Driving towards a future of possibilities

17 May 2022

Breaking down barriers faced by newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers on their pathway towards education and employment is the goal of a new initiative being rolled out with City of Newcastle's support. 

CatholicCare Hunter-Manning's Refugee Hub Driving Program will provide support to 20 refugees through funded driving lessons, a NSW Driving Test and NSW Driver's Licence. 

Image: Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning Gary Christensen, Councillor Peta Winney-Baartz, CatholicCare Refugee Hub Driving Program participants Madina and Edeni, NRMA driving instructor Jackie Chestney and Team Leader – Refugee Hub CathlicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning Mirja Colding-Moran

Ward 3 Councillor Peta Winney-Baartz said the worthy initiative is a recipient of City of Newcastle funding under the expanded Community and Economic Resilience Package, which aims to support vulnerable communities through the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. 

"Newcastle is enriched by our multicultural residents and City of Newcastle wants to ensure that all members of our community can access the services they require to seek and maintain employment, explore study options and connect with their local community, regardless of their background and language spoken at home," Cr Winney-Baartz said. 

"That's why we're pleased to provide support to CatholicCare’s Refugee Hub Driving Program, which will ensure that refugees can get the driving experience they require to obtain a licence." 

Gary Christensen, Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning said equipping refugees with driving skills and ultimately a driver's licence will open future employment opportunities and provide access to study and other community services. 

"We know that transport is essential to access work, study and community services, but often many refugees, asylum seekers and recent arrivals find it difficult to get a driver's licence and car when in Australia for a number of reasons," Mr Christensen said. 

"We're extremely grateful to have backing from City of Newcastle, as the grant funding will enable the delivery of a driving program that aims to combat the barriers faced by refugees including language, comprehension, cost and access to affordable training, by providing no-cost certified driving lessons with a qualified trainer, driver knowledge and hazard perception tests, driving test and ultimately a P1 driver's licence." 

Driving program participant Madina, who moved to Newcastle in 2017 from Afghanistan said she is happy to be taking part in a program that will help create a pathway towards a fulfilling future. 

"I appreciate the chance to participate in this program and ultimately gain my driver's licence so I can access study and future work in the army or police force," said Madina. 

Awabakal Limited has also benefitted from funding under City of Newcastle Community and Economic Resilience Package. The grant was used for an emergency relief program to support vulnerable members of the Newcastle First Nations community through the provision of essential items including fresh food, toiletries and sanitary items. 

To find out more about how we're responding to COVID-19 visit www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/covid-19