PEOPLE AND NATURE

People rely on nature in many avenues for overall health, wellbeing and childhood development. This page provides information for some of the important benefits and interactions of nature to humans, nature accessibility in Perth and how you can get involved.

FAQs

Is this important for my physical health?

There is wide-spread research exploring the profound benefits that nature and biodiverse environments have on human physical health (1,2). The Australian modern lifestyle is dominated more and more by indoor screen time and sedentary behaviors, our levels of obesity are amongst the highest in the world (3). Western Australia’s health spending in the last ten years has doubled to $8.8 billion annual expenditure (4). The integration of more biodiverse green spaces into the city not only promotes physical activity, therefore decreasing obesity and related chronic diseases, but also improve respiratory health, immune function, digestion and other essential body functions that are required for overall health and wellbeing (5,6,7,8,9).

1. Sandifer, Paul A., Ariana E. Sutton-Grier, and BethneyP. Ward. 2015. “Exploring Connections Among Nature, Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services, And Human Health And Well-Being: Opportunities To Enhance Health And Biodiversity Conservation”. Ecosystem Services 12: 1-15. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2014.12.007.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270578344_Exploring_Connections_Among_Nature_Biodiversity_Ecosystem_Services_and_Human_Health_and_Well-Being_Opportunities_to_Enhance_Health_and_Biodiversity_Conservation

2. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2015. “Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health A State of Knowledge Review”. World Health Organization. https://www.cbd.int/health/SOK-biodiversity-en.pdf

3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. “1.5 International Comparisons.” https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/c6f95c9c-fac7-44a7-aa4b-e56a73e959a8/aihw-aus-221-chapter-1-3.pdf.aspxhttps://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/7d365c00-fd41-4e6d-a0fb-be568a46d9d0/aihw-aus-221-chapter-1-5.pdf.aspx

4. Department of Health. “A fair share for WA health care.” https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/~/media/Files/Corporate/Reports%20and%20publications/Fair%20share%20for%20health%20care/Fair-Share-For-WA-Health-Care.pdf

5.  Lee A, Maheswaran R. The health benefits of urban green spaces: a review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health. 2010;33(2):212-222. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46220169_The_health_benefits_of_urban_green_spaces_A_review_of_the_evidence

6. Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub. Benefits of Urban Green Space in the Australian Context: A synthesis review for the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub [Internet]. Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub; 2016 p. 5-7. Available from: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/122914/2016-CAUL-Benefits%20of%20Urban%20Green%20Space.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

7.  Hartig T, Mitchell R, de Vries S, Frumkin H. Nature and Health. Annual Review of Public Health. 2014;35(1):207-228. Available from https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032013-182443

8. KuoM. How might contact with nature promote human health? Promising mechanisms and a possible central pathway. Frontiers in Psychology. 2015;6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282041436_How_Might_Contact_with_Nature_Promote_Human_Health_Promising_Mechanisms_and_a_Possible_Central_Pathway/download

9. Maas J., VerheijRA, Groenewegen PR, de Vries S, SpreuwenbergP. Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation?. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2006;60(7):587-592.https://jech.bmj.com/content/60/7/587

How does nature influence my mental health?

As we lead busier and busier lives, time spent outside and in contact with nature is less, which has detrimental effects on psychological health and wellbeing (1)
Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are increasingly prevalent, now 45% of adult Australians will experience a mental disorder at some point in their lives (2). The history of humans ultimately relying on nature to sustain us, has led to close psychological attachment to natural spaces, and this is observed through the mental health benefits that nature and urban greenspaces provide to city residents. These benefits have been widely researched. Just some of the benefits of brief nature encounters include decreased stress and anxiety, restored concentration, increased focus, positive enhancement and the fostering of positive social interactions (2, 3, 4 ,5)

1. Zhai, L., Zhang, Y. and Zhang, D. (2014). Sedentary behaviourand the risk of depression: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(11), pp.705-709. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265299970_Sedentary_behaviour_and_the_risk_of_depression_A_meta-analysis

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008. “National survey of mental health and wellbeing: Summary of results”. Government of Australia. http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/6AE6DA447F985FC2CA2574EA00122BD6/$File/National%20Survey%20of%20Mental%20Health%20and%20Wellbeing%20Summary%20of%20Results.pdf

3. Kaplan, Stephen. 1995. “The Restorative Benefits Of Nature: Toward An Integrative Framework”. Journal Of Environmental Psychology 15 (3): 169-182. doi:10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222305048_The_Restorative_Benefits_of_Nature_Toward_an_Integrative_Framework

