21 August 2023

Work underway on inclusive playground thanks to mum's persistent lobbying

| Jen White
Join the conversation
Shoshana Dreyfus and her son Bodhi.

Shoshana Dreyfus has led the charge for an all ages, all abilities playground where her son Bodhi can feel welcome. Photos: Jen White.

A “weird, random idea” for a playground designed for disabled youth and adults is finally taking shape at Wollongong’s Stuart Park, thanks to a collaborative community effort.

The idea came to Shoshana Dreyfus after she saw her teenaged intellectually disabled son Bodhi and his mates happily playing on equipment that was just too small for them.

“There were even photos of them sliding down slides, and they were longer than the slide,” she said.

“I actually stopped taking Bodhi to playgrounds when he was about 14 because I couldn’t bear seeing families pull their little children off the playground when he went on them – I just found that so painful.

“It suddenly dawned on me, many, many years later, they need their own playground where they’re welcome and it’s designed with their needs in mind.”

READ ALSO The Flagstaff program preparing people with a disability for disasters and emergencies

So the mum – also an Associate Professor in linguistics at the University of Wollongong and co-convenor of UOW’s Disability Research Network – got to work.

She lobbied politicians at all levels of government, worked closely with The Disability Trust, applied for and was awarded a research grant from the uni, sought out funding from various avenues and twisted the arms of private and community donors in her bid for a suitable playground.

Four years after her lightbulb moment, Shoshana arrived at Stuart Park for an announcement about the playground last week and was thrilled to see work underway on the first stage of the $1.4 million All Ages All Abilities Playground.

“I’m so moved to come here today and see this weird, random idea I had in January 2019 is actually happening,” she said.

“It couldn’t have happened without the support of everybody; it’s been a completely across the board project.

“Every single person who I have approached has got on board with the project and I pinch myself every single day that this actually happened and that everyone supported it.”

Construction of the playground is being jointly funded by the Federal and NSW Governments, Wollongong City Council and community and business supporters.

The Wollongong Local Government Area has about 150 playgrounds, but this is the only one designed to specifically meet the needs of young people and adults with disability.

It will include a human-sized mouse wheel, a large trampoline big enough for a wheelchair, adults and groups of children, different swing types to cater to different ages and needs, a sensory garden for people to touch and smell a variety of textural plants, a Luna Carousel with an accessible platform to accommodate wheelchairs, picnic areas and new accessible parking for minibuses.

Stage one of the playground is due to be completed by Easter next year.

READ ALSO Carers save governments billions of dollars every day but don’t get paid a cent

Shoshana’s UOW Community Engagement Grant funded a research project to consult the community – specifically young adults with disability – about what they wanted in the playground design.

Also on the project was Disability Trust Chief Operating Officer Edward Birt, who said the research team consulted with people who were non-verbal, people with intellectual disability and people with autism.

“We wanted their views about what might be best to be considered for this playground. So we did observational research and interviews and saw which pieces of equipment people gravitated to,” he said.

“It has been amazing to be a part of the development of this innovative and world-first design and the Wollongong community should be very proud of what is being built here.

“Through partnering with adults who are non-verbal communicators as research partners we have taken a strong co-design approach to make sure we get the design of the playground right.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.