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John Senior: Healthy parks make healthy people

Text to come


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.

Review Status:

Nick Safstrom OAM (1947-), Landscape Architect and Artist

                            A sample of Nick’s art

Nick Safstrom OAM (1947-  ) as described by Neil Hordern, formerly of the firm EDAW:

“In a word or two as a leader, the best and still my benchmark for which I am always grateful!  As a Landscape Architect – rigour and creativity underpinned by a strong moral compass. Someone who could deal with significant urban challenges and at the same time, share the marvel of often over looked cultural and environmental undercurrents. In my time at EDAW, Nick cultivated so many young landscape architects to collaborate and enjoy problem solving and in doing so operated at a level beyond their years of experience. “

Who is this man, Nick Safstrom who earned such a high accolade from a previous employee?


Nick Safstrom studied architecture and fine arts at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology for six years (1966-1972), worked in that discipline for one year and then decided, as he was much more interested in landscape, that he would pursue studies in landscape architecture at RMIT (1973-1977). Nick’s design training as an architect, with the ability to mentally visualise an entire concept before he started working, certainly enhanced his landscape design practice as well.


Loder & Bayly

Nick was initially employed to establish a landscape architecture division for Loder & Bayly (L&B) a multi- disciplinary office in Hawthorn during the late 70s & 80s.  It was an innovative practice with planners, urban designers, architects, sociologists, civil engineers, traffic designers and geographers, all working collaboratively under the same roof, to create strong design solutions for Melbourne and Australia. (One time an egyptologist was eagerly accepted onto staff as one who would bring innovative perspectives to the mix).

Loder & Bayly’s office work culture

Nick reflects that “Loder & Bayly had an amazing work culture. It was a very family-orientated practice with children and partners coming into the office after work every Friday night for drinks, while the children would play around the spaces of the open plan office in Power Street, Hawthorn and often head off for a Vietnamese meal in Victoria Street afterwards. If you had a birthday or won a project, you brought cake the next day! The group periodically holidayed together and their friendship links remain strong to this day. Sadly it was the economic downturn in the late ‘80’s which led to L&B being forced to close and then merging onto the engineering firm Sinclair Knight, but not before they had found a job for everyone in that practice.”

Loder & Bayly colleagues: L-R Jan Martin, Nick Safstrom, John Loder, Don Glasson, Bill Chandler, Michael Daff, Michael Read, Ian Wight.

Brown bag sessions

Nick established a weekly meeting for the whole office over lunchtime, called a brown (lunch bag) session. It became a very valuable ideas-sharing time. It could have been about a specific work project; philosophical ideas; world events; work culture; but everyone at that session was on equal parity. It was of enormous value for more junior staff to feel valued and a learning tool as well.

Master Planning for Melbourne’s metropolitan parks

One important assignment received by L&B in 1985 was Nick Safstrom’s appointment to design the master plans for all of the regional metropolitan parks around Melbourne. Alan Croxford, a visionary leader of the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works, observed that when most people visited national parks, their most common activity was to gather with families, have a picnic, kick a football and do a little walking. So he proposed and implemented adding a parks levy to every landowner’s rates bill, which gave the funding (via the Metropolitan Improvement Fund) to establish and maintain these important recreational spaces around Melbourne. These included Jells, Brimbank, Westerfolds, Banksia and Point Cook Coastal Parks.

His wife Heather writes: “I recall Nick walking around Jells Park directing the bulldozers to shape the ponds, which feed into the large lake in the flood plain valley, with islands shaped within it. This has become an important habitat for ibis and other wetland nesting birds and a greatly valued family recreational space for metropolitan Melbourne.”

Litchfield National Park 

In about 1986, the Northern Territory Government envisioned establishing a second park project following Kakadu, to increase tourism opportunities. They wanted to open access for visitors to Litchfield, which was officially declared a national park in 1986. Loder & Bayly was engaged to do the master planning for this project. Nick Safstrom, John Wood and Jan Martin, along with others drove in through wilderness areas, with snorkels on the exhausts of their 4×4 vehicles, to mitigate the effect of mud and floodwaters, to finally access the Wongi Falls area.  There on the sandy banks of Wongi Pool, trestle tables were set up to do the master planning.

