Overview of public events
According to a 2009 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are four million people in Australia with a disability, which equates to 18.5% of the population and a significant proportion of people who could be attending a planned event. It is clear from recent complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission that accessible features at events continue to be misunderstood and overlooked. Failure to successfully plan for the needs of people with a disability presents a significant risk to event organisers if not carefully considered at all stages of an event. There is however little guidance material available to provide advice on how these risks can be reduced and how compliance with applicable legislative requirements can be achieved.
On the 1st May 2011, the Commonwealth Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (Premises Standards) were introduced and adopted into the Building Code of Australia as well as state based legislation, including the Victorian building regulations. The Premises Standards applies to new buildings and existing buildings being altered and sets out clear parameters for improved access requirements. The objectives of the Premises Standards are to ensure that “dignified, equitable, cost-effective and reasonably achievable access to buildings, and facilities and services within buildings, is provided for people with a disability”. However, as access is improved within new and existing buildings it is also reasonable for members of the community to expect that good access is provided to events, festivals and temporary structures (such as marquees, event tents, exhibition spaces etc). If an event organiser fails to acknowledge accessibility as a critical component of their event plan, it will present a major risk to the organisation under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. A person with a disability could make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission under Section 23 Access to Premises, or Section 24 Goods, services and facilities. There have already been a number of such complaints made to the Commission.
Equal Access Pty Ltd has produced a factsheet to provide guidance on access requirements to all parties involved in the festival and event industry.
What is the issue with current toilets
View our blog post on the issues we see with hire accessible toilets
It is therefore important for all stakeholders involved in events to consider accessibility in the early stages of event planning. This will not only reduce risk but increase the potential for increased attendance rates and the overall success of an event. When preparing an event plan, the following must be considered to provide equitable and dignified access:
- Choosing the right venue;
- Providing information about the event;
- Travelling to the event;
- Arriving at the event;
- Entering the event;
- Moving around the event;
- Accessing goods and services within the event;
- Using facilities within the event;
- Obtaining further assistance;
- Emergency management;
Places of Public Entertainment (POPEs)
A Place of Public Entertainment, or ‘POPE’ is a term used in the Victorian Council building departments for an event held in an existing building or other public space. A POPE is either:
- A class 9b assembly type building, including prescribed temporary structures, having an area greater than 500m2, or
- Event ‘places’ with an area of greater than 500m2.
Please note – that the Building Regulations 2006 now exempts community based organisations running events with less than 5,000 persons from the definition of a POPE. However, there are some strict parameters that must be met to be considered a community based organisation. These include:
- not being established primarily for profit or gain; and
- does not distribute any part of the profits to any member of the organisation; and
- operates in a community wholly for philanthropic or benevolent purpose, or any sporting or recreational club/association
Contact your local Council if you are in doubt about this requirement. Some common examples of POPEs could include
- Street parties;
- Carols by candlelight;
- Music concerts;
- Festivals and fetes;
- Plus any other event that is over 500m2 and enclosed or substantially enclosed.
In Victoria it is technically unlawful for an owner of a building or place to conduct a public entertainment event without first obtaining an occupancy permit for POPE, though this is not always enforced by the local council (Section 49 of the Building Act 1993). Many councils now have strict controls in place to ensure that event organisers do actually get the necessary permit and each relevant council should be contacted to determine permit requirements. When the municipal building surveyor assesses the application they will consider how accessible the event is. Generally, this will only include verifying that an accessible toilet is provided and entrances to buildings and POPE are accessible, it will not generally include all the items listed in the checklist, which could potentially leave the organiser exposed to a disability discrimination complaint. When making an application for an occupancy permit for a POPE to a council they will require a number of documents, including:
- Copies of all Building Commission temporary occupancy permits for prescribed structures
- An event site plan, showing locations of toilets, free drinking water, fire safety equipment, emergency exits and first aid stations
- Floor plans of structures
Local legislation in a number of States and Territories of Australia restricts a person from changing the use of a building unless the required permits are in place. In Victoria, Regulation 1011 of the Building Regulations 2011 states that a person must not change the use of a building (including a part of a building) unless the building complies with the requirements of the new use. In Victoria this would usually necessitate the requirement for a Temporary Occupancy Permit (under Part 5 Division 3 (Temporary occupation of buildings) of the Building Act 1993). If an event organiser intends to hold an event in an existing building it is important to check with the local council (or authority) to verify if any permits are required for the new use. In Victoria, this could require an application made to the municipal building surveyor for an Occupancy Permit for a combined POPE (under Division 2 of the Act) and Temporary Change of Use (under Division 3 of the Act). The application process would typically be the same as the application for an occupancy permit strictly for a POPE. However, at this time the accessible path from the entrance of the building to the event space should also be considered by the municipal building surveyor, as well as accessible features within the event area.
Equal Access Pty Ltd are perfectly positioned to assist with providing access advice for festivals and events. We are one of Australia’s leading Accredited Disability Access Consultancies and are registered with the Association of Consultants in Access Australia. Our staff have a vast range of experience, including assessing POPE applications. You can view our staff profiles here. For a number of years Equal Access Pty Ltd has provided a specialist consulting service to enhance the built environment and to provide ‘Equal Access’ for members of the community with a disability. For further information or to obtain a copy of the factsheet or checklist please contact: For more information on prescribed temporary structures view our blog post prescribed temporary structures Phone: 1300 994 890 or 03 9001 5805 Web: www.disabilityaccessconsultants.com.au
Demand action now
Download the template letter requesting Toilet Providers make a change by providing fully compliant accessible toilets for events and festivals