Cats and GMHBA Stadium embrace fans with sensory issues

With its new certification, the Geelong Cats and Kardinia Park Stadium Trust is now better prepared to assist guests with sensory sensitivities in having the most comfortable and accommodating experience possible when attending any event.

Sensory sensitivities or challenges with sensory regulation are often experienced by individuals with autism, dementia, PTSD and other similar conditions. One of the major barriers for these individuals is sensitivity to over-stimulation and noise, which is an enormous part of the environment in a venue like GMHBA Stadium. 

Sensory bags, equipped with noise cancelling headphones, fidget tools and verbal cue cards will also be available to all guests at three locations around the ground for guests who may feel overwhelmed by the environment. These fans will also be able to visit a dedicated Sensory Room including a quiet space and a multi-sensory room with equipment donated by Geelong organisations, BCYF and Percy Baxter Perpetual Trust.

The sensory space has been trialed over the first two AFL match days at GMHBA Stadium this season, with over 20 families utilizing the space.

“This initiative allows for more individuals and families to be able to enjoy our great game of Australian Rules football,” Geelong Cats CEO Brian Cook said.

“To have seen the impact that this zone has already had over two games has been extraordinary. It has changed the accessibility of our game.  Now more people can attend and enjoy AFL football. This is a game changing initiative and one that we have been working on for close to two years.

“So many groups have supported the club and come together to bring this to life. This permanent structure will benefit users of the stadium on non-AFL event days as well, and it will be available throughout the year.

“We thank our partners Kane Constructions for undertaking the building works for free,  BCYF donating close to $100,000 in equipment, KultureCity for its expert guidance and international perspective, Untapped Group for its funding and focus on the strengths of our fans. The Geelong Cats would love to see this new facility as standard practice at all stadiums in Australia.”

The Kardinia Park Stadium Trust believes the initiative further enhances Geelong’s standing as an innovative city.

“Geelong is setting the benchmark when it comes to being a creative and forward-thinking city,” Michael Malouf, Chair, Kardinia Park Stadium Trust said.

“GMHBA Stadium is an incredibly important part of our community and we are proud to partner with the Geelong Football Club to lead the way with this world class inclusive initiative. 

“From AFL and the A-League, to community events such as Festival of Sport and Movie Night, it is of the upmost importance to the Trust to provide all guests a safe, positive and comfortable experience at the Stadium all year round.

“Today we join some of the world’s leading Stadiums by becoming Sensory Inclusive accredited. This is something the whole Geelong community can truly be proud of.”

KultureCity know first-hand the difference that the sensory space will make to people attending events at GMHBA stadium.

“To know that you will be able to see families attend a football game or major event, a true community binding experience, with their loved ones who have a sensory challenge and who were not able to previously attend, is truly a heartwarming moment,” Uma Srivastava, COO KultureCity said.

“Our communities are what shapes our lives and to know this community is willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included is amazing.”

The Untapped Group, led by Director and Co-Founder Gerard Blood have supported the creation of the Sensory Zone.

“It is a great honour to be part of creating this Sensory Zone that creates a sensory inclusive space to provide universal accessibility for any person with a sensory issue including autistic people,” Blood said.

“Untapped Group leverages the talents of autistic people in software testing and cybersecurity for the Australian Government and for banks. This partnership enables us to support a significant number of people being able to enjoy a football game, or other event, at the stadium in the knowledge that they will have somewhere to go if they need to retreat to a quiet space.“

We thank our collaborating partners: Leisure Networks, Deakin University, BCYF, Barwon Paediatric Services, Kane Constructions, Latrobe Community Health Service, NDIS, G21, Gateways Support Services, Armstrong Creek School, Diversitat, Early Childhood Early Intervention Working Group, City of Greater Geelong and the Percy Baxter Charitable Trust managed by Perpetual.

Article written by Stacey Oates, Geelong Cats and reproduced with permission.