MELBOURNE NEWS

Community

Building belonging: a guide to access and inclusion in Melbourne

10 April 2024

Live, work and play in your neighbourhood supported by inclusive programs that welcome people of all ages, genders, abilities and backgrounds. 

We’ve recently delivered more than 60 actions from our Inclusive Melbourne Strategy and our Disability Access and Inclusion Plan to change our events, programs, services, facilities, systems and capabilities for the better. 

Whether you’re looking for a sensory garden, inclusive sports change rooms, a major festival with Auslan interpretation and mobility support, or anything in between, there’s lots to explore across the city. 

Here’s a small sample of places and programs delivered or supported by the City of Melbourne. Follow the below links if you want to jump to a particular section.

Are you experiencing homelessness? 

Every year we update a handy guide to all the services available in the City of Melbourne and surrounding suburbs for people experiencing homelessness. The Helping Out booklet is available in print and online.

You can also pick up a short information booklet produced by a group of people with lived experience of homelessness from our libraries and community hubs. Need To Know is published every two months, in partnership with Cohealth. 

“You can’t learn what we know, you have to live it. It’s coming from the inside, it’s not the outside speaking in.”

Need To Know zine contributor

Arts and culture 

Writing groups, workshops and book clubs 

Trans, gender diverse and other queer-identifying young people are invited into a safe space to connect, create, write and share ideas through our libraries. The Trans and Gender Diverse Writing Group is just one of our many library events and groups

“This is a group for learning writing skills, helping each other grow, but most of all it’s about community.” 

“We are here to show each other that we matter, we are worthy, and we deserve just as many writing and career opportunities as anyone else.”

Trans and Gender Diverse Writing Group members

Our libraries are also partnering with Seahorse Victoria, a longstanding trans support organisation, to highlight the voices of trans and gender diverse writers through the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards.

The feature category for 2024 will be ‘Stories by Trans and Gender Diverse Writers’ and there’ll be a range of workshops leading up to submissions opening on 1 April.

We also run a range of welcoming book clubs, including: 

A woman reading a book in a library
A local library user

Contemporary art from diverse voices 

Wander through city streets to see public art, like Gonketa’s vibrant mural in Rainbow Alley, which depicts some of Auslan’s 66 official hand shapes, each of which is used for numerous signs, to shine a light on Deaf culture. 

The street artist Gonketa standing in front of their work.
Gonketa in front of his Rainbow Alley mural

“I want passers-by to look at the hands on my mural, and look at their own, and be inspired to learn to sign. Many people don’t realise how often they are already using their hands to communicate in day-to-day life.”  

Gonketa

Then see groundbreaking D/deaf and Disability-led contemporary performance – such as theatre in Auslan – commissioned through the The Warehouse Residency at Arts House in North Melbourne. 

New quiet space at Arts House 

Slip away to the quiet space at Arts House in North Melbourne, which is used as a prayer room, a parenting room, and by people who may feel overwhelmed, or who need to avoid or recover from sensory overload. The space includes soft furnishings, dimmable lights, sensory and stimming objects, which are designed to provide sensory stimulation and help regulate the nervous system.

Creativity for children and young people 

ArtPlay brings together children (from babies to 13 years of age) and artists to explore and create innovative experiences that encourage self-expression and playful exchange at Birrarung Marr. Activities and sensory play are offered for children of all abilities. Meet 8 amazing artists aged under 12

A group of children in colourful costumes, holding assorted signs
Members of the By Kids for Kids collective

For those a little older, Signal is the City of Melbourne’s creative studio for people aged 14 to 25 years, located at Northbank. The program offers diverse young people the opportunity to work alongside professional artists in a collaborative way, through multi-artform workshops and mentoring.

Continuous improvement 

Making our city accessible and inclusive for all is a journey, and we’re always on the lookout for community feedback and ideas. Through our Excellent City events, for example, we’ve explored what design excellence means to the community through topics such as embracing Country, intersectional gender equity, and how we can create “a city of play”. To browse current opportunities to have your say, visit Participate Melbourne.

Celebrations, events and entertainment 

Our iconic events and festivals – from Moomba to YIRRAMBOI – are designed to be inclusive and accessible for diverse people. Here are some examples of ways to get the most out of your city. 

Minus18’s Queer Formal  

Discover an inclusive celebration for LGBTQIA+ young people staged by Minus18 and supported by the City of Melbourne. Described as an “electric night of queer youth joy” the Queer Formal aims to give all young people a chance to dress up, bring a date, and to feel celebrated and part of a community.  

The event welcomed 787 attendees in 2023, supporting them with youth workers, Auslan interpreters, friendship facilitation activities and much more. 

