Ageing, Disability & Home Care

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The Illawarra's first inclusive play space open

28 March 2014

Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka will today officially open Luke’s Place – the Illawarra's first inclusive play space at Corrimal Memorial Park.

"This is an exciting day for the Illawarra community because all children, regardless of their ability, can now play freely and safely together for the first time," Minister Ajaka said.

"As the Minister for Disability Services as well as Minister for the Illawarra, it is a joy to be part of an initiative which benefits people with special needs who live in this great region.

"The NSW Government is committed to ensuring children with disability have the same opportunities as everyone else which is why we have allocated $30,000 toward this project and $200,000 previously to the organisation to help build play areas like this," he said.

The play space will provide a safe and secure playground for hundreds of children with equipment specifically designed for all children, including those with special needs.

Luke's Place includes a wheel chair accessible carousel and was inspired by Luke Rapley – a four-year-old boy with multiple disabilities, including autism.

Minister Ajaka paid special tribute to Luke’s parents Sean and Rita for their ongoing commitment and hard work over the past two years to make this inclusive play space a reality.

"The Rapleys had a dream to create a playground where children of all abilities could interact and play, and I’m thrilled we can celebrate their achievements today."

Wollongong City Lord Mayor, Councillor Gordon Bradbery, OAM, was excited about the development of the park.

"Wollongong City Council are delighted to have supported this project with more than $125,000 in funding.

"All children should have the opportunity to play, to have fun in a park or playground, and to be among friends.  Luke’s Place is where children and parents of all abilities and ages can play side-by-side, and is one of the projects I am most proud to have supported," Councillor Bradbery said.

Rebecca Ho, Executive Officer of the Touched by Olivia Foundation thanked the Illawarra community for supporting Luke’s Place by collaboratively fundraising around $125,000.

"What the community has supported is the creation of a physical space, an inclusive space, where children can play regardless of their ability," Ms Ho said.

“Parents and carers can feel comfortable about bringing their children out to laugh and play with their peers.

"They will be able to sit and chat with one another, knowing that Luke's Place is fully fenced, full accessible and designed with an awareness of those sensitivities that would have previously ended a play date."

The Touched by Olivia Foundation works in partnership with local councils, communities and corporations to upgrade or build playgrounds which are inclusive, enabling children and parents to socialise together.

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