Turning Traffic Offenders Into Responsible Drivers

Blacktown RSL - April/June 2003

An innovative organisation in Seven Hills is helping traffic offenders not only become better drivers themselves, but role models for the community, thanks to a $20,000 grant from Blacktown RSL.

The Traffic Offenders Program (TOP) Inc. was formed by NSW Ambulance Officer Graham Symes in 1992 to educate drivers awaiting sentencing for traffic offences including speeding, drink-driving, uninsured, unregistered and unlicensed driving.

Mr. Symes funded the Program himself until 1998 when David Bamford from Blacktown City Rotary Club came on board as Honorary Chairman and provided financial assistance through fundraising. In recent years though, rising costs, particularly in public liability insurance, were threatening to stop the Program until Blacktown RSL stepped in. The offenders are referred to the Program following their initial court appearance, by the Magistrate of that Court. Referrals are taken from 47 Courts throughout Western Sydney.

Since its inception, more than 4700 people have undergone the Program, which involves eight lectures over a seven week period. Attendees must also submit an assignment for each lecture. "One gentleman who did the Program ran his own small business and made his assignments compulsory reading for every member of his staff, "Mr. Bamford said. "These people are also becoming advocates for their peer groups and you can't measure that in dollars."

Each lecture is conducted by relevant professionals such as police, paramedics, insurance advisors, spinal injury specialists, RTA representatives, practicing solicitors and drug and alcohol specialists. Mr. Bamford said the grant from Blacktown RSL is the only thing keeping the not-for-profit organisation running, as it receives no government funding: "Without the funding from Blacktown RSL, we can't run the Program, it's as simple as that."

Blacktown RSL General Manager Alan Middleton said the club was proud to be associated with TOP, as it was making a concerted effort to keep the roads safer. "As far as good causes go, they don't come anymore worthwhile than this," Mr. Middleton said. "Speeding and drink-driving cause so many injuries and deaths and we are happy to work with an organisation that is making such a positive difference to people's driving behaviour."