Universal beach accessibility (U-BEACH) has been shortlisted for the Community Champion Award in Universities Australia's prestigious Shaping Australia Awards.
People's Choice voting is currently open with the finalists for the awards officially selected in January 2023 and the winners set to be revealed in February.
Led by CQUniversity researchers, Sasha Job, Steven Obst and Luke Heales, the U-Beach project has made significant contributions to regional communities by working to provide beach access to people of all abilities.
The U-Beach research program led to the introduction of the region’s first disability access beach mat at Nielson Park Beach, which was supported by Bundaberg Regional Council and is stored by Bundaberg Surf Lifesaving Club.
CQUniversity's inaugural U-Beach Community Beach Day was held in Bundaberg last year and was attended by more than 250 people, with some participants enabled to experience the surf and sand for the first time in many years.
This work is now being adapted by communities in other parts of Australia to facilitate beach access by providing accessibility equipment and training for carers and volunteers.
The Shaping Australia Awards will help to celebrate these outstanding contributions that U-Beach has made to the community by recognising the team’s impact and efforts on a national platform.
Category finalists will be determined by the highest tally count across three categories (teaching, research and community service), and will receive $2,500 in prize money to help support their initiatives.
Sasha said the U-Beach team was grateful to be shortlisted and for the opportunity to share their learnings, inspire positive change, and advocate for universal beach access.
“U-Beach is not just a project; it's a movement towards inclusivity and accessibility,” she said.
“What started as a local initiative has evolved into a blueprint for communities across Australia.
“We are proud to see our work being adapted and replicated, making beaches more accessible nationwide.
“The Shaping Australia Awards provide a platform to share our learnings and inspire positive change.”
With an additional two U-Beach Community Beach Day events planned in Bundaberg this year, Sasha said the prize money would go a long way in supporting advocacy, training programs and specialised infrastructure and equipment and for these inclusive beach days.
Community can show their support and vote for the project under the community champion category here.