Drivers to benefit

UP to an additional 27 disadvantaged young drivers each year in the Latrobe Valley may reap the benefits of an ongoing learner driver-mentor program.

Earlier this week, it was announced the L2P Learner Driver Mentor Program would receive an additional $10.5 million in funding from the State Government to extend the program for another three years in 55 locations.

“We have successfully put 10 young people on their (probationary licence) now; since we began the program in 2009 we have recruited 30 mentors,” L2P Berry Street project worker Jenn Murray said of the program’s success in the Valley.

“At present, we have about 20 young drivers on the road.

“There are many young people in our community who face difficulties in accessing the support and resources they need to achieve the 120 hours of driving experience required for obtaining their Ps.”

In making an announcement for the funding extension on Monday, State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said with three young sons, he recognised the significance of the program in maintaining road safety.

“Some young learners in the community simply do not have access to a vehicle or supervising driver to achieve the 120 hours’ practice required; this program addresses that issue,” Mr Northe said.

A mentor-mentee pair, Julie Murray and 18 year-old Awoui Apech, also spoke during the event at Berry Street Morwell earlier this week.

A Morwell resident, Ms Apech, who is studying for a diploma in tourism and hospitality, is the only member of her family who can drive.

“I will get my Ps by next year,” Ms Apech said.

“My confidence (behind the wheel) is definitely growing.”

The learner driver, who has had Ms Murray as her mentor for the past 10 months, said the experience had been “awesome and amazing”.

“I can’t wait to support myself; I’m sure there are other people like me (who want to learn how to drive).”

She said she has plans to save up to buy her own car.

The L2P program, which aims to assist disadvantaged young people in getting the support and mentorship they need to get their licence, matches mentors with young students.

More than just a driving program, L2P also forges connections between the mentors and their pupils.

Volunteers, who need to fulfill a list of criteria including having completed the VicRoads Volunteer Supervising Driver Training, need to commit at least two hours a week for 12 months.

Those interested in volunteering as mentors should phone Jenn Murray at Berry Street Morwell on 5134 5971.