Tamworth Regional Council recognises those going the extra mile with 2016 Access Awards

HONOURED: From left: 2016 Access Award winners Ann Sumner from News on Wheels and Billabong Clubhouse's Joan Wakeford with Tamworth Regional Council deputy mayor Helen Tickle. Photo: Jacob McArthur

HONOURED: From left: 2016 Access Award winners Ann Sumner from News on Wheels and Billabong Clubhouse's Joan Wakeford with Tamworth Regional Council deputy mayor Helen Tickle. Photo: Jacob McArthur

TAMWORTH recognised the extra efforts of some local businesses going out of their way to give a boost to our disadvantaged locals.

Joan Wakeford – a founding committee member of the Billabong Clubhouse – and Ann Sumner from the News on Wheels group were named winners of the 2016 Access Awards, with Ben Davies from the Quality Powerhouse earning a highly commended honour.

The winners were celebrated for “showing initiative” in increasing access, but they said it wasn’t about recognition.

Ann Sumner better known to the region as the one of the voices of News on Wheels, providing recordings of the region’s news for people with vision impairment, reading difficulties or no access to local newspapers.

“Once a week, we record an hour’s worth of regional news on to a CD,” Mrs Sumner said.

“In a sense we try to chat to the people – not about the horror stories and the drug stories, not the bad news –  the more interesting news.”

The CDs are distributed across the region and Mrs Sumner said the organisation doesn’t get a lot of feedback from its followers.

“But they all want to keep receiving the CDs,” she said.

“We record on a Saturday morning, so I’ll be holding up these two awards telling our listeners all about it, so that will be great fun.”

Former chair and founding committee member of the Billabong Clubhouse, Joan Wakeford was recognised for her efforts in establishing the local service.

She said there was nothing of its kind in Tamworth before the Clubhouse was opened in 1998.

“If a person had an experience of mental illness there was nothing for them to ease back into a normal life,” Mrs Wakeford said.

“Somewhere for them  to get out their four walls and get the ready for a job again.

In the years since, Mrs Wakeford said the Clubhouse’s evolution had exceeded her expectations but admitted the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) would pose a challenge for the service.

“Instead of knowing year to year that we’ll get funding, we’ve got slot into the NDIS now,” she said.

“A lot of NGOs new to Tamworth are probably going to compete for that funding.”

Ben Davies from the Quality Hotel Powerhouse was highly commended for sharing cooking skills with disabled people and said he gets a lot from the experience.

“We’ve got two adult children and it just makes us realise how fortunate we are and that we should give back to the community,” Mr Davies said.

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