Ashley Abel and Cathy McClure

Power stance . . . Ashley Abel and her mentor Cathy McClure.


By Paul O'Rourke

Softly spoken and mighty determined, Ashley Abel, is looking through the windshield of life and not the rear vision mirror.

She’s proof that a tragic past does not prevent a triumphant future.

Ashley, 18, first left home at 14 to escape violence and drug and alcohol abuse. A friend’s family took her in when home life became too much. He is one of six children, including a twin sister.

It was the first time she had experienced normal family life, and she wanted more.

“I definitely saw things and experienced things at my home that no child should have to,” she said.

At 15, she found a permanent home-away-from-home through Youth, Family and Community Connections (YFCC), is studying at Don College where is completing a Certificate Three in childcare, and has a part time job at Molly Malones in Devonport.

Ashley is also close to getting her provisional driver’s licence through the Devonport Chaplaincy learner-driver mentoring program. She’s saving hard for her first car.

Her mentor, social worker at Don College, Cathy McClure, is a veteran of the program and boasts a 100 per cent success rate from eight young drivers.

The two have formed a close bond as they share life and the road.

Motivated to rewrite the future

“Ashley is motivated to achieve her goals and not get stuck blaming the past,” Cathy said.

“She listens, is thoughtful, and wants to learn and give back. It’s a privilege to be in her life.”

Ashley walks half an hour each way to get to work, sometimes late at night, on the days she can’t get a lift with a friend or coworker.

She’s grateful for the various adults who have changed the trajectory of her life through their care, including her friend’s mum who first took her in, Paul Morris, her case manager at YFCC, and her driver mentor.

“Cathy is kind, sweet and patient,” Ashley said.

“I couldn’t ask for a better teacher.

“We talk about all sorts of random things, but we also touch on important subjects, the world problems that we need to be more socially aware of.

“She takes time out of her own life to do this; I’m grateful.”

Having a licence is a must for work

Cathy, who taught her own two sons to drive, said she was invested in the learner-driver program because she had met many young people who did not have someone to teach them to drive.

“Not having a licence is a big obstacle to getting a job,” Cathy said.

“It’s one-and-a-half-hours a week and makes such a difference in the lives of young people like Ashley.

“If you don’t have a licence, or the patience to teach someone to drive, then volunteer in some other way.''

We need you

Our next student and learner-driver mentor training is on Saruday, August 6, at the chaplaincy office. Book your place or find out more on 6417 3175, or email contact@devonportchaplaincy.org.au