Page Improvements for Seniors
I seek leave to make a brief statement in relation to the petition that I have presented.
Madam Speaker, I have presented a petition signed by more than 150 Canberra residents in the Page area, calling on this Assembly to urge the ACT Government to implement the following improvements:
marking a designated pedestrian crossing across Burkitt St, Page, near its intersection with Birrell St;
developing a walking path along Birrell St between Burkitt St and the park bounded by Knaggs Cr and Birrell St; and
installing the following in this park: benches and outdoor fitness equipment for older users, including shade structures for some of the benches; a swing set for preschool-age children; and a water bubbler.
According to the latest census, Madam Speaker, nearly 27 per cent of the residents in the suburb of Page, which is located in my electorate of Ginninderra, are 65 years of age or over. This is more than double the average for the territory. Importantly, 8.5 per cent of residents are 85 years old or over. Significantly, this is more than five times the territory’s average!
Many of these older residents live in three retirement villages, all located next to each other in Burkitt Street: Ridgecrest Retirement Village, Villaggio Sant’ Antonio and Bill McKenzie Gardens. It is essential that public infrastructure in Page meet the needs of these seniors, who make up more than one-quarter of the suburb’s population.
I remind this Assembly that the ACT Government has already committed itself on paper to the very principles that have informed and guided the community-minded Page residents who generated this petition and oversaw its circulation. The current ACT Active Ageing Action Plan specifically emphasises improving seniors’ ‘access and mobility around the community’ as well as developing an ‘age-friendly physical environment that promotes independence and safety’. It likewise commits the government to implementing ‘design features and recreational facilities that encourage seniors to remain physically active, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, [and] to be socially engaged’.
In a similar vein, the Heart Foundation also recommends that healthy, active neighbourhoods include ‘facilities like footpaths [and] road crossings’, as well as spaces that help people feel happier, ‘like green areas, parks, places to relax, and recreation facilities’.
The closest public park to the three retirement villages is the Birrell Street Playground, bounded by Birrell Street on one side and by Knaggs Crescent on the other. Both of these streets intersect Burkitt Street, but Birrell Street is much closer to all three retirement villages. Neither of these streets, however, includes a footpath of any kind.
Despite this lack, I have been told that seniors frequently use these streets for exercise in order to avoid the busy-ness of Burkitt Street. In fact, the current street-view image of the intersection of Birrell Street and Knaggs Crescent on Google Maps shows an older Canberran using a walking frame to make her way down what is a rather narrow street.
Clearly, Madam Speaker, this situation does not satisfy the stated outcomes in the government’s Active Ageing Action Plan. Expecting seniors of any ability to share the street with cars and other motorised traffic neither improves their mobility nor promotes their safety. Without question, better enabling Page’s many older residents to feel confident enough to take much-needed and much-desired walks to the neighbourhood park requires a designated footpath be added to Birrell Street. And this is true whether people are walking unaided, walking with the assistance of walking sticks or walking frames, or travelling with wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
Because the three retirement villages and also the only footpath in Burkitt Street are located along the north side of the street, residents of the retirement villages as well as other pedestrians also need a marked pedestrian crossing to connect the existing footpath with the new footpath in Birrell Street. This is necessary because Burkitt is a very busy street with a relatively large volume of traffic.
This petition also seeks the installation of certain equipment in the Birrell Street Park. I should note here that the ACT Government already made an upgrade to playground equipment in this park in May last year. This has certainly been a welcome addition, but the signers of this petition are suggesting additional equipment that would make this park even more appealing across all generations. Specifically, they are asking for benches where tired residents could rest from their exercise, some with shade, as there are currently only two benches in the park, and one of them needs repairing. They are also asking for a swing set for very young children, for whom the new equipment is too advanced.
Making the Birrell Street Park attractive to families with very young children, seniors, and everyone in between would go far in fulfilling the ACT Government’s stated commitment to supporting initiatives that bring the generations together, reinforce respect for seniors, and reduce social isolation. The government could also fulfil its commitment to support seniors to develop healthy lifestyles by granting these petitioners’ request for outdoor fitness equipment, similar to that recently installed in John Knight Park.
Local community members have already demonstrated strong initiative in utilising this park in a way that brings all ages together. A community Christmas party was held there in 2016, with more than 100 people in attendance, and another one is planned for this Christmas. In addition, a community barbecue was held in May last year to celebrate the opening of the new playground. A bubbler in the park would help make such future events even more attractive and would encourage more daily use of the facilities as well, especially during hot weather.
In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I note that in preparing this petition, members of the Page community consulted with and sought input from residents in both Knaggs Crescent and Birrell Street. They also received support for their proposals from the general managers and activities coordinators at all three retirement villages. They moreover made these suggestions to government representatives in December last year and again in early January this year, but three months later, they have received no response.
Madam Speaker, this petition contains careful, reasonable and well-thought-out proposals. If members of this government are serious about their stated commitment to make Page an age-friendly suburb, they will take note of these proposals and respond in a timely fashion.
I commend this petition, with its 157 signatures, to the Assembly.