Spotlight on Aboriginal road safety at The George Institute

The results of two innovative Aboriginal road safety initiatives have been announced at The George Institute for Global Health.


The Driving Change program steers people through the licensing system. Photo: The George Institute

More than 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have gained their driving licences after taking part in the Driving Change program, and more than 550 child car restraints have been distributed in the Buckle-Up Safely program, The George Institute for Global Health has announced.

Both programs were developed and evaluated by The George Institute in partnership with multiple Aboriginal organisations.

Attending the announcement of the results, Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt said the Federal Government was committed to reducing the high rates of road injury in Aboriginal communities.

“These initiatives are outstanding examples of what can be done with the right approach. As The George Institute notes: ‘Increasing licensed driving and improving road safety in Aboriginal communities has the potential to create huge change – generational change – not just in health but also in human services, justice and other areas of life.’

“We are certainly on the road to better Indigenous health and I thank the many communities across New South Wales, and The George Institute, for taking the wheel and leading the way on this important part of the journey.”


Guests at the Driving Change event (L-R) Dr Kate Hunter; Associate Professor Lisa Keay; Julieann Coombes; The Hon Scott Farlow; Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt; Professor Rebecca Ivers; Courtney Ryder; Bobby Porykali. Photo: The George Institute.

Scott Farlow, Member of the Legislative Council and Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier (Leader of the House) in the NSW Legislative Council, also attended the event. The NSW Government funded both Driving Change and Buckle-Up Safely.

“Having a licence is a lot more than about driving. It is about participating in society. That is why Driving Change is such a great program," he said.

Driving Change was set up to overcome the significant barriers Aboriginal people face in obtaining a licence. It delivered 3300 hours of driving practice in 11 communities and led to 100 volunteer supervising drivers signing up.

Driving Change participant Florence Dixon, 29, also spoke at the event. Ms Dixon got her P plates this year after attending the Driving Change program run by Weave Youth and Community Services in Waterloo.

“The Driving Change program is a great program and to be honest I wouldn’t have a licence if it wasn’t for Weave and the Driving Change program and the caring supportive volunteers," she said.

“I am proud to say it has helped me overcome my doubts and fears – my life has gone from zero to 10 just by doing the Driving Change program.”

Improving road safety in Aboriginal communities has the potential to create generational change across multiple sectors including health, human services and justice.

The achievements of the Buckle-Up Safely program, which aimed to increase the number of children who are buckled up correctly, were also highlighted.

The program distributed almost 550 child car restraints in 12 Aboriginal communities in NSW, with at least 1053 families receiving the life-saving program.

A further 90 local childhood educators also received a child safety professional development program.  Dr Kate Hunter, Senior Research Fellow in the Injury Division at The George Institute, said:  “One of the reasons both Buckle-Up and Driving Change have been so successful is that they are delivered by community workers and work in partnership with Aboriginal organisations and leaders.”

Professor Rebecca Ivers, head of the Injury Division at The George Institute, said it was essential that the government at both the federal and state level support and expand these programs. “Programs like this address community priorities and change lives. It is critical that we see long term investment and coordinated, multisector support.”

Professor Kathleen Clapham, Professor of Indigenous Health at University of Wollongong and study investigator, said: “Improving road safety in Aboriginal communities has the potential to create generational change across multiple sectors including health, human services and justice.”