Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Penrith committee marks 30 years of inclusivity

Penrith City Council is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Access Committee and the invaluable contributions it has made to accessibility and inclusivity in the City. 

Council says the Access Committee was one of its earliest initiatives to embed lived and professional experience of disability in decision-making processes.

“Since 1992, members with lived and professional experience of visible and invisible disability have encouraged Council to strive beyond compliance with legislated standards and shape a more accessible Penrith for all,” the Council said in a statement.

“The committee’s advice and hard work has led to significant improvements across Council business, including improved pedestrian safety, public facility upgrades, transport connections and more inclusive arts programs and recreational spaces.  

“Importantly, they’ve also helped shift attitudes and boost awareness through events like International Day of People with Disability and Nepean Jobs for All business breakfast, to address myths about employing people with disabilities.”

An afternoon tea event was held at the Civic Centre last week to mark the 30th anniversary and celebrate the contributions of members.  

Penrith Mayor, Tricia Hitchen thanked all committee members for their invaluable input and contributions.  

“Today we are joined by Access Committee members, past and present – people whose expertise, insight and passion continue to improve the quality of life of our community,” Mayor Hitchen said.  

The event was also an opportunity to officially launch Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan for 2022-2026, which has 58 actions that will make Penrith more inclusive and support everyone to engage in community life. 

“It’s fitting we combine these two events because it was the early years of the Committee’s establishment that led and shaped Council’s first Access Policy back in 1995,” Cr Hitchen explained.   

“That policy declared that ‘public access for all persons is a right, not an option’ and was integrated into our local approvals policy. It ensured that all buildings had to be constructed to enable better access for everyone.  

“Since then, the scope of our work and plans have broadened to focus on creating a more accessible and inclusive City. 

“Inclusion will help build a stronger, more connected Penrith for everyone.” 

Access and inclusion are extremely important to Mayor Hitchen, who is the mother of an adult son with cerebral palsy.  

She joined the Access Committee in 2008 as a community representative and is passionate about providing inclusive spaces, programs and services for people who live with disability. As Mayor, she is now the Chair of the Access Committee. 

Matt Roger, a valued member of the Access Committee since 2019, with 25 years of experience in the corporate world, shared his experience of being part of the Committee and influencing meaningful change.  

He congratulated previous and current Committee members for their achievements over the past 30 years.  

Matt is medically retired after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 19 years ago. He joined the Access Committee to influence decisions that remove barriers for people with disability.   

He has been fundamental in strengthening the relationship between the Access Committee and the Nepean Hospital Redevelopment Project team with tangible outcomes. He has also taken lessons learnt from the Access Committee into other advocacy roles across Penrith. 

“I think we are all our best self-advocates – we know what sort of things we need and our voices, coupled with the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, help drive that change,” Matt said.  

“I’m encouraged by the 58 actions (in the Disability Inclusion Action Plan), and our fellow members will hold the council accountable on delivering those,” he said.  

Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan was developed with the input from the Access Committee, service providers, people living with disability, their carers, family and friends.  

The Plan can be downloaded from Council’s website and for the first time is available in an accessible, Easy Read format. 

To read the Plan, visit penrith.city/disabilityplan.

Latest Articles