Teaching refugees about road safety and laws forms an important part of the support provided by the Bendigo Community Health Services settlement services team.

The Victoria Police attended a recent Women's Refugee Group meeting to talk about road laws and show first-hand how law enforcing equipment such as a breathalyser works.

The Pedestrian and Road Safety education sessions run by BCHS for the refugee community cover topics such as why road safety is important, the risks people face on the road and a review of rules and safety tips for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Common themes raised by those attending the sessions include seat belts, identifying road signs, speed limits, riding a bike on the footpath and near misses when crossing the road. 

Settlement Services team manager Martine Street says BCHS staff enjoy taking on the responsiblity of ensuring refugees are introduced to all aspects of road safety and laws. 

"Many of our arrivals from refugee camps are not familiar with roads and motorised vehicles. The simple task of crossing a road with children can be challenging when you have never encountered traffic before. Judging the speed of cars and how fast to walk across a road is something that must be taught. We learn this as children holding the hand of our parent but not everyone is so fortunate," Martine said.

"New arrivals are learning this as they walk around Bendigo with their support team. They are learning how to fit child restraints when we go in the car with their children. Sometimes staff will meet families at their local park to teach how to ride a bicycle and how to be safe on the road. It all takes time and practice and this is work we love to do.

"Supporting our new arrivals to be safer road users benefits the community as we should all strife to make our roads a safer place.” 

BCHS will soon expand the program to invite the refugee community to host a road safety information session for small groups of family and friends in their own home.

Running these sessions would not be possible without the valuable support of Bendigo organisations.

BCHS would like to thank the Victoria Police and Peter Dyer for supporting our work in helping refugees to settle and feel welcome in Bendigo.

Jac and Robert from Bike Bendigo for their support in delivering bicycle sessions and linking participants to community group FreeWheeling Fun.

The Department of Justice Wheels In Motion program provides donated bikes which have been restored for refugee families. 

Sponsorship from the VicRoads 'Toward Zero' campaign and Central Victorian Road Safe Council funds these important education sessions.

BCHS has also run vehicle maintenance education sessions for refugees with the support of the Poyser Motor Group.

Plans are being finalised to host learner driver information sessions in the near future.