New programme ‘life-changing’

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Police representatives Senior Sergeant Jon Bisset (left) and Constable Sarah Harper (right) with Southland Right Track graduate Tiriana Shearer (second from left), programme co-ordinator John Finch, of EDUK8 Charitable Trust, and Southland Right Track committee chairwoman Rebecca Coats at the graduation ceremony for participants in the Southland Right Track pilot programme at the Lindisfarne Community Centre.

IT was a “life-changing” and “mind-blowing” experience, Tiriana Shearer says of her time in a programme aimed at changing the behaviour of those convicted of driving offences.

“It has been absolutely incredible. I feel grateful for the experience,” she said.

“It has taught me a lot of life lessons. It has taught me about people in the community and how hard they work to keep people safe.”

Ms Shearer said she had also gained a sense of achievement by completing the course, and made a lot of new friends.

Ms Shearer was one of 14 graduates who completed the first Southland Right Track pilot programme last month.

She joined the programme after having been convicted of drink-driving on several occasions. Her reason for driving while over the limit? “Not planning right,” she said.

Ms Shearer said the next time she got behind the wheel of a vehicle she would plan her night better with regards to how she would get to her destination and back home again afterwards.

Created by EDUK8 Charitable Trust, the Right Track programme was designed to change the driving behaviour of young people and adults who had been apprehended for driving offences, such as speeding, drink-driving and driving carelessly or recklessly causing injury.

The pilot was held over five weeks and involved exposing participants to a series of experiences designed to make them understand the effect of their behaviour and help them to make better decisions in the future. Experiences included visiting prison cells, hearing from someone with a traumatic brain injury, experiencing being cut out of a smashed car and facing a judge in a mock sentencing.

Completing the programme was a condition of the participants’ sentencing.

Programme director John Finch, of EDUK8, said the Southland pilot programme had been very successful.

“The change in attitude and demeanour [of the learners] has been quite staggering,” he said.

“There has been a complete shift in their awareness of the world.

“The learners now understood the ripple effect – how their behaviour affects others, not just themselves.”

The Right Track had been delivered in other centres throughout New Zealand, but this was the first time it had been run in Southland.

Southland Right Track committee chairwoman and Southland Hospital trauma nurse co-ordinator Rebecca Coats had initiated bringing the programme to Southland.

Mrs Coats said the Right Track had been proven to reduce driving-related reoffending rates by 80% to 90%.

“Any prevention of death or trauma through the health services has got to be a good thing.”

The pilot programme had been run with support from the New Zealand Police, Road Safety Southland, Southern District Health Board, Macdonald & Weston funeral directors, Department of Corrections, Fire Emergency New Zealand and Oranga Tamariki, and with funding from the ILT Foundation and Community Trust of Southland.

Mrs Coats said the pilot programme had been so successful because of the buy-in from the various agencies all working together.

A second pilot programme is expected to run in Southland in March next year.

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