Unique park space offers opportunity for comfort, community and conversation

Published on 11 Sep 2020

A yellow bench next to a sign painted on the ground that reads: R U OK? Conversation corner

An accessible park area which was sparked by a conversation between like-minded locals will offer a relaxing space for people of all abilities to enjoy community and companionship.

A unique conversation corner in George Robertson Reserve for people to enjoy regardless of ability was launched in Mandurah, south of Perth, on R U OK? Day at APM’s Cuppa and Convo Event.

R U OK? Day is held annually on the second Thursday of September and is a national day of action when Australians are reminded that every day is the day to ask, 'Are you OK?'.

The community centred park project was the result of consultation between APM, the City of Mandurah, residents and key organisations.

“The project came about when the small group came together and briefly spoke about how cool it would be having a park bench installed as a conversation corner,” said Community Capacity Builder (CCB) Aaron Spice.

Aaron said it was from the initial conversation that lead him to further discussions with the City of Mandurah.

“We discussed the overall project and an area at George Robertson Reserve that had already had a park bench under a large tree,” said Aaron.

The area was targeted because it was a space often used by people in the community that either experienced mental health conditions, substance abuse issues or homelessness.

Aaron contacted the City of Mandurah parks team about transforming the area into a space which would inspire conversation while offering an atmosphere of community support and inclusion.

He said after meeting with council staff involved with both Health and Parks it was a unanimous decision to create area for vulnerable people to experience the benefits of positive community engagement.

“We met out on site where we had identified the area and spoke about how this project would benefit the community and the importance around mental health.”

A group of people seated on and around the yellow bench in the park

“We asked for the existing park bench to be painted yellow and to make the space around the bench accessible to people in wheelchairs,” said Aaron.

Aaron was told the City of Mandurah fully supported the idea and would fund the project completely - and within a day of the meeting planning for the design began.

The bench was taken away to be painted bright yellow, garden beds were rebuilt, and a new exposed aggregate floor was laid to accommodate visitors in wheelchairs.

The floor had a message themed for R U OK? Day.

Aaron said the Cuppa and Convo event at the revitalised area was a hit with volunteers, the local community and City of Mandurah Mayor Rhys Williams.

Two men sitting on the yellow bench, smiling up at the camera

He said the vibrant atmosphere and the refreshed park area invited local onlookers to stop and enjoy positive community and engagement.

The event was part of a string of APM Communities events in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland acknowledging the significance of R U OK? Day.

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.