One team's vision to make beaches accessible for all is one step closer to reality after the launch of a pilot initiative which saw one resident back in the water for the first time in decades.
Graduates from the Leadership Great South Coast 2021 program held three accessible beach trials this month with support from Port Fairy Surf Life Saving Club and Moyne Shire Council.
Over the three-hour-long trials, mothers with prams, people with a disability, elderly and even a few councilors tested out equipment.
Event Day Coordinator Oonagh Kilpatrick said seeing one participant out in the water for the first time in recent memory was the "icing on the cake".
"It was about making the seemingly impossible possible, it was a day for tears of joy and happiness," she said.
"The smiling faces of participants, carers, Port Fairy Surf Lifesaving Club staff, volunteers and the tourists who stopped to engage said it all.
"The icing on the cake was that one participant had her first opportunity in 20 years to get out in the water, something she never thought she would ever be able to do again."
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LGSC project lead Ashleigh Glennon said the initiative was all about social inclusion.
"The team was driven by a purpose for making the region more accessible and fostering social inclusion". she said.
"They have worked tirelessly this year to scope accessibility in the region and to bring their accessible beach pilot program to life. We hope it is the first step toward improving accessibility of beaches in the region."
PF SLSC projects officer Paul Buchanan said he hoped the program would become the "gold standard" for beach accessibility in Victoria.
"Seeing local residents of Moyne Shire be able to easily access our beautiful East Beach, using beach wheelchairs, personal hoists, beach walkers, and floating chairs was heart-warming," he said.
"Plans are now underway for the regular laying of beach matting to provide wheelchair beach access, storage and lending protocols for beach wheelchairs and other accessibility aids, all-abilities pathways from carparks to the beach, and provision of all-abilities change, shower and toilet facilities close to the beach access".
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