Screens off, gumboots on, nature to the rescue!

Rebecca Smith

Ever heard of “nature deficit disorder”? By the end of our sixth lockdown, I can bet you were feeling it, even without knowing the buzzword.

Nature deficit disorder is a phrase used to describe the impact of spending way too much time indoors, without time in the natural world.

It is thought that children are particularly vulnerable to nature deficit. Prolonged time indoors makes them feel alienated from nature and perhaps more vulnerable to negative moods or reduced attention spans.

To help address this, Kensington Neighbourhood House has been running a program called “Green Time Not Screen Time” (GTNST) – specifically designed for children and families living in our public housing estates.

Essentially, GTNST is a series of excursions aimed at getting kids and their parents connected with the natural environment.

We’ve just completed our second major adventure. It was HUGE. We ended up with three buses, four cars, 20kg of chicken suqaar (a Somali dish), 200 bread rolls and 170 very excited participants all heading to Pound Bend Reserve.

Pound Bend is located in the beautiful Warrandyte National Park. Although only an hour out of Melbourne, it may as well have been another country for many of our participants, who are used to the high density environment of the inner city.

We were met by Uncle Bill and Thane from the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation. They very generously shared their stories and knowledge throughout the day.

The children participated in a smoking ceremony, went on bush walks and joined in dance, storytelling and games. Many of the stories were about Bunjil the eagle, who plays a part in the origin story of the Warrandyte gorge.

Of course, lots of time was spent in unstructured, empowered play. The kids loved having so much space to explore and there were opportunities for running, climbing and lots of splashing about in the creek.

Mothers and fathers enjoyed having time out in nature and connecting with their families and friends in a completely new environment. It was a very special day.

We have plenty more excursions planned for the rest of the year, including a trip to Altona beach. We’ll also be adventuring closer to home with excursions to Newell’s Paddock in Kensington and Royal Park in Parkville.

Big thanks to the City of Melbourne for funding this project and to the amazing staff of The Venny for partnering with us to deliver it. •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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