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Caroline Ghatt and Tim Smith with their son Marcus
Council is set to rename a Belrose Reserve which includes an all abilities children’s playground in honour of the young man who inspired an innovative approach to making playgrounds more inclusive and enjoyable for kids of all abilities.
Council will apply to the NSW Geographical Names Board to rename a reserve in Lindrum Street after Marcus Alexander Ghatt Smith, who passed away earlier this year at just 12 years of age.
Marcus was the son of Caroline Ghatt and Tim Smith, the co-founders of the social innovation collective ‘Play For All Australia’, which is dedicated to advancing inclusive ‘all abilities sensory playground’ design.
Caroline and Tim worked with Northern Beaches Council on a world-first pilot project spanning five Belrose playgrounds, all built around the principles of sensory play for children.
Caroline and Tim got involved when Northern Beaches Council sought community input on a new playground in their area.
Caroline took to social media, expressing her disappointment in what was proposed. As she said, Marcus could go to the edge of a typical playground in his wheelchair - but then could not participate in any of the activities within the playground.
She argued that even the small suburban playground can foster play for kids of all abilities, not just the larger purpose-made ones.
Impressed, Council set Caroline and Tim the challenge to design five Belrose playground upgrades.
The playgrounds they had in mind were Maple Reserve, Windrush Reserve, Pusan Reserve, Wentworth Reserve - and the reserve in Lindrum Street.
Caroline and Tim consulted with developmental experts, special needs occupational therapists, early educators, designers, engineers, industrial designers, architects and other parents to design a network of playgrounds “based around the senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and movement”.
On 24 August 2017, the first of the five playgrounds was unveiled in Lindrum Street.
Since then, all five playgrounds have been completed – and at a fraction of the cost of similar playgrounds.
Featuring locally designed and produced equipment made from sustainable materials, the playgrounds have solar panels, self-watering plant boxes and ‘surprise and delight’ features - all topped-off with bright, colourful artwork.
A key design objective has been to empower each child to make choices and decisions about how they play.
Caroline and Tim hope this is just the start of a revolution in inclusive playground design that will spread around Australia.
“For 12 years, we were lucky to be Marcus' parents, in that we didn't raise Marcus, he raised us,” said Caroline.
“Marcus raised in us a new way to see the world.
“In a world that too often seeks to confine and reduce, he raised us up to see people first. Not as a condition, not as a limitation, not as a label - but as a human spirit."
For now Caroline, Tim and the ‘Play For All Australia’ collective are working with Northern Beaches and other councils to fulfil Marcus’ legacy.