“I was one of those statistics stuck in the system – drink driving, no licence. My boss encouraged me to sit my licence so he could give me a company vehicle. That was the drive that got me serious about getting on top of that course.”
As he’d lost his licence under the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ law, Robert had to re-sit his learner licence before being able to sit his full licence exam.
He says he would’ve struggled with the 35-question learner licence test on his own, so when he discovered Te Arawa Whānau Ora provided the course in a wānanga-type environment, he was keen to register.
“There was a real possibility I’d be getting my full licence before Christmas. However, a person my age should’ve been on-to-it ages ago. I want to inspire young people who have no licence to go for it. Because if a guy my age can do it, hopefully it’ll encourage them to do it. It’ll open more doors for them and help them get jobs which require a full licence.”
Robert appreciated the learning environment that tutor, Lillian Emery, created for the class.
“Lillian’s very knowledgeable, very authoritative, and spoke in plain terms which makes you feel comfortable. I think the biggest fear for most Māori is failure or looking silly in front of people. The way she put it was, ‘it’s better to fail now than when you sit your test’.
“She gave a lot of insight into what happens when you don’t have a licence – you’re going to lose your car, you’re going to go to court, you’re going to end up back in the system, you’re going to hop back into another car, and then you’re going to see the same policemen again. It’s a repetitive cycle. Here’s an opportunity where you can break that and think of the positives that can happen when you can drive your nana, koro, and family.”
Robert says he encourages all Māori youth, especially those in the police system, to take advantage of the course if they’re eligible.
“I was one of those guys. My brother and son were those guys too – drift corping around in their cars. Police would pull them up every time, and soon they start knowing your name. You become a familiar person.
“These wānanga-type driver licence courses should be made statutory at kura kaupapa schools because a lot of our Māori kids are hands-on. Getting their licence can lead into working in building and construction, and tourism industries. They can’t get enough truck and roller drivers, HT drivers, bus drivers – and even taxi drivers. It gives you the opportunity to empower yourself and have good wages. I really hope all kura kaupapa take this onboard. Some of those kids aren’t going to be rugby players or academics but they might be pretty good drivers. “I really rate what Moki, Corrine and Lillian are doing over there [at Maketu Health & Social Services]. I encourage them to keep it going. Keep it going.”