Driving equality for migrant and refugee women

For many Victorian women with a culturally and linguistically diverse background, getting a driver’s licence can be a significant challenge.
2 April 2024
Woman in red headscarf driving car

The barriers include learning the technical English required to sit a driving test, a lack of support for mature-aged learners and the financial means to pay for a driving lesson.

[T]hey have Learner Permits. Many have now the courage to go to school, talk to the teachers of their children, you know.
- Participant from an RMIT University study on the importance of a driver’s licence for the empowerment of women in multicultural communities. 

Carringbush Adult Education is seeking to address this gap with their initiative Women Behind the Wheel, supported through the Investing in women grassroots grant program. This program is helping migrant and refugee women learn how to drive with in-language classes and five free driving lessons with culturally appropriate instructors.

The popular course runs at the Collingwood Neighbourhood Justice Centre where participants can access a childcare service while they learn. Over six weeks, instructors help the newly arrived women understand Victorian roads and police, the language you need to be a safe driver, and even how to navigate loans and insurance for first-time car buyers. 

Women Behind the Wheel has already opened the door to independence for Hana Omar, a refugee from Ethiopia and participant in the program. The ability to drive will help her balance work at the Royal Children’s Hospital and parenting her 14-year-old son. 

Natassia Ludowyke, the Community Development Manager at Carringbush Adult Education, says the program is vital as it enables more women to ’get a job, have a car, and be an active participant in our economy’. This in turn helps local communities thrive and will support many families around the state. 

The Minister for Women Natalie Hutchins recently visited the Centre and praised the program for adapting driving lessons through ’a cultural lens, and in-language where it’s needed. The impact of these women being able to get their licence is huge for their local communities and their families, because it gives them that independence and connection that they need to thrive.’

For the full list of organisations funded, visit Investing in women grassroots grant program