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Family and Victory at VACCA

Updated: Feb 23

From left to right: Excited learner drivers Ella, Riley and Jai with Cultural and Community Engagement/Projects Worker Aaron from VACCA, (second from left) trainer Nikki, (second from right) and VicRoads team member Georgia (right) at Carlton VicRoads.

VACCA is an organisation that does family like no other.

Proud Kaurna man, and Narungga woman, Aaron and Taneisha met Changing Gears trainer Nikki at the organisation’s Mary Street offices. They both showed her a warmth that made her feel like part of the clan.

Partnerships are discussed

Prior to arriving, the three had many discussions centred around making each of the participants feel comfortable and at ease, enhancing the wonderful VACCA environment.

One topic for discussion was that the local police had kindly offered to attend the program. It was decided that this may be something that could be integrated into future programs. And rather than have police talk to mob, it would be a wonderful opportunity to collaborate and have mob talk to police about their experiences, thereby building bridges of trust.

Ty braves public transport to begin his learner journey

On the first day of the program, the participants arrived one by one, Ty had taken public transport all the way from Sunshine into Preston. Aaron, Nikki and Tanesha immediately set about making him feel part of the family and commending him for his efforts.

Brothers Jai and Riley arrived next with their support person, Ava, who stayed with them through the entire program.

Then Ella arrived just in time for Aaron and Nikki to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Wurundjeri people, and welcome everyone.

Going places on your terms

When asked, what getting their licence would mean, Ty immediately replied, “It would be so good. I took public transport here and there were so many stops and so many people. I don’t get out much so to drive would be to go places on my terms.”

Nikki smiled, “That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? To go places on your terms. What an amazing goal.”

With that inspiration the group set to work learning not only the road rules but how to develop a safe driving mindset.

Sometimes, beginning a journey is enough

On day two, Ty sent his apologies. He was unwell.

“I want to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome. It was a huge deal for me to get out of home and I feel like I have achieved something just by coming and learning on the first day. I feel like I have already learned a lot and I hope to complete the course next year,” he told Aaron.

Following Ty’s message, the group set to learning in all sorts of interesting ways. Jai particularly enjoyed a set of googles that gave the wearer the visual and mental sensation of what it was like to walk and drive drunk.

The VACCA family feeling blossoms

As the week progressed everyone blossomed relating to each other like brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles.

“I become everyone’s mum on the test day,” Nikki admitted, “I think I worry more than you all do!”

At the end of the third day as he was leaving, Jai turned to Aaron and Nikki saying, “I feel really inspired. Last night I did heaps of jobs applications and I want to create a clothing label that is all about people not feeling alone. I struggle with anxiety and talking to people but I feel like I need to give some things a go.”

“Well, you come across as a wonderful, well presented young man with great ideas,” Nikki replied, “I’m so glad you feel inspired to get out there and try some new things.”

Family kicked in when the nerves hit

The test day dawned sunny and bright, but when they arrived at VicRoads, Jai’s anxiety took over. He was shaking and needed a lot of fresh air. At one point he did not even want to sit his test.

Ella and Riley very kindly went ahead and did their tests first. Both passed with flying colours. They were so excited to have their photos taken and receive their permits. Ella almost cried with joy.

Proud new learner permit owner Ella with VACCA team member Aaron at Carlton VicRoads.

“You know you can take this knowledge of how you worked hard and achieved such success to any thing you do in the future, don’t you?” Nikki asked.

“Yep!” they both replied, eyes shining.

VicRoads team member Georgia was wonderfully patient as, with the efforts of Aaron and his support worker Ava, Jai was finally convinced to do his test.

Jai overcomes his fears

“You know, the fear of doing something is often worse than doing the thing itself,” Nikki told Jai. He looked at her doubtfully but courageously sat down to face his fears and do his test.

Slowly and carefully, Jai worked through each answer with encouragement from Georgia, Aaron, Nikki, Ava and his brother Riley.

“Take your time,” Nikki told him, “you have 45 minutes.”

Finally Jai was done and stood nervously in front of Georgia as she processed his test. A big smile came over her face, “Congratulations, you’ve passed!” she beamed and the team, the family of people around Jai erupted with joy.

Anything is possible with family and partnerships

Jai was shell shocked but there is no taking away what he, Ella and Riley had achieved. And no taking away the fact that with the help of VACCA, Changing Gears and the wonderful Georgia at VicRoads, these three young people were able to achieve their learner permits and set up a strong template for future success.

With support, anything is possible.

Brothers Riley (left) and Jai (middle) with VACCA Cultural and Community Engagement/Projects Worker Aaron at Carlton VicRoads.

Possibilities open up

Driving opens up so many possibilities for disadvantaged young people. Classes are supportive, students and trainers inspire each other, showing the way for young people to overcome their obstacles to driving and experience success.

Click here to subscribe and find out about delivery of the Changing Gears program.

Call 1800 766 361 to find out more about Changing Gears.

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