National Disability Service calls for a rethink on NT Government’s tourism strategy


Posted

December 08, 2019 11:49:38

The National Disability Service is hoping the NT Government will rethink its tourism plans, after its latest strategy failed to include any improvements to disability access.

Key points:

  • Accessible tourism could be worth $10.4 billion to the Australian economy
  • Mindil Beach could become the NT’s first accessible beach, after a funding commitment from Darwin Council
  • The NT Government’s new Tourism Strategy did not address accessible tourism

Before becoming a quadriplegic five years ago, Darwin man Brett Peebles hadn’t ever thought about accessibility in Australia.

“You see the wheelchair spaces and you see all the bits and pieces and you think, ‘oh yeah, that’s nice people can get in there and do that’,” said Mr Peebles.

“It’s not until you experience it and deal with it yourself, that you go, ‘oh well I need a little bit more than what is available’.”

Mr Peebles became a quadriplegic as a result of a crash on the Stuart Highway after a tyre blowout on his car caused it to roll.

Five years later, he’s getting used to getting around Darwin in a wheelchair but still finds there are places that are impossible for him to access.

“I haven’t been onto the beach at all. I haven’t been able to go fishing,” he said.

“Anything that involves you more or less going off-road, accessibility is tricky.”

‘Right now that’s not happening’

For most people, a trip to the beach just means throwing towels and sunscreen in a bag before running onto the sand.

But for Australians with mobility issues, it can be almost impossible.

“It’s really important that everyone can be included on the beach and right now that’s not happening but hopefully that will happen soon,” said Shane Hryohrec, from disability equipment provider Push Mobility.

A recent call for action has seen Darwin City Council commit $20,000 to making Darwin’s famous Mindil Beach accessible to those with mobility issues.

Mobi-Mat is a removable mat that can be rolled out over the sand, allowing wheelchairs and prams easy access to the sand and sunset at Mindil Beach.

“The Mobi-Mat was originally designed for defence in France and then they realised that people in wheelchairs could benefit from using the Mobi-Mat just as much as trucks in army situations,” said Mr Hryohrec.

Despite City of Darwin’s commitment, Mobi-Mat still requires additional funding before it is rolled out in Darwin.

It is the first of what the National Disability Service (NDS) hopes will be a series of inclusive changes around the Northern Territory, with a push for an Accessible Tourism Strategy to be developed.

No mention of accessible tourism in new strategy

“There are so many millions of Australians that do travel with a disability every year, so let’s get them up here,” said NDS Northern Territory Manager Susan Burns.

“Let’s start in Darwin, Alice, Tennant and Katherine.. then work further outward as well,” she said.

The NDS is calling for all tourism hotspots to be made accessible to people of all abilities.

“In 2017, $3.3 billion was spent on tourism activities by persons of all abilities,” Ms Burns said.

Figures from 2018 from specialist travel agency, Travability, showed the contribution of accessible tourism to the Australian visitor economy was $10.8 billion.

But despite the economic interest, the Northern Territory Government’s recently released tourism strategy made no mention of accessible tourism.

The tourism department didn’t respond to questions, but issued a statement saying it is “developing a number of key development strategies” to address accessible tourism and will “host an accessible tourism expert” at a conference in 2020.

Topics:

disabilities,

local-government,

governance,

tourism,

travel-and-tourism,

rural-tourism,

darwin-0800



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