L2P a driving force for learners

L2P participant Ebony Lily and mentor Len Lyndon. Photo: Tom Parry

Most people will have memories of their mum or dad assisting them as a supervising driver while on their L-plates.

The stalled engines, kangaroo-hops, near-misses and crunching of gears create lasting memories for all involved, even bringing people closer together.

But not everybody’s parents can assist their children in learning to drive, which is where the L2P Program comes in.

Funded by the Transport Accident Commission, the free program provides learner drivers with a mentor and vehicle to help them achieve the 120 hours of supervised driving required to obtain their probationary licence.

One of the drivers who has benefited from the program is 21-year-old Ebony Lily, who lives in the Wellington Shire.

Ms Lily became involved because she didn’t have anybody in the area to assist as a supervising driver.

“I had one hour on my L-book from five years ago, and given that the driving school prices are a little bit up there, I can’t afford to get all my hours up purely just through the driving school,” Ms Lily said.

“So this free program, it sounded like a really great opportunity to help me get my confidence and my hours up.”

Upon joining the program, Ms Lily was paired with her mentor Pam, who has been an “all-round supportive figure” for the aspiring P-plater.

“(Pam has) been absolutely fantastic, I really have always appreciated her time,” Ms Lily said.

“When I first started out, I wasn’t willing to go more than 20, 30kms an hour.

“And now, I’m feeling really confident and ready to go!”

There are currently 65 volunteer mentors participating in the program across the Gippsland region, covering Yarram to Orbost.

Alongside Pam, one of those mentors is Len Lyndon, who lives and works full-time in Sale.

Mr Lyndon has been part of the L2P Program for close to a decade, acting as a supervising driver for many L-platers.

His past mentees have included drivers with learning difficulties, and a girl who was the eldest in a family of eight.

“The youngest (child), when I met her, was still in a car seat, so Mum wasn’t willing to drive around with all the kids while (the driver) was learning,” Mr Lyndon said.

Since participating, that same driver has obtained their licence, and in the words of My Lyndon, “has been going from strength to strength ever since.”

That story, and Ms Lily’s, are just two of the many successes in the program’s history.

For the past 12 years, Mission Australia has been facilitating the program in both the Wellington and East Gippsland Shire areas.

Program co-ordinator Cheryl Siely said that her organisation is proud of what the L2P program has done for young drivers.

“L2P is an invaluable pathway for young people struggling to get their driving hours due to a number of reasons,” Ms Siely said.

“As co-ordinator, I am really proud of the young learners who have participated in the program over the years and have gained their licences, particularly the young women who come from young backgrounds who I am still in contact with many years later.”

Although most participants have joined due to financial or family circumstances, the L2P program is open to anybody needing extra hours in their logbook.

“I can see huge benefits for any learner driver,” Mr Lyndon said.

“You get to deal with people that you don’t know, and in doing so… you get different perspectives on life and different people involved in your life, and it’s a great thing.”

Ms Lily is also full of praise, describing the mentors as “a fantastic team.”

“I have loved all of my time spent with Pam and Cheryl, they’re both lovely people,” Ms Lily said.

“It’s just a really great crowd, and I think when you’re in a learning environment, you want to be with a supportive crowd, just so you don’t feel more anxiety than you already do.”

Mission Australia is currently seeking more local volunteers to help mentor young learner drivers in the Gippsland region.

As a current mentor himself, Mr Lyndon is strongly encouraging other drivers to become involved.

He believes that the key to being a good mentor is to be patient, and not be too hard on the young drivers.

“It’s an hour or two a week – it’s not a huge outlay – and the benefit that it gives someone else is fantastic,” Mr Lyndon said.

The next round of training is scheduled to be held in June.

Anybody wanting to learn more about the program or to register their interest can contact Ms Siely via phone on 0419 605 533, or e-mail sielyc@missionaustralia.com.au