30 December 2021

Canberrans encouraged to get into nature to improve wellbeing after tough years

| Lottie Twyford
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Canberrans are spoiled for choice when it comes to getting out and about in nature – and it’s really good for us. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

After a tough couple of years, Canberrans will soon be able to participate in a program intended to boost mental health through the therapeutic benefits of nature.

It’s thanks to a major Healthy Canberra Grant of almost $225,000 which has been awarded to Landcare ACT.

The ACT Wellbeing for Nature program has been designed in collaboration with various health and community organisations and will incorporate guided walks, conservation activities and therapeutic horticulture.

Activities will begin early in 2022 with anyone – no matter their age and background – invited to participate.

Landcare ACT chair Dr Maxine Cooper explained that “the program is about providing a dose of nature to improve wellbeing, social connections and help Canberrans with their overall health”.

“This is a win-win, as nature and our community will benefit,” Dr Cooper said.

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Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the grants were intended to help community organisations create opportunities for Canberrans to make healthy lifestyle choices and prevent chronic diseases.

“There’s no better place to reconnect with your wellbeing than in the natural environment we’re fortunate to have on our doorstep,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“After a tough couple of years, many of us could use some mental respite.”

Minister for the Environment and Heritage Rebecca Vassarotti echoed these sentiments. She said she was delighted to see nature-based activities being offered to Canberrans.

“Canberrans value our strong connection to nature because we know that our natural environment sustains all life,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“Caring for nature, and supporting the quality and sustainability of our environment, is an act of self-care.”

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Landcare volunteer Margaret Faulkner knows firsthand the positive mental health benefits of getting into nature.

She initially came across what she described as a “bizarre scene of women pulling weeds in parkland”.

Three years on, 67-year-old Ms Faulkner is now a member of Landcare and gets to experience the mental health benefits of caring for nature.

“I’m a social person. I love to talk,” she said. “Being part of a community Landcare group means that I get to socialise, engage in exercise, and enjoy nature. It’s a win, win, win!

“Socially, Landcare has opened new doors for me and enabled me to make new friends. I have met so many different people and enjoy turning up to chat with the regular attendees and the new recruits.”

For Ms Faulkner, who has epilepsy, finding out about Landcare couldn’t have come into her life at a better time.

“It [epilepsy] can affect me physically and mentally. Having a regular activity where I am out in the sun enjoying native plants has helped improve my overall wellbeing,” she said.

Now, Landcare is an important part of her life and a major contributing factor to her overall sense of wellbeing.

For more information about the program, including upcoming activities and dates, visit Landcare ACT.

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Being outdoors in the sun was an obvious net good even before 2020, for both mental and physical health. There was never any justification for preventing people being outdoors.

So strange that during lockdowns they closed the national parks and reserves. As some of the better spaces for people to get out for exercise, with scientifically proven improvements for mental health and well-being, and also by allowing social distancing during the peak Covid events, it made no sense why they were locked down, and somehow not seen for the essential good these spaces deliver for us all.
Looking forward to some improved greenery around Canberra

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