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Build an inclusive playspace for our community

This petition had 260 supporters

Ashley's Story

We live in Gunnedah, located in regional NSW. During my son’s journey with Autism, I have been researching ideas to help my son and other Children in the local community. There is a gap for social interaction for children affected by Austim and other disabilities.  


We have many children in the community with disabilities. There is a school in Gunnedah to cater for the educational needs of special needs children called the GS Memorial Kidd School. (Kindergarten and onwards) Whilst having this school is a huge benefit for the community, it does not have a public playground. It does not allow for these children to socially interact with other children, including siblings, friends and family.


There are no acceptable parks that cater for children confined to wheel chairs. And other children with disabilities miss out to, due to inadequate fencing; the park in the centre of our town is only meters from a main road, a road that is the route for Heavy vehicles and road trains. In fact almost all parks in the town are situated on main roads. Safety of my child is a priority and we cannot utilise these parks.


I know in my personal experience how hard it is to visit a park in this town that caters to meet the needs of all my children. It is impossible and there for we simply do not go to the park. Gunnedah has a few playgrounds in the local community. Only one is fully fenced. This park is in the Hospital grounds and is unsuitable for small children. It is very high and not dangerous for small children (under 5) My sons preschool only has a slide, no swings no climbing frames – no playground. My only option as a mother of a child with a disability is to stay at home and watch him suffer not being able to interact with other children during outdoor play.


Gunnedah is a Regional town with an overall population of 12,066 including small surrounding communities. We boast the title of the Koala Capital of the World with one of the largest and healthiest koala populations in Australia. This attracts many tourists throughout the year. We also hold a yearly agricultural show called Ag Quip which is Australia’s largest and premier agricultural industry field event, which attracts over 100,000 visitors each year.


Gunnedah also has many mines surrounding its location which has seen a big population growth.


There is a need for an inclusive playspace in Gunnedah.

About Touched by Olivia

Through play we learn how to be part of society. Play is a fundamental part of childhood, and according to the United Nations it is a child?s right to enjoy play and leisure.

Touched by Olivia has created a unique model based on partnership by bringing together communities, government and corporate Australia to deliver special places that change the way our society plays. Through extensive research, advocacy and guidelines based on the Universal Design Principles, we assist communities to create special places that encourage and invite social inclusion through play.

Many playspaces in Australia do not meet the needs of their community. Physical disabilities, coupled with childhood disorders, and the ever- changing demographic of stay at home carers, means that every detail needs to be considered for a space to be truly inclusive. It?s not about installing a liberty swing and a few ramps up to a slippery slide. It means designing and creating custom made, accessible and intergenerational play equipment and amenities, incorporating accessible pathways, passive areas, sensory and tactile play and artworks, graduated challenges, points of recognition and visual cues, fencing, accessible parking and bus drop off zones.

The number 1 outcome of the National Disability Strategy is ?Inclusive and Connected Communities.? Touched by Olivia?s inclusive playspace projects fit firmly under NDS.

1.  1 in 5 Australians have a disability.

2. 61% of children aged 5-14 years with a disability have an intellectual disability

3. 1 in 100 Australian children have an autism spectrum disorder


4. Nationwide spread of high density living in units and apartments highlights the need for access to quality inclusive community spaces

5. 25% of children are overweight or obese

6. Over 43% of working families use grandparents to care for their young children

7. Prejudice can be effectively reduced through interaction, and activities that bring children with and without disabilities together have been shown to foster more positive attitudes. Social integration benefits everyone. Unicef 2013 State of the World's Children's Report

Touched by Olivia Foundation is working with local communities to enable inclusive playspaces to become available for all Australians. 

Research now proves that the status given to people with special needs is assigned by others early in life through social interaction and play. It is the aim of Touched by Olivia Foundation to build inclusive playspaces where the play of children of different abilities is so intermingled that visitors to the playground will not realise that it is an inclusive playspace. When completed, such a playspace will dramatically reduce the barriers experienced by people with special needs.

Our first (and only) indoor Livvi’s Place was opened in 2007 in Campbelltown, NSW, followed by four outdoor playspaces in Five Dock, Brisbane, Dubbo, Ryde and Melbourne. There are currently an additional 22 sites in various stages of development across Australia.

The design for our first outdoor playspace, Livvi’s Place Five Dock has being heralded as one of global best practice, with the design process having the involvement of leading playspace experts, disability experts, architects and playspace and early childhood academics. These thoughts were echoed when Parks and Leisure Australia awarded Livvi’s Place the Best Play Space in Australia in 2010. A shelf full of recognition includes a nomination for Accessible Communities at the National Disability Awards and the International Innovation Award from the World Leisure Organisation was awarded in recognition of our groundbreaking approach to community partnership and social inclusion.


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