Getting a driver’s licence can be a long journey for young people in 2019.

In Victoria, young people are required to complete a minimum of 120 hours of supervised driving before applying for their provisional licence. This can be a serious barrier for young people gaining the freedom to drive, particularly if they’re from families who don’t have the capacity or willingness to teach them.

That’s where the L Plates to P Plates (L2P) learner driver mentor program comes in. L2P is a community-based learner driver program funded by TAC and VIC Roads, delivered by Mission Australia in Victoria’s East Gippsland and Wellington Shire regions.

Cheryl Siely, L2P Coordinator says the backbone of the program are volunteers giving their time, and in 10 years there have been over 150 volunteer mentors sharing their driving expertise with young people in need. Some of these are professional driving instructors who donate their time after a day’s work.

Terry and Les are two volunteer instructors, based 200km east of Melbourne, in a small town called Yarram. A local car dealership, Turnbull Toyota, kindly sponsor a range of vehicles for their lessons. We asked Terry and Les a bit about why they choose to use their time in this way.

How long have you been volunteering for?

Terry: A couple of years, since 2017.

Les: Since 2012.

What made you choose to volunteer for L2P?

Terry: It helps young people! I think teaching kids how to drive is important, road rules can be tricky. And there are a lot of accidents around the area so it’s very important.

I’ve been driving for over 50 years, since I was 20 so I can pass on a lot of things I’ve learnt.

Les: I moved to the country and had a bit of time on my hands. I was in a men’s group and a lovely woman named Cheryl from Mission Australia approached asking for volunteers. I did like the idea of Meals on Wheels but this sounded good too.

What’s your background?

Terry: I spent 55 years as a truck driver then worked in the mines for eight years.

Les: I worked as a bricklayer.

What was your driving test like?

Terry: When I got my licence, it covered everything – trucks, cars, vans and motorcycles. I was only 15!

Les: I was out in the country so there was a lot less pressure. I was on my L’s for two years and they just sent me out to drive around a round-a-bout during my test!

What do you view as success at the end of the day?

Terry: I like to see them when they have their licence and they come back and show me. It’s a great feeling and makes me proud.

Les: You have to drum it into them, but if you see them start getting results and they start to follow instructions, then it’s rewarding. It’s a very slow process.

What would you say to people thinking about volunteering their time?

Terry: Do it - you get a lot of pleasure out of it. It’s good because you get to know them, and they learn to trust you.

Les: Have a go! If it doesn’t suit you, you can always change, but you might find you enjoy it!

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