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Category: Leisure activities

camping and caravanning; motoring; bushwalking; recreational cycling; horse riding; fishing; boating; adventure recreation; indoor recreation

Tread Lightly!

Tread Lightly! (Australia) was a community organisation established to promote responsible use of outdoor recreation sites by users. Queensland public servant Neil Ames has assembled this narrative, based upon recollections of the late John Wood, who was president for 10 years.

The model came from the United States where Tread Lightly (US) is still very alive and functional: see https://www.treadlightly.org/. Its mission has been “Promoting responsible recreation through stewardship, education and communication. Plus, we get out there and live it.” Tread Lightly (US) originated from the US Forest Service which wanted to partner with recreational users of forests to minimise recreation-related impacts resulting from all types of outdoor activities including off-road vehicles (mountain biking, bushwalking, camping, fishing, hunting etc).

Jan and Ivan Scudamore introduced the program into Australia in the early 1990s. Jan was Executive Officer of Tread Lightly (Australia) from its inception and the driving force. Tread Lightly (Australia) had a board and three chairmen over the ~10 years of operation, namely Brian Woodward, Rob Seymore and John Wood. Jan was also a board member of Tread Lightly (USA) and acquired a quantity of educational, training, promotional, research, management and operational material from the US Forest Service and the Off Highway Vehicle Association of USA.

Eventually it was decided to close Tread Lightly (Australia) down due to lack of financial support.

After an interregnum in the offices of Sport and Recreation Queensland based in Toowoomba, the collection of physical resources was secured by PaRC and many items scanned. The materials are not saved in a single digital location in the library, as the library is based on a keyword search engine, but the items that are not copyright are now accessible to all.

Review Status: Pending

Hobbies and leisure pursuits accommodated in Australian parks – 1994 view

This narrative has been edited from a draft written for an international audience in October 1994 by Peter Nicholls, Trustee of the AIPR Trust Fund-Education. The term “parks” refers to both urban and non-urban parks.

Background

Australia is approximately the same size as the United States of America but has a population of only around 17 million people. Yet it is one of the world’s most urbanised communities, with the large majority of its peoples living on the east coast and approximately half of the population living in just two cities – Sydney and Melbourne. Also, it has been traditional for the typical Australian family to live in a bungalow style of home with a front and back area of private open space. It is however increasingly common for people to prefer high density or medium density housing.

Australians have an image of being sun-bronzed and weathered people who prefer the ‘great outdoors’. The impression that kangaroos and koalas are commonplace sights in metropolitan areas of Australia is still widely held among people of the northern hemisphere. While it may be a fact that Australians are, in reality, highly urbanised and as highly diverse in their interests as the people of other nations, they do have an innate affiliation with the countryside. But it is a harsh and often unforgiving countryside (known to Australians as ‘the bush’ or the more remote areas ‘the outback’). Yet it is a countryside of unimaginable beauty, which draws people from all walks of life, Australians and overseas visitors alike.

These facts are important background knowledge to understand the Australian culture in relation to its use of parks for recreation and leisure pursuits.

Urban parks

The earliest settlers in Australia (after arrival of Indigenous peoples perhaps 60,000 years ago) were from Britain and Europe. They found great difficulty in coming to terms with the fact of Australia’s general dry and harsh climate. This difficulty was reflected in the fact that the settlers preferred to create something of the soft lush greenery of their homelands in their development of gardens and local public open space. The typical urban park has therefore traditionally been designed along the lines of the English or European park, with large areas of manicured turf, bordered by trees and flower beds. The American parks specialist, Seymour Gold, on a trip to one of Australia’s more congenial cities, Adelaide, was heard to remark that it was the ‘mowing capital of the world’.

Whereas the main uses of the traditional ‘English-style’ park have been sitting and contemplation, the more modern park better reflects the Australian culture both in its design and its usage. Australians are now coming to recognise their country for its own special form of beauty. This is increasingly evident in parks design with greater use of brown areas, drought resistant turfs and native flora.

The ways in which urban parks are used have diversified in parallel with a growing Australian appreciation of the wide range of available recreation opportunities. Organisations such as Life. Be In It (a highly successful Australia-wide program aimed at promoting the benefits of fitness and increased activity through a ‘soft sell’ approach) has done much to bring people out to their parks for unstructured family activities such as kite flying, ball games, walking, cycling, jogging and swimming. In particular, the phenomenon of seeing hundreds of people participating in ‘Life Games’ did much to give people a new appreciation of the joys of visiting their local park.

