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Friendships new and old at Merri-bek


From left to right: excited new learner drivers Jonsu, Jonathan, Renae, Banjo, trainer Nikki, Bryce with VicRoads team members Bronwyn and Warren.



The Merri-bek Oxygen Youth Centre saw the return of Head Trainer Linda to the classroom. Linda teamed up with Nikki on the first day to deliver the program to students Banjo, Bryce, Ivan, Jamil, Jonathan, Jonsu, Numan and Renae.


What name should I use?


The first order of business was filling out VicRoads forms and informing the students that they would need three forms of ID. A number of students had questions had questions as to what name to put on their learner permit application form.


“If and when you legally change names in line with any personal transitions you may be making, you can then apply to change your driver’s licence,” Linda instructed the group, “However, your first driver’s licence will need to show the name listed on your birth certificate.”


Poor memory is not a problem


The group worked through the forms then launched into learning. They all showed a decided aptitude for the information, despite some of them lacking a little confidence.

“I’m not very good at remembering things,” Banjo confided.


“That’s ok,” trainer Nikki reassured him, “because we will give you a backup plan. When you find you can’t remember things, we’ll show you how to use a commonsense approach to find the best answer on the test. We’ll also teach you to find the safest approach, in both your learner permit test and in driving in general.”


A new friendship forms


Friends Bryce and Banjo and couple Renae and Jonathan sat together and worked through many of their questions and practice tests together.


Trainer Nikki noticed that a new friendship formed as Jamil and Numan found they had a lot in common, including a shared sense of humour. By the second day, Jamil had shifted to sit by his new friend Numan. The two supported each other really well throughout the rest of the course, Numan helping Jamil understand many English words.


VicRoads Dari test in the Iranian dialect


Jamil and Jonsu were both Dari speakers. However as the learner permit test was not available in Dari, Nikki checked if the Arabic language test was either Persian or Iranian Arabic.


VicRoads helpfully explained that their Arabic test was based on Iranian dialect and Holly the manager of VicRoads Carlton suggested that the students could sit the test in English and have support if they came across anything they didn’t understand.


On the day of the test, the students, Linda, Nikki and Simon from Merri-bek were assisted by VicRoads team members Bronwyn and Warren. The two were contending with a new computer system and bravely managed data entry, guiding and assisting students in addition to dealing with the system’s teething problems.


“Thanks for your patience,” Bronwyn said, as she reset a test.


“Oh thank you for all your hard work and accommodating our group!” Linda and Nikki replied.


Computer glitches the only problem


The computer glitches were thankfully the only problem, Bronwyn and Warren made sure every other aspect of the group’s experience was smooth and well supported. They both beamed as they announced, “Congratulations, you passed!” to every student.


The group all passed well, Numan distinguishing himself by receiving 100% on his test.

“We don’t get many of those!” Warren commented.


And Numan’s new friend Jamil was right there with him, thrilled and high fiving him.


Numan (left) and Jamil at VicRoads


A fun, supportive process


Communications expert Dave Mollet was along to interview Simon and film the student’s experiences and noted what a fun, well supported process it was.


“We couldn’t do it without people like Simon and our VicRoads partners,” Linda commented.


“And not only is the program one where you learn to drive safely, Nikki agreed, “but you can also make new friends and share the experience with them in the process.”



Ivan at 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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