace Rotary makes contact to coordinate lessons with mentors.
Mentors also undertake training, which is done through Port Stephens Council.
“It has come together quite well,” Steve Merritt, president of Raymond Terrace Rotary Club, said of the program.
“This really has been a team effort. It is great to see what can be achieved when so many groups in the community come together.”
Mr Merrit paid tribute to Kloster Ford which has provided a 2016 Ford Fiesta for program participants to use, as well as maintains its upkeep.
“We’re delighted to be able to assist these kids in being able to get their licence,” Brad Heuchan, dealer principal at Kloster Ford Raymond Terrace, said.
“A year down the track, it is great to see the outcomes.We’re very proud to be part of this program and look forward to being a continued part of it.”