Terry with Scott and Monique

Terry McGrath with former student Scott Crowden and his wife, Monique.

By Paul O'Rourke

Terry McGrath admits “it’s a great feeling” when one of his learner drivers gets their licence, especially when the road has been long.

The retired public servant, statistician and keen tenpin bowler, who has a long history of volunteering, has helped seven students get their licence over the past six years with Devonport Chaplaincy's Easy Ps program.

He’s learned that not everyone learns in the same way, and that patience is a virtue.

“Some, you know, are going to be long term investments,” he said.

“I’ve had two students who couldn’t tell their left from their right which is a challenge, especially when giving instructions. Another initially struggled to go faster than 20kph”.

“One of the skills you have to develop as a mentor is to be able to let go of control. After all, the steering wheel and all of the vehicle controls are in front of the student ”

Rapport and trust keys to success

He’s also learned that it’s impossible to teach someone to drive without first establishing a trusting relationship.

“I always try to find a common ground on which to establish the relationship, given we are going to be spending so much time together in the car.

“You have to build a rapport with the person. Of course, you end up talking about life and gently advising as you share experiences with each other, and as they ask questions.

“Being a driver mentor is a wonderful way of meeting new people and getting out of the house.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to know you contributed to someone getting a licence which is a major life skill that opens up so many opportunities and possibilities for them.”

One of his proudest moments was seeing a student who had failed five times finally pass the test.

He’s helped single mums, students, people with learning disabilities, long term unemployed and others with anxiety issues.

The driving relationship can last from a couple of months to almost two years, depending on the needs and learning skills of the student.

Terry, 64, who is married and has three adult children and five grandchildren, has volunteered with many organisations including Meals on Wheels, Tasmanian Libraries, various sporting organisations and St John Ambulance.

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Scott’s brave new world

One of Terry’s former students is Scott Crowden, 37, who before getting his licence was reliant on family and public transport to get to work, sport and to assist his wife Monique, who is vision impaired and often needs to attend medical appointments.

“I was very nervous to start with,” he said.

“He was funny and kept me relaxed.

“Now I love driving. It has definitely changed our lives.'

There is an ease and deep respect ad trust as Scott and Terry interact.

Scott, who bought a car at the end of 2019 and has had his licence for 18 months, said driving had provided greater flexibility for work, sport, entertainment and travel.

He said the free learner driver program also meant he saved money by no longer having to pay for driving lessons.