In Casino, northern NSW, Nicole Caldwell will soon be the town’s first Aboriginal bus driver. At 33 she is training with the Casino Bus Company and hopes to be employed driving school runs. Her training is part of the ‘Getting About’ project funded by Transport NSW, auspiced by Lismore City Council and delivered by ACE Community Colleges.
The 12 month project brief was to train volunteer bus drivers who could safely drive people to family or sporting gatherings. Nicole is going one step further, completing the public passenger course.
Nicole’s Dad was a truck driver with Telecom and several family members on her mother’s side were truck drivers too. All Wheels Driver Education Instructor Steve Nixon says:
“She does seem to have a natural aptitude…In my experience girls initially tend to have this barrier that the men don’t have – it takes them a while to build their confidence – but once they are past that they actually make better drivers than men. They are great with instruction. Women take notice, copy it and get it right.”
Jan Levy, Aboriginal Program Co-ordinator at ACE Community Colleges, says the project will enable 10 Aboriginal people to get their bus licence from communities in Lismore, Ballina, Box Ridge, Muli Muli, Casino, Kyogle and Cabbage Tree Island.
Seeing Nicole’s motivation and her aptitude has opened Jan’s eyes to real opportunities for jobs.
“We talk a lot about ‘Closing the Gap’ but providing skills to increase employment opportunities is actually doing it. This is a fantastic initiative and really exciting.”
‘Incredible changes’ in people doing the training have been noted – leading to a ripple effect in the local Aboriginal community? Nicole will certainly be a great role model for the schoolkids on her bus routes. She says:
“I’ve seen some Aboriginal people – they had to look twice when they saw me driving the bus. I just jumped into this whole thing – I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s been excellent.”
Well done Nicole!