They asked themselves questions such as

  • which were the most important areas for development?
  • sites for parking, facilities & camping areas?
  • how to protect the special Horseshoe Bats in an area – with the determination that a viewing platform would be made, rather than allowing people into the gully?

Then a helicopter was flown in to give them an overview of the whole site.

This project has proved to be very successful, with high visitor demand creating the need for ongoing strategies by others to continue management to protect this beautiful area.

West Gate Bridge Park

The Chair of the West Gate Bridge Authority, Oscar Meyer, is credited with the inspiration for the establishment of Westgate Park. He wanted to create “a beautiful park straddling the Yarra River” to complement his sculptural bridge. He developed this vision soon after the completion of the bridge in the late 1970s. The federal government funded the development of Westgate Park to mark Victoria’s sesquicentenary in 1984-85.

Nick was involved with L&B and landscape architect Bruce Mackenzie OAM to win a competition with an ambitious design relying on a constructed landscape of hills and access tracks which framed and created views of the West Gate Bridge as the central sculptural feature, and with fresh and saltwater lakes as focal points. Planned features included an island visitors’ centre, as well as the planting of Australian vegetation, improvement of bird habitat and the incorporation of a narrow-gauge railway, a sound shell and sculptures. To this day this park has an active team of volunteers who continue to develop the planting and management of the park, under the banner of Parks Victoria. It is thrilling to visit this park today to see the wide variety of birds that now call this park home, only 4kms from Melbourne’s CBD.

For further information see Westgate Park Masterplan and implementation or enter Westgate/Lower Yarra River Project or Loder and Bayly in the Victorian Government’s Library Service catalogue.

Karkarook Park / Sandbelt Masterplan and

Lower Plenty River Concept Plan

For reports of these projects, visit and enter keywords.


EDAW Australia – Architecture & Design

(EDAW is an acronym derived from Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams, the names of four of the firm’s original partners). Peter Haack has shared some background about this practice.

“The EDAW story is certainly an interesting one. EDAW Australia was a national practice of multi-disciplinary design and planning professionals covering planning, site and urban design and landscape architecture, under the umbrella of the international landscape practice EDAW.

The arrangement with EDAW came about as a buy out by Sinclair Knight Mertz (SKM) of the Loder & Bayly practice. SKM took the urban planners, social planners and the traffic engineers, but the Landscape Architecture (LA) team went to EDAW. (Jan Martin as an urban designer and urban planner went with the SKM team). EDAW was 40-50% owned by SKM at that time and SKM helped EDAW break into the Australian market. EDAW already had a strong presence in NSW.

As part of the EDAW takeover of the L&B Landscape Architecture team in 1995, Andrew Irvine came from EDAW Sydney to join with Nick and Peter Haack to form the new EDAW Melbourne practice. John Wood and Michael Erickson of L&B Brisbane became part of the Brisbane EDAW practice. After the recession of the early 1990s, the L&B team was pretty thin with Neil Hordern and Marius Brits being some of the first new EDAW recruits.”

This then led to Nick’s managing the Melbourne office and eventually all of the Australian offices of EDAW in Queensland and NSW as well as a new office in Adelaide that Nick established, (managed by John Holland) – four offices in total. It was a highly successful international planning and design firm.  EDAW was eventually taken over by AECOM in 2008. Following that takeover, much of the Australian design leadership within EDAW left AECOM.

Nick returned to RMIT to join the teaching staff on a part-time basis to train landscape students in business practice.

