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Wednesday, 1 March 2006
Page: 152

Mrs GASH (9:57 AM) —There are days in parliament and days in the electorate that are very good as a politician and some that are very bad. Last Friday I happened to have a very good one. It was to do with the Australian government funding grant for the Havenlee special school, a very special school for very special students at north Nowra, that brought smiles to the faces of its students. A grant worth over $34,000 has enabled the school to install a device called a ‘liberty swing’, which is used to increase the participation of wheelchair bound students who are severely disabled. Thanks to Wayne Devine, an inventor, children with disabilities can now have as much fun on swings in the playground as their able-bodied mates. No more sitting on the edge and wondering what it would be like to fly through the air and feel the breeze on their faces.

In 1988 Wayne was struck by the fact that conventional playground equipment did not cater for children with disabilities. His heart sank as he watched able-bodied children laughing and enjoying the playground swings in his local park, while a child in the wheelchair looked on with envy. It happens quite a lot in the electorate of Gilmore with special schools. It was at that time that Wayne had the original idea of developing a swing for children in wheelchairs, a dream that has taken him 13 years to realise. This is what the ABC said on its Inventors program:

The Liberty swing is designed for use by disabled children confined to wheelchairs. It works simply like any other swing. It’s just bigger and more mechanically intricate and incorporates a ramp which allows a wheel chair to be loaded onto the swing. The ramp is fitted with a torsion spring to reduce the weight and also a picture graph showing how to lift and lower the ramp to prevent back injury. The swing is Australian designed and manufactured and meets all standards and safety requirements. It also has a secure locking device when not in use.

Wayne says the swings have proved so popular that some children and disabled groups have been travelling for more than 100 kilometres to use the equipment. I have no doubt of the therapeutic value of this device, and I am very glad that the Australian government has played an active role in assisting these needy students. I took the opportunity to have a go on the swing myself—and it was quite an experience. It really brought a smile to my face. I got strapped in, like all the children did, and the smiles on their faces when they saw someone like me having a go were a joy to behold. 

In addition to the swing, the general recreation area at Havenlee special school has been improved and this will contribute significantly to the welfare of students at the Havenlee special school. I want to again thank the Australian government for the grant—through the Investing in Our Schools program, which has been a wonderful opportunity for schools—of $34,000 to enable the school to install the liberty swing, which I know will prove to be extremely popular.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—In accordance with sessional order 193, the time for members’ statements has concluded.