A person in a glamorous outfit performing on stage in front of a crowd
A presenter on stage at one of Minus 18’s Queer Formals

“I enjoyed all of it. For never going to an IRL minus 18 event before, I felt so safe the entire time. Even though I was wearing a dress (I’m non-binary), I didn’t get misgendered and it was awesome. I met a few new people and everyone was lovely. 10/10. Definitely would recommend this to someone else.” 

“It was the first time in my life that I have been able to express the most of myself, and walk about with a pride tattoo on my hand. It was the most validated I had ever felt in my identity, and the absence of shame from workers and performers was liberating to witness. It was my one night to be with people like me, and I really hope you continue with events like these that give kids a space to feel at home.”

Queer Formal attendees

Lord Mayor’s Iftar dinner 

The largest Lord Mayor’s Iftar Dinner was hosted at the Queen Victoria Market for 80 guests, building connection with the Muslim community and demonstrating City of Melbourne’s commitment to welcoming, celebrating, and understanding the many different faiths and cultures represented in our community. 

“I never thought I would feel safe praying in the middle of the city and sharing an Iftar with my community and the Lord Mayor.” 

“It was an iconically memorable Iftar that hit home.”

Iftar dinner participants

Dining and entertainment  

Explore welcoming, wheelchair-friendly restaurants with easy entries, open spaces and accessible toilets. Plan your foodie tour of Melbourne with handy dietary guides. And download sensory maps of some of Melbourne’s top attractions.  

All this and more can be found in What’s on Melbourne’s evolving guide to Accessible and inclusive Melbourne, which includes articles researched and written by an access consultant with lived experience of disability. 

A group of people dine in a classy restaurant. Two of the people are using wheelchairs.
Locals enjoy a night out at Pascale Bar and Grill

Getting around 

Eighteen per cent of Victorians live with a disability, so we continually evolve our spaces and resources to help everyone get the most out of community life. 

Check out our tips for accessible public transport, parking, taxi and rideshare services, and getting around Melbourne. Once you’re out and about, here are some ways to make it easy to get around. 

Mobility maps 

Locate accessible parking, public transport, toilets, recharging points, public seating, drinking fountains and more through this interactive access map or this printable central city mobility map. For more information, visit Access and mobility maps.  

A person at a tram stop, using crutches.
Tricia from Ringwood drives into the city and sometimes uses accessible trams

Beacon technology  

Download the BlindSquare app (available in more than 25 languages) to receive audio messages about intersections, transport, obstacles and disruptions to your phone. Beacon technology complements other mobility aids such as a cane or guide dog to help people with low vision or blindness navigate the city.  

Two people walk down a busy city street. One has a cane.

Wheelchairs, scooters and accessibility equipment  

Drop by Melbourne Town Hall at 120 Swanston Street to power up your electric scooter or wheelchair. Recharge points are also located at City Library, North Melbourne Library and East Melbourne Library, and the Traveller’s Aid centres at Flinders and Southern Cross stations.  

You can also rent equipment like scooters and walking sticks to help you move around the city from Traveller’s Aid centres. Book online or call 03 9068 8187. 

Supporting learner drivers and promoting road safety

We support the Salvation Army’s Drive for Life program, which helps young Melburnians without access to a car or supervising driver achieve independence. Sign up to be a driving mentor to change a life.

“Some young people really don’t have any other way to get their licence and it’s a really big thing in their lives if you can help them achieve that goal. If you have some spare time, becoming a Drive for Life mentor is a really worthwhile and rewarding way to spend it.”

Yung Huynh, Drive for Life mentor
A young learner driver smiles out of a car window. A mentor is sitting next to them.
Drive for Life is supporting health science student Clement Chang to get his licence

We also support Fit to Drive, a road safety education provider that runs workshops for year 11 and 12 students.

“Road trauma remains a devastating public health issue for all young people. Fit to Drive is committed to being a key part of young people’s journey to becoming safer road users. It is an immense privilege for us to work with diverse cohorts across Victoria every year.”

Danni Hickey, Fit to Drive
A group of high-school students sit in rows, listening and watching as a presenter speaks.
Young Melburnians at a Fit to Drive workshop

Health and wellbeing 

Sensory garden for people with dementia 

Bliss out in nature, get your hands dirty and enjoy garden-to-plate morning teas at Kensington’s sensory garden, a place where people living with dementia and their carers can come together for a weekly gardening and social group.  