Some significant projects undertaken by EDAW

  • Nick and Andrew Irvine led the creative vision for the South East City Link Project, with technical expertise provided by Neil Hordern. They developed the landscaping plan along the South East Freeway, with the blue wavy lines on the sound walls referencing the river. Nick reflects: “I recall Neil’s frustration when contractors, rather than leaving planting space, filled the base of one of the sound walls along the freeway with concrete!”
  • Many more bike paths were designed and built, linking up parklands and watercourses.
  • EDAW sent Andrew Irvine, one of its landscape architects, on a world tour to visit significant waterfront developments, then together with Nick, developed the master plan for the Victoria Harbour precinct, including the stadium.  Bill Chandler was also involved in this Docklands planning.
  • John Wood from EDAW’s Queensland office undertook a safety audit of Ormiston Gorge in the West Donnell Ranges of the Northern Territory.  He was flown in to Alice Springs, had to walk the perimeter of the pound, photographing every trip/safety hazard and note its GPS co-ordinates – so that a work team could go in later to repair them. “Landscape architecture offers such a variety of opportunities!”
  • Maroondah City Council Design Service’s contract. Nick was responsible for managing the contract for three years. Works included wetlands, parklands, sporting fields and streetscapes. This was the first major local government outsourcing of design projects.


An interesting piece of advice Nick received from a mentor in the early stages of his career was to volunteer his skills to an organisation. Acting on this, over a period of 30 years he gave his time to the Victorian National Trust on their management board, to eventually become Vice-Chairman of the National Trust, alongside Simon Molesworth OAM. Nick’s particular interest with the National Trust was preserving historical landscapes. This voluntary work for the Trust, along with his leadership in the landscape architecture field, eventually earned him recognition as a Fellow of the Institute of Landscape Architecture and an award of an OAM in 2007.


One role Nick managed on behalf of the Trust was running Mooramong, a property that had been bequeathed to the Trust. Mooramong is on a working farm in the Western District of 4,000 acres, running sheep and producing crops. Nick would attend monthly management meetings with local farmers who also donated their time and advice to run the farm. What should be planted and when? How should sheep be managed and purchased or sold? Using profits from this farming activity, a large area was fenced to exclude predators to re-establish a nature reserve with habitat for Eastern Barred Bandicoots and other Australian species including the Wedge-tailed Eagle and Brolga. It was a very exciting day when the first release of bandicoots was made into the compound. For further information, enter Mooramong into the search box of the website of the National Trust, Victoria.

Early retirement

In 2000 while in his early fifties Nick experienced a stroke, which left him with aphasia and unable to talk or write. It’s just as well that he can draw, as all communications are now made by mime and drawing. Heather writes: “You won’t catch his wife playing Pictionary just for fun!” However the multiple skills he had developed over his lifetime have led to his enjoying his unexpectedly early-retirement with great satisfaction.

Once back on his feet he returned to painting, something for which he hadn’t had time, during his busy career. Multiple successful art exhibitions were held in their family home between 2002-2023 and his work has been sold all over the world. He still draws using his non-dominant left hand.

Until recently, he and Heather travelled with their campervan and 4×4 through outback Australia for fifteen years, spending three months each winter in very remote places, exploring beautiful landscapes, painting and exploring. A musician all of his life, he now sings in two choirs and still plays his tjembe for the Stroke A Chord choir.

So, his enjoyment of life continues, enriched by his innate curiosity and varied interests with great contentment.

He certainly deserves a place under the heading “Inspiring people”. He is an inspiration to many.

Nick in 2023, in his ‘habitat garden’, a creation 40 years in the making.



With characteristic modesty, Nick has asked that some of the achievements of his colleagues be recognised in this narrative.

John Loder and right hand turn lanes – An enduring L&B innovation

Loder & Bayly was the first stand-alone planning firm in Victoria.. Prior to that, planning was an add-on to civil engineering and architect offices. The founding Principals were John Loder, a transportation planner and engineer, and John Bayly, a town planner and architect.


One of the important legacies left by John Loder (deceased) was to introduce the concept of right hand turn lanes.  As an inspiring planner, frustrated by delays at traffic lights by right-turning vehicles, he organised a trial project within Hawthorn and following its success, this concept was run out all over Australia.  It’s something we take for granted now – but what a difference that planning initiative has made to all of the driving public.


