Gunnedah is a step closer to an inclusive playground at Wolseley Park.
Touched by Olivia Foundation executive officer, Bec Ho, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Gunnedah Shire Council on Tuesday, forming a partnership to bring the playground plans to fruition.
The confirmation of the partnership follows the council’s recent approval of a design for the Gunnedah playground. The concept plan was developed by Kathryn Yigman of Stewart Surveys following extensive consultation with the community and the Inclusive Playground Working Group.
The playground project came about as the result of a Gunnedah mum’s petition to the council in 2013 to build an inclusive play space. Ashley Bender came across the work of Touched by Olivia Foundation after her son Kyren was diagnosed with autism.
Touched by Olivia was formed in 2006 by the Perkins Family with a core focus on creating inclusive playspaces across Australia.
The foundation assists communities to create places that encourage and invite social inclusion through play. These play spaces are dubbed “Livvi’s Place” in honour of Olivia Perkins who died of a rare disease at eight months of age.
Ms Ho has been part of the Inclusive Playground Working Group since it was formed in 2015 and said she was “really excited” to be in Gunnedah.
“The big focus for us is working in regional communities and making sure these kinds of assets are inclusive and accessible to everyone,” she said.
“It’s always a good thing for the community. We only ever see good outcomes.”
Ms Ho said Gunnedah had done an “amazing job” at consulting with the community and was impressed that the council was supporting the $1.35 million project by committing $500,000.
“That’s a significant contribution by a regional council,” she said.
“I think it’s insanely awesome that Gunnedah has thrown so much into it.
“Unless councils value inclusion, it just doesn’t work.”
Ms Ho said the MoU would enable the foundation to represent the project and lobby for grant funding and cheaper prices from suppliers.
The council recently applied for a grant through the Department of Industry’s Stronger Country Communities Fund to cover the shortfall of $850,000 for the project.
Working group chair Owen Hasler said Ms Ho had been a valuable source of information and experience throughout the project and had made a number of significant suggestions, which had been taken on board.
“We’re awfully excited now we’ve reached this stage in the project and we’ve got the MoU today,” he said.
The chair said once funding was secured, construction on the play space could begin “almost immediately”.