Local mum Ashley Bender says she and her family are “ecstatic” that Gunnedah’s inclusive playground is going ahead at Wolseley Park.
On Tuesday, Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson announced a commitment of $850,000 from the state government to supplement Gunnedah Shire Council’s commitment of $520,000 for the $1.3 million project. The government backing comes under the Stronger Country Communities Fund.
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 Ms Bender’s petition to the council in 2013 to build an inclusive play space. Ms Bender came across the work of Touched by Olivia Foundation after her son Kyren was diagnosed with autism and felt Gunnedah could benefit from a playground modelled on the foundation’s ideals.
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.
“The huge financial contribution from the government is a great investment for our community and to have that backed up by the Gunnedah Shire Council with their significant financial contribution is just amazing,” Ms Bender said.
“We are excited for the possibilities and opportunities that this play space will create for children and their families.
“We are very excited to now watch the play space develop and grow and are extremely grateful to Debra Hilton for picking this project up and pushing it to what it has become today. Without [her] determination it may never have happened.”
Ms Bender said she was thankful to the working party both current and past, Touched by Olivia Foundation’s Bec Ho, Gunnedah Shire Council and “everyone else that has been involved over the years”.
“At the beginning of this project, I was told that something like this would never happen here in Gunnedah in my children's lifetime,” she said.
“I'm very happy to now say that I'm looking forward to seeing the smile on my son's face when he sees the play space for the first time.”
Gunnedah Shire mayor Jamie Chaffey said the council would put the project out to tender in March 2018.
“This is community identifying the issue [and] us as council coming together with community,” he said.
“We think forward as we continue to grow and we are growing quite strong. This is another enabler for us to attract that younger demographic of 25-35, the young families that are looking to come into this region for the many jobs that are here.”