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We owe to Carolyn Rance this article dated 5 August 2014 as a profile of John Senior, who as Network Coordinator has been instrumental in populating PaRC’s Document Library in the early days of its establishment, drawing upon his excellent network of contacts within the parks and recreation sector.


“For someone who is semi-retired, John Senior is a very busy man who is happy to still be involved in work he loves.

The former manager of strategic partnerships at Parks Victoria continues to help build international networks of parks and recreation professionals and spread the message that access to open space is vital to people’s health. He spoke on both topics at the Parks and Leisure Australia national conference in Cairns in August 2014.

John Senior started working life as a civil engineer and worked with the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW). In the lead-up to Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations in 1988 he managed the project that led to re-vegetation and development of trails along many of Melbourne’s waterways.

Following the later restructure of the MMBW he joined Melbourne Parks and Waterways, which became the foundation of Parks Victoria. ‘‘I became more and more involved with parks and recreation although it wasn’t my basic training,’’ he says.

A chance meeting with Dr George Peterson, then a senior scientist with the United States Forest Service, introduced him to a growing body of research showing that contact with nature offers broad-ranging benefits to physical and mental health. John invited Peterson to visit his workplace and Parks Victoria later commissioned Deakin University’s Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences to undertake a review of international literature on the topic.

‘‘It showed that apart from the fairly obvious physical benefits from exercise in parks, it fosters psychological well-being and reduces stress,” John says. “Time spent in open spaces, whether they are urban parks or wilderness, yields both preventive and remedial benefits.’’ As global interest in the link between parks and health continued to grow, he was put in charge of arranging Parks Victoria’s inaugural International Healthy Parks Healthy People Congress in 2010.

By then he was 70 years of age and, although still working professionally part-time, had accumulated a significant portfolio of voluntary work. He has a long-standing involvement with Parks and Leisure Australia and mentors younger parks professionals through Leadership Victoria.

Internationally he leads a taskforce that aims to expand and revitalise the International Federation of Park and Recreation Administration (IFPRA), a world urban parks organisation dedicated to city liveability and a sustainable environment through parks, open space and recreation.

Since retiring from Parks Victoria two years ago he has added consultancy to his activities. He is project managing the production of best practice guidelines for programs based on the Healthy Parks, Healthy People model for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an organisation dedicated to finding pragmatic solutions to the world’s pressing environment and development challenges.

John says that as well as benefiting park users, programs that raise awareness of the social and health benefits of park use boost recognition of parks agencies and their employees as providers of valuable social services.

Stronger links between the people who operate the world’s parks and protected areas help promote best practice worldwide and assist professionals develop operational skills in management and advocacy. ‘I want to pass on my knowledge and I’m passionate about helping people recognise the health benefits offered by parks,’ he says.”

John Senior has authored three narratives “Green space and public health” on this website – to access, type those keywords into the search box.