A peaceful garden with a bench and signs reading "Jacaranda" and "Rosemary".
A sunny day in the sensory garden

Support for carers of all ages 

More than 2.6 million Australians provide support to a family member or friend, playing an invaluable role in the community. Carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and all religions.  Some are just 10 years old, while others are nearing 90. To browse our year-round program of carer support, visit Carers

Changing places and accessible toilets  

Public toilets with full-sized change tables, ceiling hoists and peninsula toilets are located at various locations in the city, including Melbourne Town Hall, Community Hub at the Dock, the new narrm ngarrgu library, RMIT, Melbourne Arena, Hamer Hall and Melbourne Cricket Ground.  

Access to these facilities allows people with high support needs to participate in all elements of community life. For a full list of locations, and a link to the National Public Toilet Map, visit Getting around Melbourne

“More Changing Places means widening the boundaries experienced by people with severe physical disabilities and giving them a greater choice of places to go.”

Community member

Free period care products

We are offering free period care products in some of our public facilities to help ensure everyone can manage the normal process of menstruation without embarrassment or stigma.

When people aren’t able to access these products, this can be a significant obstacle to emotional and physical health, comfort, and engagement with school and community activities.

Free pads and tampons are available at various locations, including:

  • Library at The Dock
  • City Library
  • Carlton Baths
  • Melbourne Town Hall public toilets on Collins Street
  • North Melbourne Community Centre
  • Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre.

BINS4Blokes

One in 10 men across Australia are living with some form of incontinence.

Melbourne is the first capital city in Australia to install incontinence product disposal bins in Council-owned facilities as part of the the BINS4Blokes initiative, led by the Continence Foundation of Australia.

You can find bins located in male and all-gendered toilets at the below locations, or search for them on the National Public Toilet Map.

  • Carlton Baths
  • City Library
  • Fawkner Park Senior Citizens Centre
  • Jean McKendry Neighbourhood Centre
  • Kathleen Syme Community Centre
  • Kensington Neighbourhood Centre
  • Library at the Dock
  • Melbourne Town Hall public toilets (on Collins Street)
  • North Melbourne Community Centre.

Sunflower products to signal hidden disabilities 

Pick up a free Hidden Disability sunflower product, like a lanyard or wristband, to discreetly signify that you may need extra assistance or considerations as you spend time in the city. The products are available at our events, tourism hubs, all our libraries, and the Traveller’s Aid centres at Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations.    

A person wearing a green wristband with sunflowers printed on it.
Sunflower products like wristbands and lanyards can be used to discreetly signal a hidden disability

What is a hidden disability 

Globally, one billion people live with disabilities that are not immediately obvious. These disabilities are extremely varied, but include autism, dementia, hearing loss, and chronic illness.   

Staff who wear a sunflower symbol at City of Melbourne events have undergone specific training about hidden disability and can offer assistance, support and understanding to help everyone enjoy the city.  

To find out more, visit Supporting people with hidden disabilities.   

TalktoMe app 

Developed by St Vincent’s Hospital, in collaboration with the City of Melbourne, the Talk to Me app helps to facilitate better conversations with patients and residents of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 

Learning and education 

Transgender Victoria’s employment skills program   

Transgender Victoria is delivering an employment skills program, supported by one of our Connected Communities grants.

As part of this, the City of Melbourne was showcased as an inclusive employer at a jobs fair for trans, gender diverse and non-binary people. This has led to enquiries and applications for employment. To learn more, visit Careers.

Laneway Learning 

Laneway Learning hosts regular Queer Social sessions for LGBTIQ+ people struggling with isolation and loneliness. Held at the Nicholas Building in the central city, these sessions are a place to learn new skills, be creative and connect with peers and friends. Learn more on the CBD neighbourhood portal

People look under the bonnet of a car in front of a colourfully painted wall with the word 'Naarm' on it
A Laneway Learning car-maintenance class

Minus 18 events 

LGBTQIA+ young people are invited to grow and learn through new program of free events delivered by Minus 18. Whether you’re seeking to advance your skills, build social connections, or support your mental wellbeing, this space welcomes all queer young people. 

Game Changers inclusive employment program 

This program, delivered in partnership by The Huddle and YMCA, provides free support to young people seeking employment, including resume writing, interview practice, and goal setting. Eight program graduates were supported to gain employment at City of Melbourne Recreation Facilities through the program. 

A young person in a blue tracksuit top giving the thumbs up
Akram

“It was pretty difficult, not going to lie, but I enjoyed doing multiple tasks, working in a team and learning how to manage a project. It was great to put a whole lot of skills I didn’t know I had into a project and completing something meaningful.” 

Akram

Read more of Akram’s story. 

River Nile 

An inspiring organisation in North Melbourne is providing classes for refugee and asylum seeker women who are not eligible for enrolment in government schools. Participants report increased confidence in using technology, improved English language skills, and a better understanding of healthcare in Australia, as well as job pathways. Meet some participants on the North Melbourne neighbourhood portal

Open Innovation Competition 

Community innovators, entrepreneurs and students came together earlier this year to pitch innovative solutions to enhance the impact international students and alumni make on our city. Meet the winners and keep an eye out for next year’s competition. 

