Aussies push to expand the horizons of childhood

This post shares news of more positive developments in Australia, including a new video promoting street play, and some new state-wide networks that aim to reconnect children with nature.

First, street play: this video is from Gavin Fairbrother and the OPAL (Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle) project based at Campbelltown in South Australia, and spreads the word about the potential of the model originally drawn up by Playing Out here in the UK.

The video starts with a generous nod to the impact of my visit last year. It then echoes Playing Out in showing how the benefits of temporary road closures for play extend not just to children but also to parents and the wider community.

OPAL, a state-backed scheme which runs in 20 South Australian municipalities, is part of an expanding network of international, community-based obesity prevention programs, based on the French Epode model. Here’s hoping that it provides the same boost to the Aussie street play movement that Playing Out has done here in the UK (where there are now over 20 active local authorities, with 50 streets taking part in Bristol alone).

OPAL video screenshot: tug-of-war

Next up, nature play: my correspondent Debra Langridge at Nature Play WA tells me that her organisation is seeing growing interest in reconnecting children with nature across the country. Sister organisations have been launched in South Australia and Queensland, with conversations in a number of other states and territories. One project in Adelaide – Honk Pop-up Play – plans to bring pop-up adventure play activities to a local Adelaide park.

Meanwhile in Victoria, the Victorian Child & Nature Connection has information on activities throughout the state, including at the wonderful Royal Botanical Gardens at its two sites in Downtown Melbourne and Cranbourne (venues that marked the state’s first ever Nature Play Week back in April).


Skinners Adventure Playground

It is not all good news. Sadly five of Australia’s staffed adventure playgrounds have had their federal government funding cut after many years of financial support. They remain open, but face an uncertain future. I was lucky enough to have visited St Kilda’s and Skinners, and saw for myself their success in safeguarding the adventure play ethos. I can only help that they secure their financial future. It is a scenario we in the UK are all too familiar with, as I noted earlier this year.

In spite of this setback, my overall impression is that the movement to expand the horizons of Australian children continues to grow. Could this be more evidence that, as I speculated last year, Aussies like their kids more than we do here in the UK?

As ever, I would welcome your thoughts. And Aussie readers: let me know if I have missed anything!

5 responses to “Aussies push to expand the horizons of childhood

  1. Good to see word of the great things happening in Australia, spreading overseas. As a director of a company that delivers training particularly focused on outdoor play, we are seeing a growing number of child care services and even some schools, who are embarking on “bush kindy” type programs and are really trying to get back to basics in terms of children and their play. Many educators are being reminded of the free, messy, outdoorsy and natural childhoods that they enjoyed are trying to introduce these notions inyo services and schools which for a long time (for the most part) were synthetic and structured and “safe”. I we still have quite a way to go in Australia – but we are on the right road!

    • Thanks for the comment Nicole. Good to hear that interest in bush kindy approaches appears to be growing too (I got that impression last year). That has been the case here in the UK for at least a decade, as you may know.

  2. Louise Fitzpatrick Leach

    Hi Tim, my problem is the lack of toilet facilities in a bush setting which is close enough to my kinder to make it feasible. Any suggestions? Thanks. Louise

  3. Pingback: First ever area-wide evaluation of street play proves its potential | Rethinking Childhood

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