  Don Glasson and Melbourne’s bike paths

Don Glasson, also a town planner and architect, joined the firm early after its inception and later became the third partner. Don played a key role in the growing recognition of cycling as a significant transport mode. He prepared comprehensive bicycle plans for many cities, towns, suburbs and regions from Cairns in North Australia to Adelaide and parts of South Australia. He carried out the first Rail Trail Policy and Evaluation work in the Victorian Ovens Valley, followed by many other trails in Victoria and South Australia. As part of the MMBW’s and L&B’s overall strategy of linking parklands throughout the metropolitan area, Don, a keen cyclist, designed many of Melbourne’s bike paths.



Nick, Natalie Grey, Peter Haack                Bill Chandler                         Jan Martin                      Andrew Irvine

(Bill, Jan and Andrew are all deceased).



Review Status: Pending

Ranger Uniforms and Emblems

In the early 1970s, mission brown and yellow were the colours chosen for signs and other labelling by the National Parks Service in Victoria. This revealed some USA influence. A decision was taken in the early 1970s to shift to olive green and cream. Notes of a Rangers’ Training Course held at Kiata in the Little Desert in 1973 indicate that a green uniform was modelled.

Uniform emblems from Victoria 1961-75 and Queensland 1978.


Ron Turner, Ranger in both Victoria and from 1978 Queensland (see his memoir First Ranger in the Document Library), writing for PaRC in 2023, has supplied the following recollection:

“When I joined the National Parks Authority in 1961 rangers were issued with clothing made by the Cushen Clothing Company of Melbourne. Shirts and a dress jacket carried a shoulder patch on each side. The jacket was never popular with rangers who often commented on its inadequacy. Issued clothing included both dress and working shirts with a brown tie, and both long trousers and shorts. Wet weather clothing, and a rubber-soled golf shoe and/or riding boot were supplied on an annual request basis. Complementing the uniform was a scout commissioner’s type of hat. The only good thing about this hat was the shade afforded but it was so stiff it could only be worn quite flat. There was no tilting it or pulling it down to reflect personality; it was an awful thing to wear. To make the point at one stage one of the country rangers pulled it down onto the Director’s head!


“Having been superseded more than 40 years ago, these uniforms would now be collectors’ items.


“The Victorian rangers had formed a Victorian National Parks Rangers’ Association of which I was the Secretary. The issue of a better uniform was often to the forefront of our discussions and we were modestly active in evaluating styles of clothing and colours, even viewing uniforms as made by various manufacturers. We had also opted to have the Wedge-tailed Eagle as an emblem for shoulder patches, etc.

“I had been to the first ever NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service conference held at Royal National Park, Sydney, in 1967, and been very impressed with the style and colour of their brand new uniform with its lyrebird insignia.

“Dr. L.H.Smith, the then Director of the renamed National Parks Service diplomatically led with his concept of having the kangaroo as the official emblem. The rangers, as a group, felt the kangaroo was already vastly ‘overdone’ on commercial logos and ‘Skippy the Bush Kangaroo’ had not long been released on television. Our efforts were not entirely in vain for I was asked if I would ‘model’ a uniform as proposed by the National Parks Service at our forthcoming annual training course. In due course my measurements were taken at the Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory. In 1973 the training course was held in the controversial Little Desert National Park area and I fronted the conference in this new uniform, complete with a softer, more appropriate hat.

“As far as I was aware the above uniform was the only one of its kind ever made and those six metal buttons must now be ‘scarcer than hen’s teeth’!”


A 1996 sign manual for Queensland‘s Department of Natural Resources (forestry and forests recreation) will be made available in PaRC as soon as scanning is complete.