4. Carrus, Giuseppe, Massimiliano Scopelliti, Raffaele Lafortezza, Giuseppe Colangelo, Francesco Ferrini, Fabio Salbitano, MariagraziaAgrimi, Luigi Portoghesi, Paolo Semenzato, and Giovanni Sanesi. 2015. “Go Greener, Feel Better? The Positive Effects Of Biodiversity On The Well-Being Of Individuals Visiting Urban And Peri-Urban Green Areas”. Landscape And Urban Planning 134: 221-228. doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.10.022. https://www.academia.edu/16614284/Go_greener_feel_better_The_positive_effects_of_biodiversity_on_the_well-being_of_individuals_visiting_urban_and_peri-urban_green_areas

5. Wood, Lisa, Paula Hooper, Sarah Foster, and Fiona Bull. 2017. “Public Green Spaces And Positive Mental Health – Investigating The Relationship Between Access, Quantity And Types Of Parks And Mental Wellbeing”. Health & Place 48: 63-71. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2017.09.002. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320022133_Public_green_spaces_and_positive_mental_health_-_investigating_the_relationship_between_access_quantity_and_types_of_parks_and_mental_wellbeing

6. lan, Stephen. 1995. “The Restorative Benefits Of Nature: Toward An Integrative Framework”. Journal Of Environmental Psychology 15 (3): 169-182. doi:10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222305048_The_Restorative_Benefits_of_Nature_Toward_an_Integrative_Framework

Where can I access nature in Perth?

Perth offers many great places for people to go and interact with nature. Attractions such as the Swan river, Rottnest Island (1), Kings Park and Bold Park (2), walking trails (3), national parks and marine parks (4), seasonal wildflowers (5), as well as local beaches (6) and opportunities for wildlife encounters (7) exist throughout Perth and in the nearby surrounds. There are multiple resources such as Whadjuk Walking Trails (8), NaturePlay (9), Trails WA (10) that provide up to date information on sites and events. Local nature and greenspaces within councils provide smaller areas that are more readily accessible for daily walks and visits amongst a busy schedule. If you want to know what’s close to your doorstep, check out the Public Open Space (POS) tool (11) to find out what parks and open spaces are close to you.

1. “Rottnest Island”. 2019. Rottnest Island. https://www.rottnestisland.com/.

2. “Kings Park And Botanic Garden”. 2019. Kings Park And Botanic Garden. https://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/kings-park.

3. “Trails In The Perth Region Of Western Australia”. 2019. Trails WA. http://trailswa.com.au/trails/regions/perth.

4. “Park Finder”. 2017. Parks.Dpaw.Wa.Gov.Au. https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park-finder.

5. “Wildflower Trails In Western Australia”. 2019. Trails WA. http://trailswa.com.au/trails/experiences/wildflower/.

6. “Perth Beaches | Best Beaches In Perth”. 2019. Perth Tourist Centre. http://perthtouristcentre.com.au/perth-beaches/.

7.”Wildlife Encounters In Perth”. 2019. Experienceperth.Com. https://www.experienceperth.com/page/wildlife-encounters-perth.

8. “WhadjukTrail Network”. 2019. Whadjukwalkingtrails.Org.Au. http://whadjukwalkingtrails.org.au/.

9.  “Places To Go”. 2019. Nature Play WA. https://www.natureplaywa.org.au/things-to-do/places-to-go.

10. “Trails In The Perth Region Of Western Australia”. 2019. Trails WA. http://trailswa.com.au/trails/regions/perth.

11. “CBEH POS”. 2019. Postool.Com.Au. http://www.postool.com.au/cbeh/pos/search/.

How far should I have to go to access nature?

In comparison to other Australian cities, Perth has a high amount of greenspace, however the spread across the city is patchy and unequal (1). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics census data, 1 in 5 residents do not have ‘adequate access’ to greenspace from their home (1). This is the second lowest level of accessibility when comparing Australian capital cities, and does not even account for quality of greenspace such as canopy cover and biodiversity which heavily influence the usage of these spaces (2,3). The standard distance measurement for ‘accessible by walking distance is 400m or less, used by ABS when determining the proportion of people in Australian cities who had adequate access to greenspace (4). Public open space and green spaces fall under different categories depending on their features and purposes. For information on the distinguishing features between recreation, sport and nature spaces the. The Public Parkland Planning & Design Guide (WA) (6) provides supportive information for the construction of quality greenspaces designed to benefit both healthy environments and human use.

