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Ten of Australia’s best parks for self care and community

Ditch the devices and spend more time among community-run green spaces at these local parks

Photograph: Robert Polmear

When we talk about self care, we often talk about how much time we spend looking at screens. Though convenient, these screens (and our attachment to them) have some pretty adverse affects on our mental health. One remedy is spending more time in green spaces, away from these devices. Placemaking expert and 202020 Vision advocate Kylie Legge is a big supporter of this – she speaks frequently about the benefits of surrounding yourself with green spaces, especially when it comes to nourishment and wellbeing. Public parks are a great example of spaces that tick both those boxes – whether it’s tree-lined bike paths or communal veggie gardens. Take yourself on a tour of the one nearest you soon and bathe in community spirit.

1

Buderim Urban Food Street

This Sunshine Coast neighbourhood is paving the way in Australia when it comes to sustainable living – it’s the only neighbourhood that grows commercial quantities of fresh pesticide-free produce on nature strips and in public spaces. Stroll down one of 11 streets and you’ll find plenty of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices all growing in abundance. While the actual fruits of the community’s labour are a great reward in themselves, the project works twofold to foster an engaged and connected community. Hundreds of residents participate in cultivating the produce and the only real rule is to pick what you need, creating a fluid and ever-changing model. Kids can get their hands dirty in their own purpose-built garden, while adults can get to know their neighbours and learn more about gardening, no matter what their experience is.

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2

The Ponds Parklands

The Ponds Community Playground serves as a green retreat for the residents of the meticulously planned suburb that surrounds it, also called the Ponds. The implementation of the parklands saw over two million new trees planted (!) plus the creation of five ponds and a lake. The sheer size (over 80 hectares) serves as a point of inspiration and a meeting place for the community, giving space to be with nature. Explore and pedal your way through four kilometres of winding cycle and walk ways, fire up barbecue facilities (there are seven different sites) or exercise on the outdoor stationary gym. Kids can scramble, climb and swing through a number of different playgrounds too, while grown ups can admire custom art installations.

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Western Sydney
3

Carss Park Community Garden

This community garden has been flourishing since it was developed in 2008, transforming a former bowling green at the old Carss Park Bowling Club into a locally focused, green-thumb hub. The garden thrives all year round thanks to the work of the Carss Park community. Working bees to maintain the garden are held on the second and fourth Saturday of every month. The fruits of the community’s labour changes with the seasons, but on any given visit to the plot you’ll find twisting passionfruit vines, rosemary stalks, leafy Chinese greens, galangal roots, bright berries and blooming marigolds.

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Carss Park
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4

Rocks Riverside Park

This park, located on the Brisbane River in Seventeen Mile Rocks, is popular with families, garden enthusiasts and locals. Thanks to a half-sized basketball court, it’s also regularly used by local fitness trainers and boot camps. ​The community garden houses vibrant planter boxes cared for by the local community featuring organically grown tomatoes, passion fruit, lettuce, strawberries and more. Back outside and you’ll find lots of areas for kids to play in, with an extensive playground complete with climbing nets, a flying fox and a water play area.

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Seventeen Mile Rocks
5

Hays Paddock Park

Lauded as one of Melbourne's most original and inclusive parks, thanks to its very accessible playground, Hays Paddock Park was developed with some help from two local mothers, Danielle Blanden and Jenny Grahem. Both have disabled and able-bodied children, and encouraged the City of Boroondara to develop a more accessible playground. Wide wooden ramps wind around the equipment. There is Braille and sign language instructions throughout the playground and soft flooring across it all. Colourful butterfly shade tops loom overhead and there a many swings, slides and seesaws, alongside a large rope-climbing frame and an interactive sandpit.

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Kew East
6

McCallum Park

Located along the Swan River, McCallum Park is a go-to for the active people of Perth. The skate park has a strong local following thanks to its recently constructed concrete bowl. It varies in depth with six to nine foot drops and also hosts some of Western Australia’s biggest skate competitions. The emphasis on exercising continues with three multi-purpose sports courts. There are outdoor stations along the foreshore, each with different pieces of kinetic equipment, including four cardio machines and two weight machines. A small jetty juts out into the river and there is also an alcove where you can launch canoes, stand-up paddleboards and sail boats.

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Burswood
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7

Lyneham Commons

This edible forest garden is a public space which brings healthy, fresh produce to the Canberran community. Supporting a sense of connection and through sustainably grown food, Lyneham Commons is totally community run. In the various patches and plots you’ll find seasonal veggies and fruits growing, plus herbs, nuts and orchard trees including cherries, apples, figs, plum and mulberries. The community meets monthly for working bees and has a take-what-you-need approach to the fruits of their labour. There are also regular permaculture and horticulture workshops and community events.

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8

Veg Out Community Gardens

This renegade veggie garden located behind Luna Park is run entirely by volunteers. The former lawn bowls green is now an organic and chemical-free fruit, veggie, herb and flower garden, with more than 140 individual plots in action. Veg Out prides itself on shared land, offering community members a chance to work together, and is a leafy green oasis away from one of Melbourne’s busiest tourist spots. Besides nourishing through the produce, the site also provides fertile ground for creativity, with artist studio space, sculptures and art pieces dotted throughout the garden.

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St Kilda
9

Hyde Park

This green patch functions as a getaway for both local birdlife and the people of Perth. Within it are two lakes with islands, which are home to breeding birds. The park is also frequently used for birthdays, weddings and events as the park is partitioned off into 17 zones, each of which can be booked exclusively. This includes a gazebo and picnic and barbecue facilities. Many parts book out in the summer months so try to make a reservation well ahead if you can. In early March you’ll also find the annual Hyde Park Fair, which is one of Perth’s longest running free community events.

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Highgate
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10

Urban Orchard

This repurposed rooftop car park is now a dynamic community garden space. A move away from the concrete surrounds of the Perth Cultural Centre, Urban Orchard provides an uplifting oasis in the creative heart of the city. Garden boxes are home to canary yellow and bright orange marigolds, tomato plants, olive trees and plenty of flowers. Each box is made from recycled materials, while the garden is maintained by the local community. Anyone is free to pick and forage what they need from the garden, with care. Along with produce, the orchard also serves to educate the community with regular gardening and horticulture workshops.

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Perth Central