Review Status: Pending

Managing the Planning & Provision of Leisure and Recreation Opportunities in Australia

The attached file is the 2016 6th edition of Dr Ken Marriott’s leisure planning book, Managing the Planning and Provision of Leisure and Recreation Opportunities in Australia.  This was initially published by the Tasmanian Government in 2010. Dr Marriott advises: “I have full permission to use it and amend it from the Tasmanian Government.  It was commissioned by Sport and Recreation Tas as the course text for a VET diploma course I developed for them, Diploma of Management (Recreation Planning). Over 3-4 full courses between 2008-16, it was attended by around 50 mature-age students from Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and SA between 2008 and 2016.  As you will see from the title page, the book also became the course text for a 2nd/3rd year recreation planning and policy course that I ran for many years as a sessional lecturer at Victoria University.

“The 2016 book forms the basis of my 2021 book with Tower and McDonald (Routledge UK). For Australian users, it is a far better book than the 2021 UK  publication as it has a solely Australian focus and much of the very specific case material had to be deleted for the UK publication.”


Supporting materials for recreation studies at undergraduate years 2 and 3 levels.

Review Status: Pending

Greening Port Moresby – Book

In 1989, the National Capital District Interim Commission, the provincial government for the capital city of Papua New Guinea, published a guide to gardening in the city, compiled by the Manager, Parks, Gardens and Sports with the assistance of many staff and other contributors.

The book has parallel texts in English, Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin) and Papuan Motu.

The book has been scanned to make it available to a wide audience. Given the size of the files, the book has been split into sections. But before opening or downloading the book, please read the warning at the foot of this post.

Front cover, inside cover, frontispiece, inside back cover, back cover (15MB)

Pages 1-68 (44MB)

Colour photos in centre

Pages 93-160


To come

Review Status: Pending

Greening Port Moresby certificate

In the late 1980s an initiative called “Greening Port Moresby” was run by the National Capital Interim District Commission, the provincial government for the capital city of Papua New Guinea. It was run by the Parks, Gardens and Sports Branch. Certificates were printed with the intention of enrolling members of the public, to increase their awareness of the need to plant trees and flowers, reduce rubbish and minimise burning of the grasslands around the city. No register was kept and the initiative did not gain much traction.



Review Status: Pending

Development of a Melanesian Port-City – 1989

This conference paper was delivered by Mr Jack Kutal, a Commissioner of Port Moresby’s National Capital District Interim Commission, to a international conference in May 1989. Although the headline subject is somewhat outside the scope of PaRC, the paper does contain useful insights into city design and also into some differences between European culture and Melanesian culture.

NCDIC was the provincial government for the capital of Papua New Guinea.



Review Status: Pending

Leisure planning and climate change – Invitation to share knowledge

Prominent consultant Dr Ken Marriott delivered an important paper to the Victoria/Tasmania Regional Conference of Parks and Leisure Australia in June 2023. It presents climate change as a here-and-now challenge to local governments and others providing leisure facilities. The paper has been uploaded to the PaRC Document Library along with accompanying slides.

Discussion of and responses to any of the issues and recommendations presented in this paper are invited. Similarly, anyone wishing to join a “working group” on the issues is invited to make contact. The author’s contact details are provided at the end of the paper.

Review Status: Pending

Australian Heritage Parks Association

The Australian Heritage Parks Association was a national group representing the owners and managers of theme parks with a heritage theme. Members as at 1986 are listed in the 1986 Conference program.

PaRC has not been able to contact the former office-bearers. The group’s company registration was terminated in 2008. Any former office-bearer or member representative is invited to improve this stub of a narrative.

6th Biennial Conference – Echuca

PaRC has uncovered some papers from its 6th Biennial Conference, held at Echuca, Victoria in 1986, including a list of attendees.

Reference in the National Library of Australia catalogue.

Funding the Dream by keynote Crawford Lincoln

Preserving Technologies by T.J. Hobson

Historic Buildings and the Heritage Park by Allan Willingham

Knowing Your Visitor: A Survey of Visitor Types by Philip Pearce

Management Structures and Systems for Resolving Conflict by Paul Power.



Review Status: Pending