GALLERY: Luke's Place a playground for everyone

Rita Rapley wiped tears from her eyes and hugged her son Luke tightly as she watched politicians from all sides mark the start of construction of the region's first inclusive public playground on Friday.

To be called Luke's Place in honour of the little boy who inspired its creation, the Corrimal park will be a game changer for the Rapley family, because it will allow the bright, active four-year-old the freedom to play freely and safely with other kids for the first time.

Luke has been diagnosed with multiple disabilities, including autism, which means taking him to most parks can be a minefield for the Rapley family.

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"I've noticed this year even more that we couldn't really go out and play because he's growing up and he's getting quicker at taking off," Ms Rapley said.

Speaking at the park's sod-turning ceremony yesterday at Corrimal Memorial Park, Luke's dad Sean said how life-changing it would be for his son and other Illawarra children with disabilities.

"Luke's Place began with a simple dream of participation and inclusion," Mr Rapley said.

"These are simple things we often take for granted, but if you are living with a disability it is not so simple.

"That simple dream starts with a playground, because the playground is the first place where a child meets a friend and the first place a child learns to interact with the community."

The $250,000 playground - jointly funded by Wollongong City Council and Sydney-based charity Touched By Olivia - will have the region's first carousel which can be used by children with physical disabilities as well as other children.

It will also have colour-coded, textured sections for visually impaired kids and areas where hearing-impaired children can interact with noise and vibration.

Children with autism or other cognitive disorders will be able to play in different active and quiet zones.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, Keira MP Ryan Park and Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka joined the Rapleys at Corrimal Memorial Park to celebrate the bipartisan effort which made the playground possible.

Construction begins next week and it is expected to open in April.

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