The use of parks for public festivals has also grown in popularity. Ethnic festivals, food and drink festivals, Australian adaptations of European festivals such as the German Scheutzenfest in Adelaide, open air orchestral concerts, Christmas Carols by Candlelight evenings and free public rock music concerts are just a few examples of how urban parks are being used throughout Australia.

A modem trend in park design has been the development of linear parks. These generally follow natural corridors such as rivers or creeks, or where the opportunity arises, disused railway reserves. Linear parks suit modem leisure trends in which people look to walking, cycling, jogging, roller skating and the like as enjoyable forms of activity. Linear parks provide a means of getting from one place to another, variety in surroundings and, where they follow a natural corridor, they stimulate the modem interest in understanding and enhancing the natural environment.

Linear parks are succeeding in bringing Australians out of their houses and private gardens and encouraging them to better know and understand their neighbourhood. Creeks are again becoming status symbols instead of eyesores to be concreted and filled. Bird watching and fishing along local waterways is an emerging neighbourhood activity. Indeed it is true to say that linear parks are proving to be valuable media for community development as people who are out walking seem far more inclined to say ‘hullo’ to each other.

Regrettably, modem trends are also resulting in an increasing public perception of urban parks as being places of danger because of a perceived increase in anti-social activities taking place in parks. Public toilets in parks are avoided (and often closed) for fear of confronting antisocial activities. Fear of muggings, stabbings or bashings, excessive drinking and drug-taking are other negative reputations of urban parks which cause the general population to avoid them, particularly after dark. There is general agreement among parks managers that these fears are more a matter of perception than fact but the impact on usage is strong.

Non-urban parks

Non-urban parks are managed by a variety of agencies, most of which are in the public sector. They include the national parks and wildlife service, woods and forests agencies, water management agencies, coastal management agencies, local councils and agencies generally responsible for unallotted public lands (known as Crown land). There are also large tracts of public land – usually in the more remote regions – leased for private farming and pastoralism but still sometimes open to public access, subject to conditions. (Conditions differ between the various state-based regimes).

Most Australians have a yearning to get away from the pressures of the city life from time to time and enjoy the attractions of the Australian countryside. These getaways vary in length and intensity from the popular family drive in the car and picnic in the nearby countryside to longer and more hazardous treks into the outback.

The distances that people travel into the countryside varies but is mostly limited to the need to be home before dark. Throughout hinterlands within 1-3 hours driving time of metropolitan areas, picnic areas are abundant. One study of visitor patterns at a popular rural picnic area showed that people tended to arrive from about 11 am and the area was constantly busy until about 3 pm. By 3.30 pm the area was all but deserted.

A characteristic of Australians is that, while they enjoy the sensation of ‘roughing it in the bush’ they prefer to do so within sight of the family car. Thus problems arise in creating the illusion of a rough bush setting while providing nearby car parking. This conflict also increases environmental damage as recreationists strive to enjoy the comforts of the car with a rustic experience.

The recreation opportunities sought by the ‘day tripper’ are many and varied with the most popular being simply to drive for pleasure, using picnic areas to stop for lunch and to allow the family to get some fresh air and exercise. Short walking trails (up to an hour’s duration) are popular and opportunities to see native wildlife in safe surroundings are a strong attraction. The ubiquitous shop selling ice cream and confectionery is further evidence of the popularity of parks which combine an outdoors experience with the comforts of home.

Parks near metropolitan areas often provide a range of urban recreation facilities such as tennis courts, playground equipment, barbecues, shelter sheds, sporting ovals and seating. There is an increasing tendency to charge an entry fee into these areas – a practice which is better accepted by the public if they believe that the money collected is being put directly back into the development of that area rather than into a general revenue fund.

Travel to a rural site where it is necessary to stay overnight or longer is also highly popular. Traditionally, Australian park management agencies have provided somewhat crude camping facilities in the belief that this is what the typical Australian camper is seeking. Agencies are now beginning to acknowledge a huge and growing market for rural experiences in good quality camping and caravanning sites and that users are prepared to pay for quality.

In more remote parks, the public seeks natural recreation experiences such as bushwalking, fishing, boating, sightseeing, bird watching, camping, viewing wildlife, nature studies and photography or painting. There is also a high demand for activities which are, to a greater or lesser degree, incompatible with the natural environment. These include trail horse-riding, car rallies, trailbike riding, power boating and offroad vehicle activities.

These latter activities highlight the fact that while the Australian countryside has a rugged image that people from other countries often perceive as being harsh and unforgiving, some natural landscapes such as water frontages are quite fragile. Funding adequate to allow park managers to control (as unobtrusively as possible and notably through park design) for recreational and leisure use is essential.

