Summary of outcomes of discussion at Kirribilli House 27 October 2009

Summary of outcomes of universal housing discussion at Kirribilli House 27 October 2009

There was a clear consensus about the critical nature of the issue of universal design.
'Universal' means designing Australian homes to meet the changing needs of their occupants across their lifetimes.

We all agree that we need to provide Australians with choice about housing design and work harder to explain the benefits of universal design. In other words that universal design is about making life easier for young families, people who have short term injuries, as well as senior Australians and people with disability.

We agreed on the need to codify a national approach. This would incorporate:

  1. The value of universal design to the community
  2. A definition and a set of principles of 'universal design'
  3. What it's features are in relation to housing, of which there is already a fair amount of recognised consensus.

We agreed it is important to have a national approach, in other words the code should apply nationally to allow harmonisation across the country.

The code will deal with the minimal or basic solutions to design, through to more aspirational features for homes. Essential elements on which consensus was achieved are: wider doorways and passages; wet areas, such as bathrooms, on an entry level; and reinforced bathroom walls to allow grab rails to be easily fitted in the future.

More than 15,000 public and social housing dwellings are being built under the Rudd Government's economic stimulus plan that incorporate universal design features. This will provide important feedback about universal design and lessons for the future.

It was agreed that there is a need to work closely with industry and the community, including around education and training. It is understood that all participants need to be included and that change won't be instantaneous.

Everyone is committed to forming a high level working party to achieve substantial progress in the next six months.

Part of the document to be developed by the group will be technical in nature and will be accessible to designers, builders and consumers.

As an aspirational target, all new homes will be of agreed universal design standards by 2020, with interim targets and earlier completion dates to be determined for some standards.


Ms Therese Rein (Welcome)
Ms Cynthia Banham (MC)
Mr Bill Shorten
Disability Council of NSW
Australian Network for Universal Housing Design
National People with Disabilities and Carers Council
Australian Building Codes Board
Victoria Department Planning and Community Development
Australian Human Rights Commission
Lend Lease
Housing Industry Association
Property Council of Australia
Master Builders Association
Australian Institute of Architects