It would have taken a long time to get my driver’s licence if it hadn’t been for Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust’s He Tangata Driver Mentor programme.
Unfortunately for me, it meant getting into trouble for it to happen, but it definitely gave me the motivation I needed.
Growing up I lived with my parents on a gravel road near Invercargill and at 14-years-old, having learnt to drive young, I would sometimes drive a few hundred metres down to the corner to pick up my little sister from the bus stop.
One day, a neighbour called the police and told them I had been driving, so the police got in touch with me and I was forbidden from driving.
I had to wait until I was 16 to apply for my learner’s licence, but even when I turned 16 I slacked around a bit and did nothing about it. There wasn’t any particular reason for this, except tests made me anxious and after reading the road code, I felt it hadn’t sunk in. I am a visual person so I find it difficult to learn through reading.
At 18-years-old I still hadn’t bothered about my licence but one day I drove and I was caught again. However, instead of sending me to court I was referred to the Iwi Community Panel.
I was a bit anxious and scared because I didn’t really know what to expect at the Iwi Community Panel. But I quickly realised I had nothing to fear. I brought my Mum as a support person, and I felt comfortable sitting in front of the panel and telling them my story. It was nowhere near as terrifying as appearing in court, and I think it’s a helpful process because I owned up to my offending but I was also given the support to move beyond it.
I remember being sent out of the room for a little while and when I came back in they told me they were going to pay for my learner driver’s licence and refer me to a mentor for support. I couldn’t believe it! That made me feel better than anything, and instantly motivated me to get my licence and take the test.
It also meant not receiving a court conviction, which was massive for me because it could have affected my chances of travelling and I am planning to move to Australia next year.
Following the panel, I met with the He Tangata Driver Mentor Teina Wilmshurst twice a week for about four or five weeks.
She would sit down with me and explain everything clearly. I told her I couldn’t sit down and read the entire road code because it just got too confusing, so instead of this she would visually show me, which I found very helpful. An example of this was Teina teaching me the give-way rules using dinky cars!
I feel like I know the road code now like the back of my hand.
When I felt I was ready to go and sit my licence, I aced it! I got 35 out of 35 questions correct. What a great feeling!
Having my learner licence has made a huge difference in my life. Although I need to drive with someone in the vehicle who has had their full licence for two years, I still feel so much more freedom. Before, I felt trapped, especially because I live and work in a rural area.
I’m looking forward to practising my driving a bit more in town around traffic lights, and I plan to sit my restricted licence in three months, which is when I am eligible. I am also looking forward to purchasing my first vehicle once I have settled into my new home in Australia.
The Iwi Community Panel and He Tangata Driver Mentor programme are fantastic service’s and I am very grateful for everything they’ve done for me.