A valid driver’s licence opens a lot more than car doors which is why Upper Hutt’s Orongomai Marae runs an app-based course prepping rangatahi to pass that all important test.
The course was set up two years ago by the previous Social Services team manager, James Kirk. Since then, more than a hundred young tane and wahine from challenging backgrounds have come together to support each other as they study the driving test questionnaire, developed as an online app by Driving Test NZ. The result is an impressive 88% pass rate.
“There are multiple positive outcomes,” says course manager and Orongomai Marae’s Youth Tutor, Scottie O’Neil.
Benefits beyond licence
“They’re driving legally which makes it easier for them to get a job because most employers want someone who can drive.
“They have photo ID which means they can open a bank account and make transactions online if they want to. And they have a well-deserved sense of achievement.”
A handful of candidates, says Scottie, were known for stealing cars.
“Losing their licence was no deterrent because they didn’t have one. That all changed when they passed their licence test. They’d worked hard to get that piece of paper and they didn’t want to lose it. Their attitude changed a lot as a result. Now, that’s a win for them personally and for society.”
Scottie and his team go out of their way to remove barriers to their student’s success. Transport can be a problem, so they’ll pick candidates up and drop them off at the end of each day if necessary. Money is another issue.
“Sitting a licence isn’t cheap and most of these young ones haven’t got that sort of money,” says Scottie.
“However, if they can show that they’ve got a good chance of passing by getting over 90% of the online questionnaire consistently correct, we’ll pay for the licence. If they require a birth certificate, we’ll pay for that too.”
Sense of achievement
Some candidates grapple with anxiety and a lack of confidence in their academic ability. Social workers Jo Morgan and Maureen Fox help by sitting alongside rangatahi, offering one on one support.
“This course makes a massive difference to so many,” says Jo.
“Everyone walks out with more confidence and a sense of achievement. Even those who don’t pass the test find that working together as a group and finishing the course is an achievement.”
She says that there’s a special culture at Orongomai.
“Orongomai offers a sense of comfort. There are lots of people doing different things here. It’s busy and vibrant but everyone is so friendly. That sense of whanaungatanga makes our students feel really supported.”
Orongomai Marae provides its Driving Licence course with the support of E Tū Whānau.