The road to independence

The road to independence

At 69, retiree Bryan Duffy has no trouble relating to the younger generation. The Werrington County resident is a volunteer driving instructor with 120 Countdown – a Uniting program that aims to provide young people with a pathway to achieving the 120 hours of driving practice required to gain their driver’s licence.

Byran, who was a truck driver of semi-trailers before retiring, was at a Rotary meeting when he met Ross “Rossco” Hutchinson from the 120 Countdown program who was on the hunt for new volunteers.

Public transport options can be few and far between in rural areas, so a driver’s licence can be a ticket to independence and open up a world of opportunity in employment and education.

“I volunteered my services hoping to enable young people to get their license and find employment,” said Bryan.

As the only volunteer in his local area (the program is looking to recruit more volunteers), Bryan’s services are in hot demand, but he says the work is “inspiring”.

He points to one particular young man as an example of the difference 120 Countdown is making.

“When I first met Brent, he was struggling to get out of bed in the morning, but after joining the program he is ready and waiting for me to pick him up to go driving,” Bryan told us. “Brent has told me he is very appreciative for the opportunity he has been given.”

Another of Bryan’s students, 21-year-old Rylee (pictured below) has now passed his driver’s test and gained employment with the NRL. He said being involved in the 120 Countdown program was “very important” to him.

“I now have my P’s and a job which I owe to the program. I really enjoyed my time with Bryan as he was so much more than a driving instructor he was a mentor,” he said.

When asked if he’s had any nail biting moments during a lesson, Bryan’s answer is “Yes, yes and yes.”

“I have had the car run up over the gutter and have had flat tyres. But in all of this I have managed to keep my cool, which you need to with these special people,” he said. “Thankfully Uniting are good enough to supply the car.”

Paul Steward from Uniting Ability Links said the program is particularly helpful for young people with disability as it is “tailored to reduce the obstacles they face in gaining a licence.”

“It’s for people with disability, it’s for people with mental health issues, people who are disadvantaged in some way at home,” he said. “We give them free driving lessons with our volunteer driving instructors.”

“By being able to get their licence, more opportunities are activated for these young people, including autonomy for work and personal life.”

For Bryan, volunteering with 120 Countdown gives him a sense of fulfillment that is invaluable.

“I have been in the heavy transport industry for over 47-years and love to share my knowledge with my driving students. At times it does get extremely stressful and you do need to have a lot of patience; but in the end, it is very rewarding to see them achieve their goals. I would recommend others get involved to be able to have moments like I do.”

Get in touch

For more information about the 120 Countdown program or to enquire about becoming a volunteer in Western Sydney or Dubbo, call us on 1800 864 846 or email us.

Bryan, a shortish grey haired man, is flanked by Rylee, a tall young man with red hair and Ability Linker Paul, a man in his early 30s.

Left to right: Rylee, Bryan and Ability Linker Paul Stewart

(Cover image credit: Designed by Freepik)

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