(Australian Associated Press)
A 98-year-old war widow who as a schoolgirl walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge when it opened in 1932 has returned to cut the ribbon on new lifts which will allow people with reduced mobility to access the ‘coathanger’s’ footpath for the first time.
Daphne Dunne, who was in the news on Tuesday when she met Prince Harry for a third time, was back in front of the cameras on Wednesday when she opened the pedestrian lifts on the Harbour Bridge alongside NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey.
The lifts at either end of the bridge will enable people with a disability, families with prams and seniors with reduced mobility to cross the bridge’s footpath. Previously they’d had to climb more than 60 steps.
Physical Disability Council of NSW president Chris Sparks is a huge fan of the $15 million glass-enclosed lifts.
“I have been a wheelchair user for over 50 years and today for the first time my wife and I will be able to stroll across Sydney’s legendary coat-hanger,” he said in a statement.
Ms Dunne attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and reminisced about the bridge’s opening 86 years ago.
“We walked across the bridge with school to open it,” she told reporters.
“It was very exciting and then a man rode up on his horse. All eyes were on him and not on anything else.”
She said she “couldn’t forget” Francis de Groot who – dressed in military uniform – infamously rode up and slashed the official ribbon in 1932 before it could be cut by then-premier Jack Lang.
The new 15-metre high lifts can each carry 27 people or two wheelchairs and two carers.
“It’s a difficult thing doing work on this bridge,” Ms Pavey told reporters on Wednesday.
“It serves an enormous function every day to Sydney but it is also a very big part of the heritage landscape. We’ve been very sympathetic to that which naturally added significant cost.”