Regional Roads Victoria in partnership with Shepparton L2P learner driver program is looking for volunteers to help young drivers get their licence.
The program matches volunteer mentors with young learner drivers who don’t have access to a supervising driver or vehicle to make up their necessary 120 hours.
Hume Regions child service centre Berry Street has co-ordinated the program in the area for the past 10 years, which has helped more than 300 young drivers obtain their licence.
L2P local co-ordinator Bill Winters said they were desperately seeking volunteers as there was a wait list of people wanting to learn to drive.
“Our program is getting much larger because the demand is there,” Mr Winters said.
“We have about 40 young people at this point, waiting to start.
“We have recognised this problem for quite some time and we think we need to address it and we are increasing our target in Shepparton from 35 drivers to 55,” he said.
The program has centres across the region and targets disadvantaged people aged from 16 to 24.
Mentors had previously helped newly arrived refugees and indigenous youth obtain their licence.
Local volunteer driving mentor Annie Squires works part-time and had been donating her spare time to the program for almost a year.
“I really enjoy giving back to the community,” Ms Squires said.
“For us, it become not just about the driving but it’s also about getting to know the person.
“You do develop a friendship with them over time, as you can be driving with them every week for an hour or so,” she said.
The program not only helps people obtain their licence but also helps to fill gaps within the community including unemployment and education.
Berry Street Education Support Services team leader Linda Culpan, also a local volunteer driving mentor, said people who volunteered their time were significantly improving disadvantaged youths' lives.
“If you look at Shepparton there are high youth unemployment and one of the lowest rates of going onto tertiary studies,” Mrs Culpan said.
“There are a lot of barriers for these young people, so if transport is one of their barriers then they have no hope of furthering their education or employment.
“It really does open up doors for these young people,” she said
Training and a vehicle are provided to the mentors and no formal qualifications are required.
The next training session for new mentors will be held on Saturday, August 24, at Berry Street office in Shepparton.
For more information or to register for the training, phone Bill Winters on 0437 762 520 or email Bwinters@berrystreet.org.au.