The City of Fremantle has secured a $50,000 grant from the Department of Social Services to improve access and inclusion at Leighton Beach.
The national grant is part of the Department of Social Services’ Information Linkages and Capacity Building program, which provides funding to organisations to deliver projects in the community that benefit people with disability, their carers and families.
The City will use the $50,000 grant to purchase and install much-needed equipment that will allow people with disability and mobility challenges to enjoy Leighton Beach this summer.
This includes beach access matting installed by the end of October, plus new wheelchairs and walkers, Gecko Traxx (portable wheelchair accessories to enable off-road access), a sensory tent to provide a quiet breakout space for people with sensory challenges during events and storage lockers to house the new equipment by early December.
Funding will also be used to support Fremantle Surf Life Saving Club develop its new Nippers program for children with disability and help Disabled Surfers Association of WA (DSA WA) to grow their inclusive surfing events.
Fremantle Deputy Mayor Andrew Sullivan said the funding boost would help kick off the Leighton Beach Access Project, a collaboration between the City, DSA WA and Fremantle Surf Life Saving Club.
“The Leighton Beach Access Project is about creating an inclusive environment at the Leighton Beach precinct where people with disability can connect and participate in community life,” Cr Sullivan said.
“While Leighton Beach currently has existing accessible toilets and change room facilities, ACROD parking bays and clear, accessible paths to the facilities and café-unfortunately, there is no disability access to the sandy beach or ocean views beyond the sand dunes.
“Going to the beach is a key part of Fremantle’s culture and identity, and this project and funding will go a long way in opening up our beach and community to everyone.”
Each year the City works to assist DSA WA to deliver its four inclusive surfing events for people with disability at Leighton Beach. The events attract over 200 participants and between 300-400 volunteers to Leighton Beach.
The new beach matting and assistive equipment will be officially launched at the first surfing event on Saturday 4 December to commemorate International Day of People with Disability and mark the commencement of the DSA WA accessible surfing program at Leighton Beach.
DSA WA Perth Branch President Bruce Peel said the grant would provide a better quality of life for people with disability and mobility challenges, providing access to Leighton Beach over the warmer months to enjoy the sunset with loved ones or getting into the ocean for a surf.
“While the DSA WA installs beach matting down from the grassed amphitheatre to the ocean’s edge for each of our four annual events, this additional semi-permanent solution will provide a significant benefit to the wider community and ensure dignity for people with disabilities and with mobility challenges,” Mr Peel said.
“This joint initiative is an important partnership with the Fremantle Surf Life Saving Club and City of Fremantle who have been very supportive of DSA WA events since our inception in 2005.”
Fremantle Surf Life Saving Club President Jack Dowie said it was a fantastic initiative by the City to encourage and enable people with disability to enjoy our magnificent coastline.
“Our club is proud to be a part of the Leighton Beach Access Project and our Starfish Nippers will obviously appreciate the City’s generous support,” Mr Dowie said.
Image: Last year’s inclusive surfing event at Leighton Beach. Photo courtesy of Disabled Surfers Association of WA; image credit Kim Feast.