We are taking active steps in urban low-canopy hotspots to reconnect residents with nature by consulting communities on the design of green spaces, facilitating educational workshops and holding tree planting activities.
Through the Our Park, Our Place project, we have recently worked in partnership with The Behaviour Change Collaborative and local governments in some of Perth’s most heat-stressed council areas – Bassendean, Bayswater and Canning – on the traditional lands of the Noongar Peoples.
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As more and more Australians move to urban areas, the suburbs are changing shape, with more paved surfaces and buildings per block than backyards and open green spaces.
This is increasing what is called the Urban Heat Island Effect, where urban areas are consistently hotter than country areas due to the amount of surfaces that reflect the sunlight (like windows) or that heat up and are still releasing stored warmth when the sun goes down (like walls and roads).
Street trees and other green infrastructure like parks, verges, green roofs and walls can help reduce this heating effect by absorbing sunlight and shading hard and reflective surfaces. By drawing soil moisture up into their leaves, trees and other plants can also have an effect a bit like evaporative coolers.
The lack of trees and cooling local green spaces in some urban areas is becoming more and more obvious as temperatures rise, rainfall decreases and heatwaves intensify. We see residents suffering from heat stress, as well as our treasured local wildlife.
According to modelling by the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, communities in suburbs with lower tree canopy cover were found to be more at risk from heat-related stress and illness in a changing climate.
Encouragingly, people are becoming more and more driven to take action close to home. However, whether due to a feeling of disconnection from the natural world, or perhaps due to feeling powerless against the changing environment, many are looking for support to overcome the barriers that keep them from taking ownership of their local environment and communities.
Thanks to a grant of more than $570,000 from Lotterywest, the Our Park, Our Place project has been rolled out in Perth, with a strong focus on working together with local governments to enhance the wellbeing of residents – in Bassendean, Bayswater, and Canning.
The project sets out to give residents the knowledge and skills to take action for their own neighbourhoods, to reconnect with their local parks and each other, and to create cool green spaces in a changing climate. Consulting and engaging community underpins the entire project ethos.
We ask residents what they think about green space and involve communities in designing their parks, as well as offering educational sessions, workshops and community art and planting days.
While each project may look a little different for each group of residents we work alongside, the focus is all about enabling reconnection – to nature and to each other – to co-design outcomes that are sustained and resilient.
The project involves collaboration between Greening Australia, social scientists, landscape architects, local councils and residents to ensure the benefits of the project keep giving into the future.
We believe that people thrive when nature thrives, and that reconnecting people with their local environments, and empowering them to take ownership of their communities today, will create healthier, greener, more liveable neighbourhoods tomorrow.
Over the past year or so, we worked with our partner councils in Perth and The Behaviour Change Collaborative on creative ways for residents to share their ideas about their local parks online and via print. Following community consultation, we presented these designs to local residents via community events:
Residents then came and lent a hand with planting and art installation to turn these designs into reality, and we celebrated the achievements of the project with some community days in the parks. We also hosted workshops for the community and gave residents other opportunities to get involved in reconnecting with nature and cooling their neighbourhoods. These activities have now concluded, and The Behaviour Change Collaborative is working on assessing the social impact of the project.
The Our Park, Our Place project activities in Perth have been supported by Lotterywest and delivered as part of Greening Australia’s Nature in Cities program.
This project activities in Perth are also supported by Water Corporation’s Drainage for Liveability program. The program, which upgraded Mary Crescent basin, illustrates how functional stormwater drains and basins can continue to serve as flood prevention while also enhancing the liveability of our suburbs.
Ruth brings considerable experience in community education and environmental design to her role at Greening Australia, coupled with knowledge of sustainable land management practices. She is passionate about the environment and the need for community participation to drive and inspire lasting change. She has worked closely with school and community groups delivering environmental education programs and also on large scale revegetation projects. When she is not doing this, you will often find her elbow deep in her own garden.