Ever wanted to take a look around Canberra? Here are a few tips written by our guest blogger, Jesse Aungles… Born with his right leg 10 per cent shorter than the other and his left leg missing the fibula bone and ankle, Jesse had his left foot amputated and his hip reconstructed as a one-year-old.
“Hailing from Adelaide, Aungles took up swimming when he was less than a year old to improve muscle development and aid his strength. Fast forward 26 years and Aungles has represented his country on multiple occasions and now has a Commonwealth Games gold medal to his name. Since 2014, Aungles has also competed at his first Paralympics – Rio 2016 – as well as Para Pan Pacs and World Championships. Specialising in the individual medley, he attributes winning gold as part of the 4x100m medley relay team at the 2014 Para Pan Pacs as one of his greatest and most rewarding experiences.” Swimming Australia. Read more about Jesses achievements.
I’ve had the opportunity to call Canberra home for 6 eventful years. Pair that with the fact that I’ve never been one for letting the weekend pass me by and you have a recipe for tourism gold. I have also gained a unique perspective on the sights of Canberra through the lens of my disability. As a double leg amputee accessibility is key. To compile the best list on where to go in the capital I have also contacted some Paralympic team mates who are wheelchair users. Hopefully you can learn something from our experience and have an awe inspiring and accessible encounter with Canberra!
THE NATIONAL ARBORETUM was born from the ashes of the 2003 Christmas bush fires that ravaged Canberra. The area is now a vibrant wash of gardens, forests and unique architecture. The main amphitheater features a cafe, restaurant and gift shop (the usual). However, the real draw card is the beautiful view you can enjoy from inside whilst navigating the exhibition items that will captivate any nature enthusiast. My favourite of which is the National Bonsai Collection of Australia. If the views thus far have taken your fancy, I would highly recommend taking the road up to the top of the arboretum to a lookout called Dairy Farmers Hill.
From the Snowy to the BLUE MOUNTAINS, I have sort out many spectacular views in the NSW/ACT region, and this is undoubtably my favourite spot of all. A little bonus is that not many people venture this far up the hill and you can enjoy the view in peace and quiet. Relatively speaking accessibility isn’t at its best here, unfortunately Canberra hasn’t really found out about public transportation yet, so you will need a car. However, disability car parking is plentiful and every major viewing angle and activity is designed with accessibility in mind. To get the best out of your trip you may need to walk or push your way up some slight hills but you have my promise, it’ll be worth it.
THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL It’s hard to leave the Memorial without a humbling perspective shift, absolutely a must visit. Be prepared as the collection is vast and to throughly appreciate the displays each exhibit is best given some time to sink in. While the themes can be mature the War Memorial doesn’t have to be avoided by those with a family. There are interactive displays that will engage all audiences. Some exhibits feature astonishingly large and unique planes, tanks and other military vehicles that are cleverly included into audio visual displays.
Check the website before hand as matching the timing of your visit to the changing of the guard or one of the daily tours is a far more immersive experience. If your lucky you may be able to plan to coincide with a more significant event and lay a wreath in the remembrance hall or watch a re-enactment.
The War Memorial is in theory 100% accessible… In theory. Unfortunately, the maze like structure can be difficult to navigate, so expect to get lost. This can add to your immersion but sometimes you just really want to find the lift or the accessible bathroom. The War Memorial does have accessible disability parking, bathrooms, lifts and even public transport. So good marks there, but you will definitely go in a few circles through the convoluted layout trying to find them. My advice would be to consider asking for guidance early and make sure you remember to bring your patience; again, it’ll be worth it.
AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF SPORT TOUR Welcome to the home of Olympic & Paralympic sport in Australia. Coincidentally it happens to be my home too, so come say hi. The AIS run tours 7 days a week through their high tech, world class sporting facilities that give the public a chance to glimpse their favourite athletes in action, while also providing some useful background knowledge on the world of elite sport. The first half of the tour starts with interactive exhibits where you can test out/show off your own sporting prowess and the second half is built around visiting a few key training facilities with an elite athlete tour guide. Keep your fingers crossed to get me. The best time to visit for a tour is 3-5pm each week night and 9-11:30am Saturday morning. These times have the best odds of catching the gymnastics, volleyball, swimming, weightlifting and basketball athletes in their training environment.
The AIS has outstanding accessibility with consideration for parking, bathrooms, lifts, ramps and even tour support for hearing impaired groups. The interactive exhibits showcase this nicely with many of the sports centred around Paralympic events like wheelchair track racing.
Now all that’s left is for you to enjoy your time in Canberra!
This blog has been published in collaboration with Kanguru Australia, a great supporter of The Good Scout and Jesse Aungles.. Jesse is also a Kanguru Ambassador representing what it truly means to be more!