1. 2016 SoEBuilt environment Proportion of people living with access to greenspace and greenspace per capita [Internet]. Data.gov.au. 2016 [cited 13 May 2019]. Available from: https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/d79245f3-fc52-4b11-afca-343eb1034c7a

2. Hillsdon, M., J. Panter, C Foster, and A. Jones. 2006. “The Relationship Between Access And Quality Of Urban Green Space With Population Physical Activity”. Public Health 120 (12): 1127-1132. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2006.10.007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17067646

3.van Dillen, Sonja M E, Sjerpde Vries, Peter P Groenewegen, and Peter Spreeuwenberg. 2012. “Greenspace In Urban Neighbourhoods And Residents’ Health: Adding Quality To Quantity.” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51454023_Greenspace_in_urban_neighbourhoods_and_residents’_health_Adding_quality_to_quantity

4. “4363.0 – National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2014-15: Geographic Classifications”. 2017. Abs.Gov.Au. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4363.0~2014-15~Main%20Features~Geographic%20Classifications~60.

5. Government of Western Australia. (2014). Public Parkland Planning and Design Guide WA. Perth Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation. https://www.dsr.wa.gov.au/docs/default-source/file-about-us/file-plan-for-the-future/public-parkland-guide.pdf?sfvrsn=0

Is it important for my children to interact with nature?

In the past decade many researchers have documented numerous benefits of children connecting with nature. Together, the research has revealed nature supports multiple areas of a children’s development by promoting emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual well-being (1,2,3,4,5). Regular activity such as play in natural environments offers conditions critical for children to learn and thrive in, allowing children to be experimental, problem solvers, creative thinkers, and cooperative with others (2). Experiencing unstructured play enables the child to make their own decisions of what to do, where to do to it, and with whom to do it with, encouraging confidence and self-esteem (2). Nature has also proven to help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by improving the child’s attention span (6). Engaging in natural areas while growing up also significantly reduces the risk of developing mental health problems later in life (7).

1.Kellert S. Building for Life. 1st ed. Island press; 2005. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stephen_Kellert/publication/40777405_Building_for_Life_Designing_and_Understanding_the_Human-Nature_Connection/links/5526cc680cf2e486ae40c7dd/Building-for-Life-Designing-and-Understanding-the-Human-Nature-Connection.pdf

2. Bento G, Dias G. The importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development. Porto Biomedical Journal. 2017;2(5):157-160. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2444866416301234

3. deVriesS, van DillenS, GroenewegenP, SpreeuwenbergP. Streetscape greenery and health: Stress, social cohesion and physical activity as mediators. Social Science & Medicine. 2013;94:26-33.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255733276_Streetscape_greenery_and_health_Stress_social_cohesion_and_physical_activity_as_mediators

4. DadvandP, BartollX, BasagañaX, Dalmau-Bueno A, Martinez D, AmbrosA et al. Green spaces and General Health: Roles of mental health status, social support, and physical activity. Environment International. 2016;91:161-167.
https://www-sciencedirect-com.libproxy.murdoch.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0160412016300666

5. DymentJ, Bell A, Lucas A. The relationship between school ground design and intensity of physical activity. Children’s Geographies. 2009;7(3):261-276.https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14733280903024423

6. Faber Taylor A, KuoF. Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders. 2009;12(5):402-409 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18725656

7.EngemannK, Pedersen C, ArgeL, TsirogiannisC, Mortensen P, SvenningJ. Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2019;116(11):5188-5193 https://www.pnas.org/content/116/2

How can I engage my children with nature?

Engaging in nature is critical for children’s development (1), as a guardian or parent it is up to you to give your children access to nature. According to Skar and colleagues children get the most positive experience with nature when it is unstructured and the children are free to do as they wish (2). Nature counts for a range of places throughout Perth from your back garden, to the local park, to the bush land down the road, to the community garden, to the beach, to Kings park, to national parks. All natural areas vary and are engaged with differently offering distinct benefits (3). How a child responds to a small inner city play park will be very different to a national park or a beach. Therefore, it is beneficial to give your child the opportunity to discover a range of natural areas to support healthy positive engagement (3). There are many programs across Perth that specialise in connecting children with nature such as Nature Play Wa (4), Educated by Nature (5), Nearer to Nature (6), Kings Park education programs (7), Bush Rangers (8), Scouts (9), WA Gould League (10), Piny Lakes and Caversham Wildlife Park.

