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McGovern Foundation helps close the gap to employment

A life-changing program launched by AFL father-and-son Andrew and Jeremy McGovern has helped 125 West Australians obtain their driver’s licence in less than two years, with support from Mineral Resources.

MinRes was founding partner of McGovern Foundation’s Wanderer Program in July 2021 and has committed $1.2 million over four years to help remove one of the greatest barriers to employment.

Not having access to a vehicle or the means to pay for driving lessons can make it near-impossible to complete the 50 supervised hours needed to get a provisional driver’s licence.

Trained driver mentors work with Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders and disadvantaged youth to help them access safe vehicles, obtain their learner’s permit and complete the required supervised driving hours.

In 20 months, the program has already delivered more than 6,000 supervised hours and helped 125 people get their P plates, with 76 per cent of these graduates going on to secure a job. Another 163 participants are being supported right now and the program has expanded from Perth to Northam, Narrogin, Katanning and Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

MinRes Chief Executive Officer, Lithium Joshua Thurlow said: “MinRes is proud to have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the McGovern Foundation as founding partner of the Wanderer Program since its launch.

“We were inspired by the vision of Andrew and Jeremy McGovern because we believed the Wanderer Program would make a real difference to people’s lives.

“There are young West Australians today who might not have their P plates, be studying or in work if it wasn’t for this pioneering program.”

On March 9, the McGovern Foundation hosted an event at Mineral Resources Park, home of the West Coast Eagles, to celebrate 72 participants that recently gained their P plates.

The success stories included Rebeka Morrison, an anthropology student at UWA, who told the event she suffered from anxiety and panic attacks when she first got behind the wheel.

Rebeka said Andrew McGovern, an inaugural Fremantle Docker and the Foundation’s Managing Director, patiently helped build her confidence to the point where she was able to pass her driving test this month.

“When I was in Year 11 and 12 my sister and I didn’t have anyone to really help us out or explain what we needed to get our licence or even birth certificates or anything because I’m a child of 15 children,” she said.

“When we would go to school it took us an hour to get there on the bus and train. There was a Keys4Life (pre-driver education) program after-school, but we couldn’t really stay back and be with the rest of the students to learn to get our licences.

“So in 2021, me and my friend heard about this program, the McGovern Foundation, and we applied for it. It took me a long time to get my licence – I only passed last week – but it has really helped a lot. I’ve gotten more confident and my younger sister is starting as well.”

After two previous unsuccessful attempts to get his licence, Ryan Exell, 20, enrolled in the Wanderer Program and was taught by Andrew McGovern, who is known as ‘Gov’ by the participants.

“I needed to get the licence as soon as possible because I had a job waiting for me in the mines. I went with Gov and we got it lot more quicker than when I was with the other driving instructors. I’m thankful and grateful that Gov actually helped me out,” he said.

More than just a driving program, the mentors establish meaningful relationships with the participants and can often identify other barriers to employment. The Wanderer Program continues to go from strength-to-strength and has now set itself a target to achieve 20,000 supervised driving and mentoring hours by 2024.

Such is the demand, registrations for the Perth program have had to be closed. There are currently more than 70 people on the waitlist and further funding is being sought to train more mentors.

Andrew McGovern, who worked for the Clontarf Foundation after his retirement from the AFL, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the demand for our program and have an extensive waiting list.

“We’ve had to put registrations on hold because we currently do not have resources to meet that demand. This indicates there is a definite need for our program and we are on the right track.

“Mineral Resources have supported us from inception. This partnership has given us the ability to implement, fine tune and deliver the program with exceptional outcomes and allowed us to expand to regional WA.”

West Coast Eagles vice-captain Jeremy McGovern, who spent part of his childhood in the remote Indigenous community of Warburton, also spoke passionately about working with his father to make a real difference.

“I haven’t met a man more passionate about this space. I couldn’t be more proud to be your son and to stand alongside you and go along this journey with you,” Jeremy said of his father.

“You ask anyone who’s dealt with him, he’ll do anything he can to make a difference in the community — we’re going to try to make as much difference as we can.”

Fellow West Coast vice-captain and defender Tom Barrass, the Eagles’ 2022 Club Champion, is also a McGovern Foundation director.

You can find more information on the McGovern Foundation and it’s Wanderer Program here.