Afghan Women’s Driving Program – a program which provides driving lessons and supervision to Afghan women in Melbourne’s southeast.
The Afghan Women’s Driving Program provides driving lessons and supervision to Afghan women in Melbourne’s southeast, in order to assist women developing skills and confidence needed to gain a driving licence. The program is run by the Association of Hazaras in Victoria (AHV), a refugee community organisation based in Dandenong,
The Afghan Women’s Driving Program is predominantly for women over 18 from Afghan backgrounds. However, the program as also supported men and women on Bridging Visas who are still seeking asylum, as they receive very little government support.
- Women in in many parts of Afghanistan often don’t learn how to drive a car, due to both social and economic reasons. However, for those making a new life for themselves in Australia, driving a car is often a necessity, especially for those who live in the outer suburbs.
- Those without a car often have to rely on public transport which takes up to ten times longer than driving. Obtaining a driving license in Victoria is also difficult, especially for newly arrived refugees. People under 21 have to complete 120 hours of supervised driving with a fully licensed driver, a difficult requirement for those who do not have family members with diving licences to support them. The costs of commercial driving lessons are also out of reach for many people. Unfortunately there is very little support for people to gain their licence, further impeding settlement, education and employment.
- Obtaining a driving licence is not simply just a form of identification, but supports women develop independence, confidence and knowledge about Australia. By receiving a licence, women are able to travel further around Melbourne and are able to access employment, education and social services. A driving licence also provides support for women with caring responsibilities, as they can take their children to school, visit shops and support their community. The Afghan Women’s Driving Program fills a unique need in the Afghan community, and highlights the strength and resourcefulness of Refugee Community Organisations.
- The Afghan Women’s Driving Program first provides women with 5 professional driving lessons by a licensed driving instructor. These sessions are subsides by the program, and cost the participants only $10 a session. After participants complete the driving lessons with the instructor, they receive ongoing supervised driving lessons from volunteers. Volunteers and participants use the AHV’s own car, which keeps costs down. Participants pay $5 for the volunteer supervised sessions, which covers the costs of petrol.
- The program has also provided sessions in the past for those sitting the learner driver test, in order to receive their learner licence – a requirement before they can get behind a wheel. AHV has also translated the VicRoads Learner Guidebook into Dari so people can study the road rules in their own language.
- The program is partly self-funded by the community, and has also received grants from TAC, AMES, Rotary Club of Cranbourne, Victorian Multicultural Commission and RACV.
- Last year, the program ran three rounds and assisted 90 women in supervised driving lessons
- Through obtaining a licence, women gain independence and are able to support their family, look for work and attend education.
- Unfortunately there was an accident late last year, resulting in the car being damaged. AHV are looking for support to purchase another car for the program, and welcome any donations to meet this cost.
- Finding volunteers to meet the high demand of the program is a challenge. AHV are looking for volunteers over 25 with a full driving licence and good driving history to provide lessons.
Advice for others
Those looking to set up a similar program need to be strategic in how to obtain funding to cover the costs, as well as ensure there is a large group of volunteer available to meet the demand of the program.
Ph: 0438 895 728 (Hamed Saberi)