The prohibitive cost of getting a driver’s licence for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people may be putting lives at risk, a new report has warned.
Researchers at the University of Wollongong and The George Institute for Global Health in New South Wales found that Aboriginal people were 25 percent less likely to have a driver’s licence than other Australians.
“Low licensing rates have a substantial impact on some Aboriginal communities, contributing to reduced access to employment, education, health services, and social and cultural opportunities,” it said.
“There is also concern that reduced options for transport contribute to Aboriginal people making unsafe transport choices, including overcrowding of vehicles and driving unlicensed.
“Unsafe transport behaviours have been implicated in higher mortality rates, with Aboriginal people almost three times as likely to die from transport-related injury.
“Further, Aboriginal people are 30 percent more likely to sustain serious transport-related injury than non-Aboriginal Australians.”
The new report also said Aboriginal people were over-represented in jail for transport offences.
One of the report authors, Professor Kathleen Clapham, said obstacles to Aboriginal people getting their licence included a lack of drivers to supervise them, the cost of lessons, living in a remote area and poor literacy.
The report called for new moves to address the problem, including government funding for community-based driving programs.
Initiatives such as the ‘Driving Change Program’ provided support for young drivers, including mentoring, supervised driving practice and help with documents, booking tests, and filling out forms, the report said.
Report co-author Professor Rebecca Ivers said: “Programs like Driving Change have resulted in thousands of lives being transformed as a result of being able to hold down a job and access proper healthcare, but all too often their funding is cut or discontinued altogether, leaving entire communities without any support and they are back to square one.”
Other suggestions to overcome the barriers included driver training in high schools.
Aboriginal participants from Redfern and Griffith in New South Wales and Port Lincoln and Ceduna in South Australia had input into the report.