Headstones removed from new inclusive playground in South Windsor following complaints

The removal of novelty headstones from a new playground for children with disabilities following complaints over the suitability of the items in an inclusive play area has been labelled a "storm in a teacup".

Bearing the inscriptions "Game over, No respawn ..." "I told you I was sick", and "See other side", the headstones were removed from the new Church Street Reserve playground at South Windsor last Friday after complaints were received that the items were inappropriate.

Fun times: One of the young attendees has a ball on a swing at the opening of the park on Monday. Pictures: Geoff Jones.

Fun times: One of the young attendees has a ball on a swing at the opening of the park on Monday. Pictures: Geoff Jones.

Council's general manager Peter Conroy issued a statement saying the reserve was chosen to showcase the 'everyone can play' program, the objective of which was "to demonstrate what can be achieved through better design" .

The program featured extensive public consultation and council liaised with local preschools and Aboriginal groups with designer Ric McConahy on the concept, which was provided to the State Government.

"Ric McConahy and his team were inspired by the name and location of the Reserve, being in Church Street, to design a little town for children to play in that reflected local history and surrounds," he said.

"The resulting plans included references to the churches and cemeteries which are so prominent in the Windsor area, and on public view in many spaces. This was something that the designer found quite unique to the local area.

"The headstones were included at the back of the church ruins, which are a feature of the little town that reflects community life. Also included is a market place, little 'streets', formal gardens, a soapbox and a story circle.

"As such, the Hawkesbury's history and culture was represented in the playspace design.

"The headstones were removed prior to the opening. This was due to public concern about having headstones in a play area and that it may be upsetting for children.

"The headstones, originally purchased some years ago by council for use in its heritage cemeteries, were re-purposed for this project. They have been returned to storage."

The playground was officially opened on Monday, June 24 with speeches, free coffee and cupcakes.

Monday's cold and wet conditions failed to dampen the enthusiasm of more than 50 local children and their parents from attending the opening.

Council worked with the State Government on the project, which provided $500,000 for design and construction under its Accelerated Open Space and Parklands Program.

Mayor Barry Calvert said the playground was a "big step forward for the Hawkesbury" and the headstone issue had been "a bit of a storm in a teacup".

Only a few complaints had been received over the headstones but council took action to remove them as the whole concept of the playground was to be inclusive, he said.

"The idea of the park was to be inclusive and if some people felt the headstones didn't make them feel included then it went against the idea of the park," he told the Gazette.

"The designer was quite happy with that, he didn't realise some people might be offended and he was happy to remove them."

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, who was on hand for the official opening, confirmed her office had fielded some complaints about the headstones and passed them on to council.

"A couple of local residents got in touch with me about the matter last week and I raised it with council for them to respond to, which they obviously have," she said.

Mayor Barry Calvert, Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, Cr Danielle Wheeler and Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett with some of the estimated 50 children present.

Mayor Barry Calvert, Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, Cr Danielle Wheeler and Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett with some of the estimated 50 children present.

"More importantly, council unveiled a lovely inclusive play space which has some of the key elements that people told me they wanted to see, when I consulted with the community.

"It's a good first step and I hope one day to be able to see it expand to a second stage."

Cr Calvert said he was hoping to work with Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston on a stage two for the park.

"The State Government provided most of the money and [council] provided most of the workforce," he said.

"I am looking forward to working with Robyn Preston on several other ventures like this."

A masterplan is now being created for the play space to include Oasis Fitness and Aquatic Centre, expanding the it subject to future funding opportunities," Mr Conroy said.

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman is shown how to operate the water pump by one of the young attendees on the day.

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman is shown how to operate the water pump by one of the young attendees on the day.