Changing Gears was established by Mission Australia to support indigenous and socially disadvantaged youth in learning better driver behaviours, and to assist them in achieving the life affirming experience of obtaining their learner permit.
Since 2011, the program has helped thousands of disadvantaged youth pass the learner permit test. Ninety-three percent succeed on their first try. This remarkable pass rate is consistent in both indigenous and non-indigenous groups. The program is particularly effective for students who struggle with reading and text-based learning.
In 2016 Mission Australia ceased delivering the program and granted the rights to the then program director, Linda Jane, to continue to develop and deliver the program as an independent business. For more than a decade Linda has decicated herself to developing and delivering the program to an ever widening audience of disadvantaged youth.
Changing Gears first came to be when Mission Australia identified that a lot of the young people they were helping chose to drive without a license simply because they lacked the confidence, resources and support structures to pass the learner permit test. This not only resulted in poor outcomes like higher collision rates. It created unnecessary run=ins with the law that added to their sense of being marginalised 'outsiders'.
The Changing Gears program was designed to practically tackle these issues by supporting vulnerable cohorts to have the validating experience of obtaining a learner permit. As well as helping them pass their learner permit test, the program teaches safe driving behaviours and road rules. It is delivered over four days and participants sit for their learner permit test at a Vic Roads center (or it's equivalent in other states) on day four of the program.
BENEFITS TO THE COMMUNITY
The Changing Gears program is designed for disadvantaged young people affected by social and learning challenges. It teaches them a safe driving education at the same time they are studying to pass their learner permit test. This transforms the experience from a simple "I'm doing this in order to get my learner permit" into a holistic driver educational experience.
Students get the chance to understand the 'why" behind the rules they are learning. Understanding why links rules to reasons, and this makes a huge difference to their attitude when driving. It helps them embrace the rules and have a positive attitude toward developing appropriate driving behaviours. This produces a better outcome for them, their families and everyone in the local communities were they drive.
SUCCESS OF THE PROGRAM
Students, social workers and teachers all agree, Changing Gears changes lives. Many kids receive their first taste of academic success in the program and leave with the affirming validation of having a learner permit. This helps them build self-esteem and connects them with education, employment and other life affirming social opportunities that help them feel that they belong in the wider community.
For many it is their first meaningful step on a pathway that opens doors and helps them build a life that works. The program is delivered by skilled trainers with the capacity to adapt their teaching style to the individual needs of varied audiences, who typically present with literacy, learning and other neurological disadvantages.