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Standen family with Mayor Tom Tate

Idyllic Gold Coast beaches now accessible to all

Emily Toxward | March 2018

In a coup for beach lovers of all abilities, wheelchair accessible mats and beach wheelchairs are being rolled out every weekend at a number of Gold Coast picturesque waterfront locations. The move further cements the city’s reputation as being an accessible and inclusive city.

Benowa mother-of-three Jane Standen says she couldn’t be happier, especially for her 15-year-old daughter Jessica. For the past three years Jessica has taken part in the North Burleigh Surf Life Saving Club’s (SLSC) Seahorse Nippers program, where she gets to take part in water and beach activities alongside other children with disabilities.

“She loves being outside and loves the water and the beach matting makes it a lot easier for her and others in similar situations to take part in this amazing surf life saving program. And as a family it enables us to have a lovely day at the beach all together,” Mrs Standen says.

“The beach mats also encourage social interaction between parents that are in the same situation; it can be quite isolating for parents who have children with a disability. It certainly will make a trip to the beach easier for people if they know wheelchair accessible mats are out on certain days.”

North Burleigh SLSC’s Seahorse Nipper’s program co-ordinator Debbie Hazlewood says the beach mats were well used by the community, including older people and families with prams.

“People are attracted to the mat because it’s a lot easier to walk on, but in particular they’re popular with older people who may find it difficult to walk on uneven surfaces such as sand. We’ve also noticed the mats are utilised by families who have lots of gear to lug to and from the beach; I’ve even seen kids doing cartwheels and gymnastics on it,” she says.

“I think beach matting is really going to showcase Australia during the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and will put the Gold Coast on the map in regards to how advanced we are in terms of beach accessibility.”

Debbie Hazlewood

Mayor Tate says the City has partnered with Surf Life Saving Clubs and community groups to deliver the program.

“Our relationship with the Surf Life Saving Clubs and community groups is really important as they play a big role in helping us deliver the program.”

At North Burleigh patrol captains roll out the mats during patrol times, 8.30am to 5pm. Members of the public can also request the use of a beach wheelchair at no charge. All they have to do is call the club and the volunteers will make it happen.

That’s the beauty of this service; it’s run by the Gold Coast’s generous surf life saving fraternity, who go above and beyond to help their community. In fact a few weeks ago a volunteer lifesaver at Nobby’s Beach SLSC took it upon himself to roll out a beach mat mid-week to help someone using a wheelchair to access the ocean.

Nobby’s club captain Shaun Hourigan says the mats are rolled out Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 3pm and the club’s Albatross Nippers make great use of them. He’s hoping that once word spreads there’ll be people of all abilities frolicking at Nobby Beach on a regular basis.

“We’ve got the world’s best beaches and the more people we can get down there the better. Sure it’s a little more work but when you see the smile on people’s faces when they’re in the water, it’s all worthwhile,” he says.

The push to remove barriers and encourage people of all ages and abilities to access Gold Coast beaches is part of the City of Gold Coast’s Accessible and Inclusive City Action Plan. Originally only a trial, the council has committed $341,000 to deliver the program on an ongoing basis.

Mayor Tom Tate says with only a couple of weeks to go until the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, there has never been a more important time to ensure the city is accessible for everyone.

“We are doing all we can to remove barriers and create a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone who lives, works and visits the Gold Coast.” 

Mayor Tom Tate

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Surf lifesaver volunteers manage the beach access equipment, including matting and/ or chairs on Saturday or Sunday, or both days, at Burleigh Beach, Burleigh Heads Beach, Kurrawa Beach, Nobby Beach, Palm Beach (Pacific SLSC), Southport Beach, Broadwater Parklands (Aqua Splash), Tallebudgera Beach and Tallebudgera Creek.

Cr Tate says Gold Coast Surf Life Saving volunteers and community groups play an important role because they are helping to deliver the program during the patrol season. To find out what days and times beach mats are rolled out; and what equipment can be borrowed free of charge, visit the City of Gold Coast’s Beach Access webpage.

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