By Paul O'Rourke

There’s an obvious trust, ease and respect between driver mentor, Georgie Hutchinson, and her learner, Tash McLean-Lowe (pictured), as they reflect on the past three months together through Devonport Chaplaincy’s Easy Ps program.

The driver training program matches experienced drivers with learners who would not otherwise have the opportunity, means or confidence to learn to drive. Devonport Chaplaincy has an automatic and manual vehicle for lessons, and provides training and administrative support.

Georgie and the other mentors provide a safe space for their mentorees to share their hopes and fears, and ask questions, imparting wisdom and important life skills, as well as teaching their young proteges to drive.

Tash, 18, is completing her final year of high school online as a prelude to studying men’s hairdressing (barbering) at TAFE.

Mental health fears

“About a year ago, school counsellors and youth groups I was attending noticed a big change in my physical and mental health,” she said. Tash was suffering from anxiety and could no longer live at home.

“My mental issues also took a hit during COVID.”

One of the counsellors where Tash lives suggested the Easy P’s program as a means of gaining an important skill and rebuilding her confidence.

Georgie, who is a mother of three adult children and a retired schoolteacher, said she felt privileged that Tash felt comfortable enough to share her life.

“I’m a member of Zonta International which aims to empower women,” she said.

Shortage of women mentors

“There is a shortage of women mentors which puts girls like Tash at a disadvantage of being able to get a licence, and this also limits their employment opportunities.

The pair meet two to tree times a week for about an hour. Conversations range from road rules and reverse parking, to budgeting, relationships and staying healthy.

“Hopefully, with my life experience I can provide some of the empathy and support she needs.”

Tash said: “I’ve found a great friend who has gone through life and can help me to do some things I don’t know how to do.”

“Tash is doing a fabulous job! I’ve noticed that her self-esteem has increased heaps! I also like the way that she is so responsive to advice, responds readily to messages, and is chatty and respectful,” Georgie said.

“It was something of an awakening for me to grow up and become an adult,” Tash said.

The sullen, scared teen has been replaced with a bubbly, hopeful and confident young woman who is excited about the future.

The program receives some funding from the State Government.

To become a driver mentor, contact Devonport Chaplaincy