In a significant step towards inclusivity, the Purple Hands Foundation have collaborated with Optus Stadium, the State Government and the Autism Association of WA to establish a permanent Sensory Room at the stadium, ensuring that every fan can enjoy the thrill of a live game. 

This initiative underscores Purple Hands' commitment to creating a connected community, where everyone can overcome barriers, demonstrating that sport truly is for everyone.

In 2022, Purple Hands originally opened a temporary Sensory Room at every Fremantle home game, made possible through the unwavering support of Purple Hands Foundation major partner uLaunch, powered by AKG, which aligned seamlessly with the shared objective of fostering inclusive communities.

Since then and due to its success, the State Government has tipped in $190,000 to make it a permanent room, designed in consultation with the Autism Association of Western Australia and Purple Hands Foundation, making it available to all event patrons at Optus Stadium free of charge.

“AKG invests with Purple Hands Foundation because it sees the direct benefit to the community. These initiatives drive inclusivity, connecting communities, purpose and empowering individuals," AKG Group CEO & MD Nic Fairbank said.

Purple Hands Foundation General Manager Donna Rendell believes Purple Hands and uLaunch are both aligned on creating a thriving and inclusive community.

“The support from our major partner uLaunch, powered by AKG, has been crucial in making the Sensory Room a permanent fixture and their backing reflects a shared commitment to the values of inclusion and ensuring no one is left behind," Purple Hands Foundation General Manager Donna Rendell said.

"What seems like a small change on the surface has profoundly transformed the football experience for many families.”  

Sally Galbraith, a devoted Fremantle Dockers supporter, and her family, including her 8-year-old niece Lyntanna, who has heightened sensory processing needs, frequently make a 400km round trip to watch Fremantle play. However, the overwhelming sights and sounds of the stadium often became too much for Lyntanna, necessitating quiet time to help her stay regulated. 

During a game in 2023, an Optus Stadium staff member noticed Sally and Lyntanna seeking refuge in a parents' room and informed them about the Sensory Room. The introduction to this specially designed space transformed their game-day experience. 

“This space is a safe haven,” Sally said. 

“Without it, games were hard, and Lyntanna missed out on attending with our family.  

“It’s the reason we still attend games; without the calm space, Lyntanna would become completely overwhelmed and end in a state of complete distress.” 

Initially, Lyntanna spent most of the game in the Sensory Room, but over time, her confidence grew, allowing her to spend more time in the stands. At a recent game, they only needed to use the Sensory Room for about 15 minutes towards the end of the game.  

“Watching Lyntanna get involved, complaining when the other team gets the ball, and clapping when Freo are in front, is amazing,” Sally said. 

 “Just knowing that the Sensory Room is available if the need arises has helped her enjoy the football in the same way any child should.” 

Amber Vandam, Program Coordinator at the Purple Hands Foundation, met Sally and Lyntanna during the Round 9 game against Sydney this year. She was moved by Lyntanna's transformation. 

“It's truly amazing that this space meets the needs of so many people,” Vandam remarked.  

“It goes beyond just serving a function; it creates a space where everyone can truly enjoy the footy without fear of judgment or hassle, regardless of their personal situation."

Purple Hands Foundation and uLaunch, powered by AKG, also offer take-to-seat sensory bags for adults and children with sensory needs at all Fremantle home games and together with the permanent Sensory Room, this ensures every fan can be part of the excitement and joy of a game day and provides a positive impact on the lives of those who need it most.