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U-BEACH brings home prestigious award

U-BEACH Australia award
Left to right: UA Chair Professor David Lloyd, Ms Sasha Job, Dr Luke Heales, Hon Jason Clare MP. Photo: contributed.

CQUniversity-led project Universal Beach Accessibility Hub (U-BEACH) has won the Community Champion Award at the Universities Australia (UA) 2023 Shaping Australia Awards.

Launched by UA last September, the Shaping Australia Awards celebrate the contribution universities and the people within them make to the country each day.

The Community Champion Award specifically recognised U-BEACH for the initiative’s exceptional impact in improving beach accessibility for individuals with disabilities or mobility limitations.

Led by CQUniversity neurological physiotherapy and research higher degree candidate Sasha Job, with research supervisors Dr Steven Obst and Dr Luke Heales, U‐BEACH is the first study to develop and evaluate the impact of a universal beach accessibility program.

The award was presented to Ms Job and Dr Heales by the Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare Job at a gala ceremony held at Parliament House in Canberra, with than 800 people in attendance including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Ms Job expressed her gratitude to UA for highlighting the collaborative project and support in creating positive societal change.

“This award is a testament to the collaborative spirit and dedication of our team, as well as the unwavering support from our partners and communities,” Ms Job said.

“Together, we are breaking down barriers and fostering a more inclusive society where everyone can enjoy the beach.”

Through research, advocacy, and community engagement, U-BEACH seeks to create inclusive environments where everyone can enjoy the benefits of beach-based activities and therapeutic interventions.

U-Beach shortlisting splash for Community award
Sasha Job helping a student access the beach in 2023. Photo: file.

U-BEACH has already led to significant improvements in beach accessibility across Queensland, and notably helping to launch the inaugural CQUniversity U-BEACH Community Beach Day event in 2023.

These achievements were praised by the Shaping Australia Awards judging panel of eminent Australians, who selected four winners from 18 high calibre finalists. The three awards categories encapsulated excellence in research, teaching, and community service.

An additional three winners with the highest vote counts were selected by the Australian community through a people’s choice voting system.

Shaping Australia Awards judging panel Chair Lisa Paul AO PSM congratulated all the winners and finalists on driving such important initiatives.

“Australia’s universities are amazing places that contribute so much to the country we’re proud to call home, and to the lives of all Australians, through cutting-edge research, teaching and service to the community,” Ms Paul said.

“Winning initiatives that had the edge ultimately came down to how the problem that needed a solution was communicated, and how wide-reaching the impact of the solution was.”

Universities Australia Chief Executive Officer Luke Sheehy said the Shaping Australia Awards was all about celebrating the rich contribution universities make to the nation, and the work showcased through our finalists is worth applauding.

“Australia is stronger for the transformative research, world-class teaching and the community spirit our universities support and deliver,” Mr Sheehey said.

“We look forward to opening the 2024 Shaping Australia Awards later this year.”

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.

A full description of the winning projects is available on the Shaping Australia Awards website.

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