National parks are of course intended to preserve and enhance the worthier natural areas of a country and are therefore highly appropriate destinations for the growing world demands for eco-tourism opportunities. In fact by world standards Australia is slow to capture its rightful share of the ecotourism market. Some specific localities are capturing the interest of overseas visitors, such as the Great Barrier Reef off the north Queensland coast and Ayers Rock (Uluru National Park) in Central Australia. Kakadu National Park of Crocodile Dundee fame is another area gaining overseas popularity. However the potential of so many other magnificent areas of Australia’s unique natural environment are still Australia’s best kept secrets in the world ecotourism market.

Conclusion

Parks – urban and non-urban – symbolise the Australian love of the outdoors. To date they have been developed in ways that have tended to reflect the perceived traditional purpose of parks as places to look at and meditate in. It is pleasing to see that modem parks managers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that there is a huge untapped potential to develop ‘people purpose parks’ which not only cater for outdoor recreation needs but truly reflect Australian cultural values and leisure demands.

Review Status: Pending

Green Flag Awards and National Park Cities

The Green Flag Award Scheme

Parks and open spaces are at the heart of communities. The Green Flag Award Scheme is an accreditation given to publicly accessible parks and open spaces, that seeks to promote standards of good management and best practice among the green space sectors. In 1997, when the first Green Flag was awarded, the green space sector in the United Kingdom was in a parlous state.  Decades of underfunding had left many once proud and beautiful historic city-centre parks derelict, dangerous, no-go areas, and many other green spaces were neglected or barely maintained.  Experts with a shared interest in promoting natural spaces from a range of backgrounds came together in response to this decline.

Today, the Green Flag Award is managed under licence from the UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by ‘Keep Britain Tidy’; a not-for-profit environmental charity which also administers the scheme in England.  Keep Britain Tidy also sub-licenses the scheme in other countries. The Green Flag Award Scheme recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world. As highlighted in the report, Celebrating Amazing Spaces (2016), the scheme has delivered change not only in the green spaces sector, but also for university campuses, cemeteries and crematoria, housing associations, hospitals and canals and waterways. A report by the Heritage Lottery Fund (2016), titled State of UK’s Public Parks, indicates that 34 million people visit a park regularly in the UK. To put this into context, more people visited a park each year than voted in the 2015 UK general election.

Each year parks, reserves and green spaces are nominated for the Green Flag Award. To be a successful Green Flag Award winner, industry experts assess the nominated parks against 27 different criteria divided into eight sections. This includes a ‘welcoming place’, ‘healthy, safe and secure’, ‘well maintained and clean’, ‘environmental management’, ‘biodiversity, landscape and heritage’, ‘community involvement, ‘marketing and communication’ and finally, ‘overall management’.

Green Flag Awards Australia

On 24 November 2021, the Australian 2021 award recipients at the Parks and Leisure Australia Awards of Excellence were announced. Across Australia, City Parklands (Qld) (Roma Street and South Bank Parklands), Western Down Regional Council (Qld), Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council (NSW) (Queanbeyan and Queen Elizabeth II Park), City of Greater Bendigo (Vic) and City of Campbelltown (SA) were recognised as nation-leading examples of the eight criterion sections of the Green Flag Award. Winning a Green Flag Award brings with it a wealth of benefits, from the status of being affiliated with a prestigious awards programme through to tangible benefits such as boosting tourism and creating revenue opportunities. Upgrading a site to achieve Green Flag status can, for example, bring about improvements to health and education, reduce crime and improve the general cleanliness of an area, whilst at the same time providing a boost to its profile. Additionally, improving facilities at a park/green space and engaging more with the local community can have a knock-on effect to the regeneration of an area.

Movements like the Green Flag Award are needed if parks and open spaces are to raise the standard of achievement for the environment and well-being of communities.

National Park Cities

The Green Flag Award Scheme has led to other movements such as the National Park City Foundation, which was established as a registered charity in the UK to promote the idea of bringing ‘National Park Cities’ to life in London and internationally. According to the United Nations, two-thirds of people will live in urban areas by 2050. With 70% of the global population predicted to be living in cities by 2050, the need to have wildlife, nature and biodiversity in our cities has never been more crucial for our well-being and existence. The ambition by the international NGO World Urban Parks to establish 25 National Park Cities by 2025 worldwide is testament to this. In fact, Adelaide has already risen to the challenge.

