Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


On the Right Track Program

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (15:07): My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister please update the chamber about the recent expansion of the On The Right Track program?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:07): I thank the honourable member for his very good question. This hasn't been asked twice in question time today already, or four times in the last two weeks. Fancy that, sir: a unique and new question. That's how you do it; that's how you ask questions.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I will be brief because I note that there are crossbenchers here who ask relevant, searching and probing questions to elicit answers, and many times they are not the same question asked by one of their colleagues only about six questions ago, which is obviously a very good way to do this.

The On The Right Track program is a service that assists Aboriginal people on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara and the Maralinga Tjarutka lands to get their driver's licences. The program assists with driving lessons and driving practice, as well as with the tests to obtain learner's permits and provisional licences. I am very pleased to be able to inform the chamber that, through an expansion of the program, drivers on the APY and MT lands are now able to apply not just for the learner's and provisional licences of the regular class but also heavy vehicle training. Eleven people from six communities are already receiving lessons with the prospect of securing jobs in the mining and transport sectors.

The aim of this new program is to improve road safety and driver licensing outcomes for Aboriginal people living in very remote communities where it can be difficult to gain a licence. Accessing a driver's licence is not just a matter of simple convenience, but it is a tool for professional and personal development.

Through a unique collaboration with Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC), the program, which has been helping Anangu who live in the APY lands obtain their licences since 2015, will now offer heavy vehicle licence training. With the expansion to heavy vehicle licensing, the On The Right Track program is helping to foster these sorts of professional development opportunities. This expansion further strengthens existing efforts to increase road safety, employment opportunities and local business growth across the APY lands.

Unfortunately—as I know you know, sir, from having visited these remote areas, and many members of this chamber have—for many members in these remote communities the lack of access to a vehicle; the cost of running them; the difficulty in obtaining a licence; the unavailability, in many circumstances, of driver training; and long distances can prevail against the best efforts to obtain a licence.

Prior to the original commencement of the On The Right Track program, it was estimated that only 17 per cent of age-eligible Aboriginal people living on the APY lands held a driver's licence or permit, compared with a figure of 89 per cent for the general South Australian population. Since On The Right Track began, the service has assisted more than 2,500 customers and issued more than 900 learner permits and almost 300 provisional licenses. The On The Right Track program ensures that high-quality training and information is available even in the most remote of locations and is designed to benefit individuals, their families and their wider communities, as well as service providers in these remote communities.

Under the expansion, heavy vehicle driving lessons are now available in various communities, including Pipalyatjara, Kanpi, Amata, Umuwa, Pukatja, Kaltjiti, Mimili and Iwantja. Testing is available at the Amata and Pukatja communities. What is particularly impressive about this initiative is the commitment to breaking down the barriers to obtaining a driver's licence in a culturally appropriate manner. The addition of heavy vehicle training that started in March has already assisted 11 people across six communities to start lessons.

The On The Right Track coordinator for the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, Jade Wilson, said that driver's licences for remote community residents offer more than just mobility. She said:

A drivers license can be like a shield, a shield that prevents people from getting picked up by the police and gaining additional fines, we know that drivers licenses are [not just] a national passport but for some Aboriginal people living in those areas they're a shield [against those things].

As part of the South Australian Road Safety Action Plan 2023-2025, the state government has committed to expanding the On The Right Track program to achieve further outcomes for Aboriginal people. I am pleased to be able to report to the council on the expansion to the heavy vehicles program and look forward to further opportunities to update the council on the way government is empowering Aboriginal people through programs like On The Right Track.