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Sutherland Shire youth given the keys to drive for life


Drive for Life’s Laurie Camilleri and Moira Guthrie at Shire Salvos Miranda.
By LAUREN MARTIN

Moira

When Moira Guthrie goes to work at Shire Salvos Miranda in southern Sydney, she’s never really sure what each day will hold. Whilst her job as a trainer for The Salvation Army’s Drive For Life program involves her assisting young people in obtaining their L-plate licence, she often finds herself advocating for the people she journeys with in various ways.

“I really love this job,” she says. “I see some amazing changes in young people’s lives.”

The Salvation Army’s Drive For Life program primarily supports young people between 16 and 25. It is designed to meet the needs of students and young adults who find obtaining their driver’s licence challenging due to various life barriers.


The program has only been operational in the Sutherland Shire for about a year. Moira liaises with local youth support agencies and works with the young person to achieve their L-Plate licence. The students have the opportunity to learn to drive with Moira’s colleague, Laurie Camilleri.

Moira says it can sometimes take months for a young person to overcome the various hurdles in their life and pass their L’s test. But when they do, it’s a life-changer.

“It opens up so many opportunities to employment; it opens up their independence, setting goals, achieving them, seeing something through,” she says. “Having someone [like herself] that mentors them and makes them accountable and cares ... it is a huge thing for their self-esteem.”

Many times during her sessions, Moira and her client identify other needs. It might be as simple as Moira inviting the young person she’s working with to head into The Salvation Army’s food relief and welfare centre, located just next door, where they can access free fresh food and grocery items. Other times, she has been able to use her contacts within the youth services space in the Sutherland Shire and link young people to different support groups or for case work.

“There are so many opportunities and free services available,” Moira says. “It’s just knowing where to find them and how to tap into them.”

Laurie

After Drive for Life clients pass their L-test, they meet Laurie Camilleri, The Salvation Army’s Drive for Life driving instructor. An experienced driver-trainer, Laurie’s been behind the wheel instructing people how to drive for over 30 years. His calm voice and unruffled demeanour are undoubtedly assets when sitting beside a learner in Sutherland Shire traffic!

“I do this because I have a passion for driver training, and I want to make a difference to how vulnerable our young kids are when they are out on the road,” he says.


Drive for Life’s Laurie Camilleri assists young people who find it difficult to gain a licence.

With two-hour lessons, Laurie usually develops a strong bond with his pupils, many of whom have experienced hardship in their lives, which has led to them being unable to gain their licence: “There’s a lot of people on the program that don’t have that support for whatever reason, they don’t see their parents, they have no family, or they live in hostels or … houses provided by project managers.”

With the help of volunteer supervising drivers, the Drive for Life program can bridge this gap and help young people get to that all-important final stage of the driving journey, the practical driving test, and finally, achieving their provisional driving licence.

“So, you got these kids that didn’t have much hope or didn’t have any vision, and you start bringing them along and telling them that one day they are going to get their day of independence – their licence.” He says it’s the best feeling to be part of that journey.

“That’s really rewarding that you’ve been part of that, of giving them their day of independence. Because you know how important their driver’s licence is, it helps them get a job; it allows them not to be on public transport, and it helps them meet people.

“You’re not really just giving them their licence; you’re setting them up for life, really.”



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