Funding of the award-winning RASNZ Refugee Road Safety Action Programme has been fully restored with a grant of $200,000 to allow its continuing operation for the next 5 years.
The Refugee Road Safety Action Programme was created in 2004 by two former refugees, Dr Nyunt Naing and Dr Arif Saeid at the national Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland. “We saw the urgent and huge need from our own experiences coming through Mangere, and from the strong feedback of all the many refugee communities,” said Dr Naing, who is now the health services director with the International Rescue Committee in the Thailand-Myanmar border region.
“Refugees were not getting drivers training, licenses, or even basic road safety knowledge. When new arrivals left Mangere, a number were buying cars and driving without any licenses, training or understanding of the Road Code,” said Dr Naing. “There were serious public safety and legal issues arising at the time. In addition to that, having no drivers licence or means of even obtaining a learners’ permit meant that transport was very difficult in settlement. Families became isolated and further, it was very hard to obtain work.”
More than 3,500 new arrivals have successfully completed the course and graduated with learner’s licences over the past 7 years. The course has also been available for Convention Refugees and Quota Refugees settled in the community. Interpreters in more than 25 languages and the RASNZ Community Facilitators have administered the programme with a system that brings a result of more than 90% successful pass rate for learners licences.
The RASNZ programme won the national 2009 Road Safety Innovation and Achievement Award which was presented by the Minister of Transport at Parliament in Wellington. Changes in funding priorities, however, from the Ministry of Transport meant resources were cut to the programme in July, 2011.
Dr Saeid said that the RASNZ CEO and Board made submissions to Government about the potential safety risks, and also showed the evaluation outcomes and evidence of its success, and highlighted the needs, which resulted in a positive response. “We appreciate that former refugees have been listened to and that the real need has been recognised by the government. We are very grateful the Road Safety Trust stepped in to assist, “said Dr Saeid.
The Road Safety Action Programme will now resume from the coming intakes during 2012 and again become fully operational.