Community hero honoured with new accessible playspace

By Mary Brazell, 3 December 2022
A view of the plaque at the David Currie Playspace in St Clair. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

 

On the International Day of People with Disability, Catholic Outlook shares this article from September on the naming of a new playspace in Western Sydney in honour of local disability advocate David Currie.

The legacy of Western Sydney parishioner and community advocate David Currie will be remembered for decades to come after a local inclusive playspace was dedicated in his honour. At the same time, his own parish, Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair-Erskine Park, can welcome people with a wide variety of needs thanks to David’s advocacy for accessibility.

On Monday 19 September, a large group of Holy Spirit parishioners joined Penrith City Council Mayor Tricia Hitchen, NSW Member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies, Holy Spirit assistant parish priest Fr Peter Tangey OSA, David’s wife, Margaret, their children, grandchildren and friends for the official dedication ceremony of the David Currie Playspace in St Clair.

David Currie’s son Ian pushes his children in a swing during the dedication ceremony of the David Currie Playspace in St Clair. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

David, a long-term parishioner, was a passionate and tireless advocate for people with a disability, ensuring that all members of his community could engage in a fulfilling community life. He was an active member of the Penrith City Council’s Access committee for over 12 years and was named the Penrith Citizen of the Year in 2015. David passed away in January 2019.

Parish Moderator Fr Michael Belonio OSA is delighted that David has been honoured and remembered in this way. The church now experiences the benefits of David’s advocacy for ensuring all places are accessible to all people.

“David was a man of compassion and kindness, he was a welcomer and a long-time parishioner until his passing,” said Fr Michael.

“He took pride in the layout of the church when it was being renovated, ensuring that from the carpark to the altar there were no steps. We’re a parish that is ‘elderly friendly’, we can welcome parishioners in wheelchairs and lots of young parents with prams attend our church too. It’s part of being a welcoming and inclusive community for all generations and all abilities.

An October 2017 file photo of David Currie (third left) with NSW Member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies (third right) and members of the parish (L-R) Parish Moderator Fr Michael Belonio OSA, then-Assistant Priest Fr Sumesh Joseph, then-Assistant Priest Fr Kim Phu Tran, Margaret Currie, and PPC Chairperson Fleur Mathias after receiving a grant from the NSW government for their pergola outside the church. Image: Supplied

“David ensured there was no hindrance for anyone going into the church. He saw his disability as not being a limitation.

“Our Augustinian charism is community-focussed, being one mind, one heart, and I really feel that David, and all of our parishioners, embody that vision in their day-to-day lives.”

During the dedication ceremony, Councillor Hitchen paid respect to her “good friend”, honouring David’s “outstanding contribution to our community”.

“David dedicated his time and energy over several decades to improve the quality of life of others,” she said.

“His invaluable insight and guidance contributed to many initiatives that has helped improved accessibility for everyone on our community, regardless of their ability.”

(L-R) Penrith City Council Mayor Tricia Hitchen, Margaret Currie and NSW Member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies during the dedication ceremony of the David Currie Playspace in St Clair. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

As the local member, Ms Davies described David as an “extraordinary man” and was immensely proud that future generations will know of David’s legacy and impact on the community.

“I feel certain that there will be young children who will be inspired by his legacy, who will feel that if David can make a difference such as this, what can I do – and that legacy will continue for generation after generation,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Elizabeth Heggart, David’s daughter, said that the playspace, affectionately called by her daughter as “Poppo’s Park” will be a special place for the family to remember and celebrate their father and grandfather.

Penrith Mayor Tricia Hitchen (centre) and NSW Member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies (second right) check out the inclusive flying fox with David Currie’s daughter, Elizabeth Heggart (left), and grandchildren Lucas, Sophia, and Isla. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“I know Dad would be so proud of this inclusive playspace and what it means for those children in the community who need different and adapted play equipment so they can enjoy playgrounds just like able-bodied kids can.

“It makes us all so happy that Dad’s legacy of empathy, compassion and advocacy has been cemented in this playspace.”

Formerly known as Banks Drive Playground, the area is a fully-fenced, inclusive playspace with a variety of equipment for all ages and abilities including an accessible spinner, multi-bay swing, sensory play, wheelchair-accessible trampoline and an inclusive double flying fox.

A view of the David Currie Playspace in St Clair, named after Western Sydney parishioner and community advocate David Currie. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“I know David would have loved this place, because it’s designed to be inclusive for everyone. It’s where children and families of all ages and abilities can enjoy playing, relaxing or connecting with one another – a fitting reflection of David’s passion for making Penrith more accessible for everyone,” Cr Hitchen said.

In 2016, David received a Diocesan Medal of Honour, presented by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, for his advocacy and involvement in the parish community.

 

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