In December 2021, a formal announcement was made by the  global National Park City Foundation that Adelaide had been named the world’s second National Park City, enhancing the city’s reputation as the most liveable in Australia. The South Australian Minister for Environment and Water remarked that, Adelaide National Park City status isn’t just another title for our city, it is a trigger to promote and connect people with on-ground action to look after our environment for everyone’s health and wellbeing, as well as boost our economy through increased tourism.”

(The title National Park City reflects the distinctive UK meaning of the term National Park which encompasses private land, unlike Australian usage which has traditionally been confined to public land. The UK national park is analogous to a zone within an Australian planning scheme).

The legacy of the Green Flag Award scheme has also sparked the establishment of the ‘Green Flag Award Knowledge Day’ as part of the World Parks Congress which took place in December 2021. The international online event was organised by World Urban Parks and hosted virtually by several major cities: Los Angeles (USA), San Pedro (Mexico) and Sydney (Australia). The Congress  brought together city and community leaders, park professionals, partners, affiliates and engaged citizens under the shared goal of advancing parks through intentional successful strategies.

Green Spaces Resources Hub

As part of the ‘Knowledge Day’, many speakers provided reference documents to be uploaded free onto the Green Spaces Resources Hub, which was launched at the 2020 World Parks Congress, as a comprehensive library curated from all over the word. Database platforms like this that are made publicly available, help foster and enhance knowledge worldwide on the environmental challenges still facing park management, but can also be used as a forum to celebrate and recognise the continued professionalism of urban landscape management and maintenance. The Hub has also allowed public access to the latest park-related research findings, events and collaboration opportunities from academic and research organisations across the globe. Following on from that success, and in partnership with the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield it was announced during the congress that the Green Flag Award will be launching the next stage of knowledge exchange – The Parks and Green Spaces Research Portal.

The Hub and the Portal are fulfilling a function on an international scale that PaRC aims to fulfil for Australian and Western Pacific resources.

Review Status: Pending

Hiawatha: A message from 1939 to today

Modern day arts in the community are regarded as “bringing people together, fostering a sense of community, supporting mental well-being by building confidence and self-esteem, and inspiring us to get moving” (ref. i).

In 1939, similar recognition of the social benefits from attending live theatre performance may have influenced the decision for Melbourne City Council to proceed with presenting the spectacular musical pageant Hiawatha at the Royal Exhibition Building. This decision was controversial, as the show opened when Australia was just one month into the outbreak of World War Two (ref. ii).

Based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Hiawatha comprised three cantatas composed by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. English audiences were already familiar with the lavish pageant presented between 1924 and 1939 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, adapted, dramatised and produced by Thomas C. Fairbairn (ref. iii). Now the musical pageant was arriving in Melbourne, produced and directed by Fairbairn who installed a stage in the Exhibition Building measuring one hundred and fifty by forty-five feet (ref. iv).

Extracted from Iroquois folklore, Longfellow’s poem tells of the deeds of legendary Native American hero Hiawatha, a Mohawk Indian chief (or described by some sources as leader of the Onondaga tribe) born circa 1525 (ref. v). Hiawatha is attributed with having united five tribes to form the Iroquois Confederacy.

This was a challenging dilemma for the pageant organisers. Not realising a war would be commencing later in the year, plans had been underway for months to organise this event scheduled for October, 1939 to coincide with the annual Spring Racing Carnival. A cast of almost one thousand professional and amateur performers had enthusiastically rehearsed for several months. These included seven hundred singers aged between sixteen and sixty-four from various local choral societies, eighty dancers and a seventy-five piece, full symphony orchestra led by Edouard Lambert under the musical direction of Bernard Heinze (ref. vi).

But from another perspective, following the September announcement of outbreak of war, young men and women were selflessly enlisting in the forces to serve their country, and memories of the horrors of World War One lingered as the nation prepared to endure another period of uncertainty and conflict.  The organisers would know, however, that live entertainment during World War One had lifted the spirits of troops and communities. The season of Hiawatha with its pageantry, music and drama, opened on 21 October at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, and closed on 4 November. Horace Stevens as Hiawatha led the cast of this grand-scale spectacular sponsored by the Melbourne City Council and presented in aid of the Australian Red Cross and related funds.

Patrons in the 3500-strong audience on opening night included the Governor, Sir Winston Dugan, Lady Dugan and other leading Victorian citizens (ref. vii). The well-attended season included thirteen evening and two matinee performances, and seven thousand school children were invited to see two dress rehearsals .

The Argus newspaper favourably reviewed the thirteen-night production, and described the show as “an event which musical Melbourne will long remember.” (ref. viii). The review notes that “the great audience of three thousand went home thoroughly satisfied and happy that, though the war had caused the cancellation of most of the events of the Melbourne spring carnival, Hiawatha had survived.”

