FLYING on a swing through the air, feeling as free as a bird, is something that most children take for granted. For 23-year-old Naikia Taylor, who has been in a wheelchair all her life, having the chance to experience the joy of weightlessness on the new Liberty swing in South Lismore's Nesbitt Park is a wonderful new experience.
The wheelchair-accessible swing was officially launched this week by Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell, who was happy to see Naikia laughing as she swung through the air.
"Anyone who sees the joy of someone on the swing can't help but be moved," Mayor Dowell said. "It's one of life's simple pleasures. Most of the time, people in wheelchairs have never been on a swing and this one is easy to operate for everyone."
The Liberty swing was funded by a $10,000 contribution from children's charity Variety NSW and $50,000 from Lismore City Council through a federal government grant.
Bruce Taylor, from Variety NSW said the charity's ambition was to have a Liberty swing in every council area. Variety has already funded more than 70 swings in NSW, including one in Ballina.
"It's an Australian invention," Mr Taylor said. "When I saw it for the first time and how it lit up the faces of the people on it like it was Christmas time, I knew we had to work towards having them installed everywhere. We wouldn't be able to do it without the support of the local council because the swing also needs fencing installed and soft-fall ground cover around it."
Nesbitt Park has also been transformed by the addition of a one-kilometre walking trail that circles the park, as well as a new car park, co-funded by Council and the federal government. Future plans for the park also include the construction of an all-access amenities block.
"This has become our all-abilities park," Mayor Dowell said. "It now has level surfaces for wheelchair accessibility and modifications to the park tables to allow easy access for people in wheelchairs. Everyone can now come and use the swing, the children's play area and the free BBQ."
The Liberty swing was installed earlier in the year, but had been vandalised.
"There was a community outcry about it and now we've had it fixed," Mayor Dowell said.
More projects launched
Lismore City Council and the local community had a lot to celebrate this week with the launch of a number of federally funded projects worth almost $700,000.
The Lismore City Hall Dance Studio has been refurbished with a new dance floor, air conditioning, lighting and sound equipment, making it the only facility of its type in the Lismore area.
"It's already being used for dance classes and we've held some performances in there already," Mayor Dowell said. "These projects, including stage two of Nesbitt Park have been designed to improve local services and recreational facilities."
Lismore Library has also been upgraded to feature a new access ramp that will ensure easier access for some of its key users, including families with prams and people with disabilities.