Welcome to our March Newsletter,
We can’t believe how quickly this year is going already! From our perspective, the time has flown by as we busy ourselves with a number of important projects both local and further afield including the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Rising Events in Mumbai, the Sydney Myer Music Festival. We’re also excited to see that Brisbane has been selected as the preferred candidate for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032.
Closer to our home in Melbourne, every January the world travels to our city to enjoy the Australia Open Tennis Championships, including the Wheelchair Championships. Despite the ongoing pandemic and a five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown, Melburnians and interstate guests alike were lucky enough to witness this year’s Open as intended – in a (COVID-safe) stadium atmosphere. Amongst the fanfare, we think it’s important to recognise the work that’s required to ensure these large-scale events remained safe, accessible and enjoyable for all, even during challenging times.
From our perspective, MGAC’s ongoing role is to work with Tennis Australia and its partners, installers, corporate agencies, and certifiers from the City of Melbourne to make sure the event is seamlessly accessible and design sound. While we provide design oversight and expert advice in these situations, it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the ground staff and on-the-ground organisers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes. These largely unsung heroes put in long hours to ensure that the 2021 Australian Open was accessible and family friendly, regardless of the new challenges the COVID-19 restrictions presented. From the entire MGAC team, we extend a hearty “thank you”. On a more personal note, I was also particularly pleased to see my mate Dylan Alcott win his seventh consecutive Australian Open title and the 12th grand slam of his career – what a champion!
Our involvement with Melbourne Park and its partners isn’t limited to this one momentous event. Along with extra planning and strategising for a COVID-safe Open, we have also been assisting with the design and development of the new Function & Media Centre, Show Court Arena, and the podium landscape at Melbourne Park.
We are pleased to be a driving force behind increased accessibility features throughout this important Melbourne landmark and community space. Along with the development of physical spaces such as changing places, parent facilities and accessible amenities with baby change tables, we’ve been instrumental in recommending other universal design features throughout Melbourne Park. Our design plans for the future space feature Wi-Fi hearing augmentation, accessible and enhanced amenity seating within the show court and at field of play level, and a landscape with shade and rest areas across the site. While these permanent accessibility features and facilities weren’t operational for this year’s Australian Open, we look forward to seeing them in action for next year’s event, and all Melbourne Park events to follow.
Beyond these more permanent design features, the need for greater accessibility at these large-scale events also extends to more impermanent requirements. For example, every year event organisers are presented with the challenge of providing accessible temporary overlay for the Open event. While there are still persistent challenges around accessibility overlays and widgets that provide open and equal access to all participants and attendees, the Australian Open event demonstrated that proper consideration of this accessibility point should be inherent to every event.
This consideration extends to more temporary physical features as well. During the Open, Birrarung Marr is transformed into the main entry, ticketing, information, and staff break out space for the duration of the event. Similarly, Melbourne Park becomes a mecca of sponsor showcasing, corporate entertainment and family friendly activity, with interactive displays and installations as primary draw cards. Despite the challenge of creating 3 zones as well as an athlete bubble, we’re very proud of what’s been achieved at this Open, including the accessibility created with Tennis Australia. It was a joy to see how the event, its features and facilities could be enjoyed by everyone – this is the true power of accessibility and universal design in action.
With a COVID-19 vaccine finally hitting our shores, Australia is well placed to continue setting great benchmarks in Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA), National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) individualised funding, and the provision of universal design for the built environment. Here’s hoping accessible housing requirements can make it into the National Construction Code (NCC).
On behalf of my partner, David Goding, and our team here we wish you all a great 2021.
Nick Morris (Director) and David Goding (Director)