 

Contemporary message

This positive, uplifting benefit of attending live theatre performance during a war remains as relevant today as in past centuries. Since 2020, Australia has engaged in global war with an invisible enemy, the Covid-19 virus and its variants.

As modern-day live theatre gradually regenerates after long closures from the pandemic, the strong demand for tickets suggests people once again need to raise spirits by enjoying fun, escapism and the magic of theatre. The theatre community is hopeful that sufficient government arts funding will ensure that all theatre companies can quickly rebuild to again provide communities with the significant social and cultural benefits from live theatre performance.

 


Sections of this story have been extracted from the book In the Name of Theatre: The History, Culture and Voices of Amateur Theatre in Victoria, and The Show Went On a story published in Theatre Heritage Australia’s online magazine On Stage, both written by Dr Cheryl Threadgold.

References

[i] Vic Health 2014. Innovative Challenge: Arts – ‘Time to get Victorians Moving using Technology and the Arts’, Media Release 12 November, 2014. <https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/media-releases/time-to-get-victorians-moving-using-technology-and-the-arts>.

[ii]  Kenneth R. Hendy 21 Oct. 1939. ‘Hiawatha Comes to Melbourne’, The Argus, Weekend Magazine, p. 2. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/11248349

[iii] Jack Cowdrey 2012. ‘June Story of the Month: The Royal Choral Society and the Royal Albert Hall. https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/news/2012/june/june-story-of-the-month-the-royal-choral-society-and-the-royal-albert-hall

[iv] Mimi Colligan 1996. ‘From Hallelujah to Hiawatha’. In Victorian Icon: the Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne by David Dunstan with contributions by Mimi Colligan [and fourteen others],The Exhibition Trustees in association with Australian Scholarly Publishing, Kew, Victoria, p. 345.

[v] HistoryNet. ‘Hiawatha’, https://www.historynet.com/hiawatha

[vi] Hendy 1939. Ibid.

[vii] Colligan 1996. Ibid.

[viii] The Argus 23 October 1939. ‘Pageantry of Hiawatha’, The Argus, p. 2, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/11265689.

IMAGE: Hiawatha Cast, Melbourne, 1939. Royal Exhibition Building. Melbourne City Council (Organiser of event). Royal Exhibition Building Collection. HT 35085. Museums Victoria Collections.

Review Status: Pending

Theatrecraft in Victoria

Theatre and Melbourne

As Melbourne continued to develop following the gold rush years in the 1850s, theatre burst into life in the city and has continued to flourish, making Melbourne and regional Victorian cities the most active in Australia. As a result, we have an abundance of architecturally well-designed theatres across the state, providing space for the entrepreneurial spirit which prevails here.

Community theatre

Similarly, a passion for performance community theatre continues, with the spread of companies to outer suburbs and country areas. The consequent involvement of these communities is reflected in the major events staged throughout the year in addition to ongoing programs. Ostensibly a leisure time pursuit, but one that a large population takes seriously, devoting endless time and energy to it, in the pursuit of high standards.

The Victorian Drama League

Established in 1952 to support the community theatre world, The Victorian Drama League (VDL) has members comprising theatre companies, play reading groups, schools, one-act play festivals as well as individual members. While the major proportion of its members are from Victoria it has a growing membership in all states and territories. Access to an extensive library of plays, reference books and tapes is one of many services it provides to its members. The VDL publishes online https://vdl.org.au , featuring reviews of members’ productions, as well as news and notices of interest to the community theatre world.

Standards

Bruce Cochrane, VDL President 2015 to present writes:

“In the forty plus years I have been involved in community theatre, I have observed the constant pursuit of excellence, which is celebrated in our annual Awards Event. In the future, I see more well trained and enthusiastic people of all ages stepping up to be a part of the wonderful family of community theatre”.

Further reading

Dr Cheryl Threadgold’s In the Name of Theatre: The History, Culture and Voices of Amateur Theatre in Victoria of 2020 first outlines the history of amateur theatre in Victoria, from the 18th century in New South Wales to the modern day. In Part 2 the culture and voices of amateur theatre are shared in individual stories from 129 musical and non-musical amateur theatre companies currently operating in urban and regional Victoria.

Known past amateur theatre companies in Victoria are listed to pay tribute to their existence, and some research data collated from interviews with representatives from 70 theatre companies, giving insight into the transformative benefits of amateur theatre, and perceived strengths, threats and weaknesses of companies.

ISBN 978-0-646-81339-4. Available from the book’s website.

 

Review Status: Pending