1. Bento G, Dias G. The importance of outdoor play for young childrenʼshealthy development. Porto Biomedical Journal. 2017;2(5):157-160. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2444866416301234

2. SkarM, GundersenV, O’Brien L. How to engage children with nature: why not just let them play?. Children’s Geographies. 2016;14(5):527-540. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2444866416301234

3.  Duff C. Networks, resources and agencies: On the character and production of enabling places. Health & Place. 2011;17(1):149-156. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20926330

4. ”Nature Play WA”. 2019 . Nature Play WA. https://www.natureplaywa.org.au

5. “ Educated by Nature”. 2019. Educated by Nature. https://educatedbynature.com

6. ”Nearer to Nature”. 2019. Nearer to Nature community and education programs. https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/get-involved/nearer-to-nature

7. ” Kings Park Education Programs” 2019. Kings Park Education Programs. https://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/kings-park/events/kings-park-education/programs 

8.” Bush Rangers”. 2019. Bush Rangers. https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/get-involved/nearer-to-nature/bush-rangers

9. “Scouts” 2019. Scouts https://scoutswa.com.au

10. ”WA Gould league”. 2019. WA Gould League https://www.wagouldleague.com.au

11. “PineyLakes Environmental Education”. 2019. PineyLakes Environmental Education https://www.melvillecity.com.au/waste-and-environment/piney-lakes/piney-lakes-education-programs

12. Caversham Wildlife Park”. 2019. CanvershamWildlife Park   https://www.cavershamwildlife.com.au/?gclid=CjwKCAjw_YPnBRBREiwAIP6TJ3bHtqVPcnD33o80GUepo-uEi7C8KCC4V5Hm1RwoNN6pGx5ECdXx0RoCd18QAvD_BwE

What is Environmental education and why is it important?

Education of the environment is a process that enables individuals to explore the environment, understand its issues, engage in problem solving, and to actively improve nature1. Objectives of environmental education programs should include problem solving, environmental awareness, improved knowledge, instilling positive attitudes, and public participation2. Environmental issues is not just something taught within schools but also through empowering the public. Resulting in people developing a deep understanding of the natural world along with its challenges, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to make responsible and informed decisions (1).

1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. What is Environmental Education? US EPA. 2019. Available from: https://www.epa.gov/education/what-environmental-education

2. Singh H, Rahman S. An Approach for Environmental Education by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Biodiversity Conservation. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2012;42:144-152. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257715988_An_Approach_for_Environmental_Education_by_Non-Governmental_Organizations_NGOs_in_Biodiversity_Conservation

How does nature contribute to Perth’s economy? (1)

Perth advertises its natural assets in order to bring more tourism and visitation to the city (1). The most visited attraction is Kings Park, which receives approximately 5.7 million total visitors annually (2), Rottnest Island, receiving 500 000 visitors annually, and the Swan Valley (3). Tourism is a significant contributor to Western Australia’s economy, in 2018, 3.4 billion visitors contributed $10.4 billion to the cityseconomy (4).

1.”Guide To Perth”. 2019. Australia.Com. https://www.australia.com/en/places/perth-and-surrounds/guide-to-perth.html.

2.Botanic Garden and Parks Authority. 2018. “Annual Report 2017-18”. Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority 2018. https://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/images/pdf/about_us/ar_bgpa_2017_18.pdf.

3.”Perth And Surrounds”. 2019. Tourism Western Australia. https://www.tourism.wa.gov.au/Industry-support/Investing-in-WA-tourism/opportunties/Pages/Perth%20and%20surrounds.aspx#/.

4.Tourism Western Australia- WA welcomes record numbers of overseas and interstate visitors in 2018 https://www.tourism.wa.gov.au/About%20Us/News_and_media/Article/WA_welcomes_record_numbers_of_overseas_and_interstate_visitors_in_2018/913#/

How does nature contribute to Perth’s economy? (2)

Many Australians are classed as overweight or obese, incurring major costs to the economy of $56.6 billion a year (1,2,3,4). In addition, it costs Australia an estimated $60 billion in targeting mental health issues annually (4). In Western Australia alone, annual health care spending has doubled from $3.3 billion to $8.8 billion in the last 10 years (5).  These costs put significant strain on our national and state budgets. This leaves the possibility in reducing thesehugecosts through preventative health approaches, including more nature integration in the city to tackle pollution, encourage exercise, and contribute to overall physiological and mental wellbeing.

