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Connecting patients with parks

Topics: Human Wellbeing | Comments

Connecting patients with parks

Australian parks agency Parks Victoria and the Austin Health Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre have formed a partnership to explore opportunities to improve access and integrated development of facilities at Trig Point, an iconic piece of parkland adjacent to the rehabilitation centre.

The key objectives of the project are to protect and enhance existing environmental and cultural heritage values of the site, while investigating innovative options to provide nature-based experiences for the public, hospital patients, staff and families.

Trig Point provides magnificent views over the Melbourne city skyline, parklands and the Dandenong Ranges. The remnant bushland on the site includes rare Coast Manna Gums, Melbourne Yellow Gums, endangered Box Ironbark Woodland and areas of native orchids and grasses. While there’s limited public access up the steep slopes to the top of Trig Point, the broader site is already linked to public trails that are popular with walkers, joggers and road cyclists.

The site offers a unique opportunity to illustrate the core principles of Healthy Parks Healthy People, bringing together all sections of the community using an integrated public exercise trail and new picnic and viewing facilities which are accessible to all.

Trig Point is next to the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, a hospital that provides specialist intensive rehabilitation programs, medical, nursing, therapy and support services to people with a wide range of disabilities. Areas of specialty include acquired brain injury rehabilitation, amputee rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, spinal cord injury rehabilitation, orthopaedic rehabilitation and orthotic and prosthetic services. The majority of these programs are completed indoors.

  • Aerial view of the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre
  • View of Melbourne from Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre

By better connecting the park to the hospital, this project aims to provide access to nature for Royal Talbot patients, so they can participate in outdoor rehabilitation opportunities including adult gym facilities and ‘real world’ obstacle courses. The park could also be used for activity programs such as bird monitoring, revegetation and art therapy. A destination will be established in the park for patients and the broader community, which would include a viewing platform, seating and shelter.

It’s hoped the project will be able to demonstrate qualitative health and wellbeing benefits of connecting patients to parks through a research partnership with a tertiary institution, and will serve as a model for connecting patients to parks that can be replicated in a range of settings across Victoria.

Other key benefits to both organisations include:

Healthy People

  • Successful statewide partnerships between Parks Victoria and the Health Sector, in providing a model for connecting patients with parks.
  • Significant cost benefits for the health sector with reducing recovery time of patients and incidence of associated health issues;
  • With a high incidence of depression in RTRC patients, connecting with open space can improve mental health;
  • Opportunities to build confidence in patients to integrate back into society through venturing into the outdoors in a controlled environment.

Healthy Parks

  • Significant benefit to Parks Victoria in clearly demonstrating the relevance of parks for community health and wellbeing;
  • Appropriate use of Yarra Bend Park in a currently under-utilised section of the park, prone to vandalism and unauthorised mountain biking activity;
  • Opportunities to profile park values and the RTRC through interpretive panels along new trails;
  • Create a sense of ownership and connectedness to the Park by RTRC patients and families, thereby increasing advocacy of public open space.

Parks Victoria and Austin Health have formed a Steering Committee and engaged consultants to assist with the project and are now in the initial phases of analysis and consultation with key stakeholders. A draft masterplan will be prepared before the end of the year.

Check HPHP Central for regular updates on this initiative.


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