Nicole Caldwell with Jan Levy from ACE Community Colleges and driving instructors Steve and Julie Nixon from All Wheels Driver Education in Casino.
Nicole Caldwell will soon not only be Casino’s first Aboriginal bus driver, but Casino’s first female Aboriginal bus driver.
The 33-year-old is currently in the midst of training with Casino Bus Company and hopes to soon be employed driving school runs in Casino.
While it’s disappointing in this day and age that either race or gender should still be a bar to certain occupations it is an unfortunate reality that a 12-month project called Getting About is trying to address.
Funded by Transport for NSW, auspiced by Lismore City Council and delivered by ACE Community Colleges, the project was intended to train volunteer bus drivers who could safely drive people to family or sporting gatherings, Sorry Day events, funerals and the like.
But once she got her hands on the wheel, Nicole had other ideas.
‘We’ve realised there are real opportunities for people to gain employment,’ said Jan Levy, Aboriginal program co-ordinator at ACE Community Colleges.
‘It had a lot to do with Nicole’s motivation – she continually rang me to tell me the next step and what she had to do.
‘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.’
Nicole says that seeing her driving the bus has had a positive affect on some of her passengers.
‘I’ve seen some Aboriginal people – they had to look twice when they saw me driving the bus,’ Nicole laughed. ‘I just jumped into this whole thing – I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s been excellent.’