1. Colagiuri, S, C Lee, R Colagiuri, D, Magliano, J Shaw, P Zimmet, I Caterson. 2010. “The Cost Of Overweight And Obesity In Australia”. The Medical Journal Of Australia 192 (5): 260-264. doi:10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb03503.x

2. Lee, Crystal Man Ying, Ruth Colagiuri, Dianna J. Magliano, Adrian J. Cameron, Jonathan Shaw, Paul Zimmet, and Stephen Colagiuri. 2013. “The Cost Of Diabetes In Adults In Australia”. Diabetes Research And Clinical Practice 99 (3): 385-390. doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2012.12.002.

3. Buchmueller, Thomas C., and MeliyanniJohar. 2015. “Obesity And Health Expenditures: Evidence From Australia”. Economics & Human Biology 17: 42-58. doi:10.1016/j.ehb.2015.01.001.

4.”Economics Of Mental Health In Australia”. 2016. https://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au/media-centre/news/economics-of-mental-health-in-australia.aspx.

5. Department of Health. 2017. “A Fair Share For WA Health Care”. Department of Heatlh. https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/~/media/Files/Corporate/Reports%20and%20publications/Fair%20share%20for%20health%20care/Fair-Share-For-WA-Health-Care.pdf.

What opportunities are out there to contribute to in my community?

There are many benefits for being an active member of the community from improved mental health, achieving community goals, to building new relationships (1). Majority of Perth’s natural assets remain due to dedicated volunteers. Opportunities to help in your community can consist through volunteering at the local friends of group (2), Community Gardens (3), Conservation Council WA (4), Conservation Volunteers Australia, Wildlife rehabilitation centres/ government ran programs (5), and being an active member of environmental education programs (6).

1.Australian Institute of Family Studies. Why is community engagement important?. Child Family Community Australia. 2019. Available from: https://Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/community-engagement/why-community-engagement-important

2.Urban Bushland Council WA Inc. Groups. Urban Bushland Council WA. 2019. Available from: https://www.bushlandperth.org.au/groups/

3. EgliV, Oliver M, TautoloE. The development of a model of community garden benefits to wellbeing. Preventive Medicine Reports. 2016;3:348-352. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4929211/

4.Conservation Council of Western Australia. Volunteer with Us. Conservation Council of Western Australia. 2019. Available from: http://www.ccwa.org.au/volunteer

5.Conservation Volunteers Australia. Conservation Volunteering Projects in Western Australia – Conservation Volunteers Australia. Conservation Volunteers Australia. 2019. Available from: https://conservationvolunteers.com.au/get-involved/volunteer/western-australia/

6.Attractions. Volunteering opportunities – Parks and Wildlife Service. Dpaw.wa.gov.au. 2019 [cited 22 June 2019]. Available from: https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/get-involved/volunteering-opportunities

What can I do in my own backyard?

Private gardens make up a large green space within the Perth metropolitan and have a massive potential for increasing wildlife and native dominant habitat, as well as providing a place for connection to nature (1). To build your own native garden here is kings Parks top ten tips (2):

  • Choose or prepare your planting site so it is free of weeds, well drained and does not have high levels of phosphorous.
  • Install an efficient watering system such as trickle irrigation.
  • Choose the right plant to suit your garden conditions from an accredited nursery.
  • Plant from autumn to early spring for best results in areas that have winter rains.
  • Fertilise lightly with slow release fertiliser suitable for Australian plants.
  • Mulch up to 50 mm deep while keeping the mulch away from the base of the plants.
  • Maintain the garden weed free to make space and nutrients available to plants.
  • Prune established plants after flowering.
  • Prune young plants regularly and lightly to develop good form.
  • Replace your plants when they start to decline. (2)

1. van HeezikY, Dickinson K, Freeman C. Closing the Gap: Communicating to Change Gardening Practices in Support of Native Biodiversity in Urban Private Gardens. Ecology and Society. 2012;17(1). https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol17/iss1/art34/

2. Government of Western Australia. Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority – Gardening tips. Bgpa.wa.gov.au. 2019. Available from: https://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/about-us/horticulture/gardening-resources/752-gardening-tipsNative gardens kings park https://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/about-us/horticulture/gardening-resources/752-gardening-tips