THE smile on Bec Paton’s face just gets wider as she gazes across the works being carried out on the new all inclusive play space in Victoria Park. Bec is the Community Organiser of Friends of Livvi’s Place Ballarat and the main driving force behind the project. Livvi’s Place Ballarat is a joint project of Ballarat City Council and the Touched by Olivia Foundation – the Foundation is named after Olivia Perkins who passed away in 2006, aged 8 months, due to a rare illness.
The fundamental aim of the foundation is to create a place for happier and healthier children and Bec Paton has brought that to Ballarat through the play space.
An inclusive play space is just that – it includes a space for people of all ages and abilities where they can play alongside each other and Bec can’t wait for her daughters to be able to play in a park, in Ballarat, alongside each other.
Bec’s daughter Sarah uses a wheelchair for mobility. Visiting the site Bec points excitedly to the various pieces of equipment being erected.
“There will be a double flying fox and one of them has a high back and full harness so any kids can use it– little kids you can strap in or big kids because of physical or intellectual disabilities who aren’t able to hold on ,” she said.
“Further along we have the whirl swing, which is a big nest swing but it can swing back and forth and also rotate.
“The main play structure will have a number of slides coming off it in different directions, lots of interactive things up the top, all completely wheelchair accessible and all sorts of little bits underneath – just lots of interactive and imaginative play there.”
There is also a large toilet facility with adult size change tables and hoist. This will be kept locked to prevent vandalism and a key can be obtained from council if visitors to the park think they will need to access the facility. Barbeque facilities, an all weather water play, a sand play which includes a section that is ramped down so the edge of the sandpit ends up being at a height of a wheel chair are just a small part of the park, which is wholly fenced. It has been a long process to get the vision to where it is today and Bec recalls those first tentative steps; “ I walked through this when there was a Victoria park Visioning Project – it would have been 2012 – I did the tour and I walked through this bit and thought this is where I want the playground. “I’m on the Disability Advisory Committee at council and I went there and said ‘this is where I want my playground’ and I got my way!
“(But) it has been a massive effort, the community fundraising has been going for several years and there are still opportunities for people to come on board at any point – there is still so much we can do, and there are still, even now, a couple of bits of equipment that are in the balance. “The main one I am worried about is the trampoline, which is so good for kids with autism, so good, deaf children in school, want to become an Auslan interpreter, or work in a professional capacity in the community. Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting to learn an interesting new language.”
The free taster program in Ballarat is an introduction to the Certificate II in Auslan that will be offered in Victoria’s regional communities. This is the first accredited blended model regional delivery of Auslan in the nation. The blended delivery consists of attending classes that movement can be really calming for them.” The committee for Livvi’s Place Ballarat is grateful to the organisations and businesses that have funded various pieces of equipment and to the number of families who have donated to the project so far. “It’s kind of hard to believe that we are almost there,” says Bec as she looks across the park.
“I’d imagined it in my head for years now but it’s different, but it’s cool, it’s exciting.
“It’s one of those things I have no control over it now, I’ve had a lot of input and council has been really good to work with in terms of talking to me, consulting and it’s been really good. We have Friends of Livvi’s Place, just lots and lots of community volunteers so they’ve helped with raising a lot of the money. “ When completed (March 2016) the park will be the first play space in Ballarat that will enable kids with disabilities to play alongside their nondisabled peers.
“It is really inclusive for all children and adults with disabilities,” Bec added. “Sometimes it’s the mums or dads with a disability, or grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren and they can’t run as fast as the kids they are caring for, so the idea of a fenced play space with a toilet inside the fence line is pretty cool.”
If you would like to donate (tax deductible) please contact Bec Paton or the City of Ballarat: TBO@rebeccapaton.net or call Craig Donaldson at City of Ballarat on 0409 146 708.