A group of excited young people wearing suits and name badges
Open Innovation Competition teams wait to pitch their ideas

Tech Connect 

Head to your local library or community hub for one-on-one technology support sessions with trained tech helpers. Connect Cafe is for anyone wanting to learn about how to use a mobile, laptop or tablet, to connect better with family and friends and research or discover new interests.   

Muslim Youth Parliament 

A two-day Muslim Youth Parliament was held earlier this year, in partnership with the Islamic Council of Victoria, with 15 young people learning about the Australian political system and participating in a mock parliament.

Language and communication 

We provide translated and easy English information to help diverse people stay connected to their community. 

Customised communication boards are provided at all of our customer service points and libraries. These boards contain symbols and pictures and are an alternative communication device for people with limited or no language. 

We’ve also upgraded our website to include comprehensive information on accessible toilets, transport, accommodation and more, plus accessibility tips for businesses.  

Recreation 

Accessible playgrounds 

Discover more than 40 exciting and challenging playgrounds, many of which offer accessible surfaces, swings, opportunities for sensory play and more features designed for children with disability. Browse playgrounds in your neighbourhood.  

Positive exercise experiences for people with Down syndrome

The FitSkills program connects people with Down syndrome with volunteer partners for twice-weekly exercise sessions at Melbourne City Baths. Participants report improved health and wellbeing, and a greater sense of community belonging.

With new clients and volunteers already on the waitlist, the team is also looking to expand the program into the pool. If you’re interested in getting involved as a volunteer, sign up on the Down Syndrome Australia website.

Skateboarding sessions for women and girls, supported by pro skaters   

Head to Riverslide Skate Park every Wednesday night, when young women and girls have priority use of the space to practice their skating skills. You can also access free and inclusive skateboarding classes at the Kensington and Riverslide skate parks. 

“Before I rocked up to the first session I was pretty intimidated by the guys… I’m less bothered now because I can do some more tricks and I love to be there.” 

Young female skater
Young women chat in a skate spark
Young people at Riverslide Skate Park

Sporting pavilions with dedicated facilities for women and girls 

Check out the newly redeveloped Brens Pavilion at Royal Park. One of several sporting facilities we’re making more inclusive, the place now features changerooms for all teams and an inviting social space to bring clubs together. Meet some of the players at Brens Pavilion at Royal Park in Parkville. 

“We support each other through the highs and lows. When we win, we celebrate together, and when we lose, we pick each other up and dust ourselves off, reminding each other we can do better the next game. You’re never alone in those moments, you’ve always got your team around you and it’s amazing.”

Alice
Three women in a sports locker room. Two are holding footballs.
Sports players at Brens Pavilion

Swimming safety for people of all ages and backgrounds 

Enrol in adult swimming classes at our pools to get confident in the water. If you’re over 55, our four-week Grey Medallion program at Melbourne City Baths is a great way to learn essential water-safety skills. 

We’ve also launched Swimm(her) at North Melbourne Recreation Centre. Co-designed with women and girls from culturally diverse communities, this women-only program prioritises safety, privacy, and inclusivity. 

Pool locations in the City of Melbourne: 

Find out more

For more information, visit Accessing Melbourne

Share this story

You may also like
Guide to Melbourne for parents with rainbow families

Guide to Melbourne for parents with rainbow families

Discover playgroups, parenting books, creative spaces and family services that welcome rainbow families with open arms in the City of Melbourne. Time Out describes Melbourne as the fourth most queer-friendly city in the world and we are proud that 84 per cent of...

How a crafty tiny home can help reduce elder abuse

How a crafty tiny home can help reduce elder abuse

When you think of a warm, safe home, what comes to mind? Here’s how an art project is starting important conversations ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June. Whatever a warm safe home means to you, it’s likely that love, safety and respect are at the top...

The Long Walk: walking the talk of reconciliation 

The Long Walk: walking the talk of reconciliation 

Twenty years ago, Michael Long set out on a walk from Melbourne to Canberra to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights.  Along the way, he won hearts and rallied a nation who now walk alongside him each year as part of the Long Walk in the hopes...

Volunteers help our city blossom

Volunteers help our city blossom

About 1000 volunteers bring their unique skills and passions to City of Melbourne every year through a range of events and programs. They’re a diverse bunch – speaking more than 30 languages and aged between 18 and 91. There are many volunteer opportunities where you...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the City of Melbourne by subscribing to the Melbourne newsletter.

You have successfully subscribed!