Connecting Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre to Yarra Bend Park

Ideally, future city planning strategies will be built on a foundation of sustainable practice and create a mandate for the inclusion of substantial public green spaces for healthy communities and a sustainable future. In the construction and housing sector, it is crucial that the industry standard allocates significant green public land for residents, and connectivity between urban green spaces to promote active living opportunities.

People and Parks Foundation - Connecting Communities to Parks: Healthy Parks Healthy People Strategy

One of People and Parks Foundation's key strategies centres on connecting communities to parks for health and wellbeing outcomes in order to help combat certain chronic health conditions prevalent in modern society and partially attributable to our disconnect from the natural world. This supports a key alignment with Parks Victoria’s Healthy Parks Healthy People philosophy, which has led to the development of a successful joint project partnership currently focused on a number of initiatives in Victoria. Through this partnership, and in close collaboration with Austin Health and the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, People and Parks Foundation and Parks Victoria are in the process of resourcing a key project at Yarra Bend Park. Yarra Bend Community Park will be a significant enhancement to Yarra Bend Park proper, and the design will incorporate multiple initiatives in support of the health of the local community and visitors in addition to the significant biodiversity functions of Yarra Bend Park.

What's the Plan?

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Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre requires upgrades to the site to improve access to the surrounding parklands for clients, visitors and staff. At present, the on site rehabilitation process is rarely taken outside into the adjacent parklands. This has prompted People and Parks Foundation, Parks Victoria and Austin Health to establish a partnership to improve access to the park from the Royal Talbot facility. This area of Yarra Bend Park is currently under-utilised by both Royal Talbot and neighbouring communities. Accessibility needs to be addressed in order to provide nature-based experiences for the facility’s clients, and the park’s facilities can also be enhanced to serve the community at large. The aim is to enhance park facilities, improve access to the park for Royal Talbot clients, staff and visitors in order to initiate and expediate improved health outcomes for Royal Talbot clients, increase community visitation to the park, and promote biodiversity through the Greater Melbourne Urban Forest green corridors program.

How will Royal Talbot clients benefit from improved access to Yarra Bend Park?

People with disabilities, particularly those who have experienced physical trauma that has resulted in their disability, have a high susceptibility to depression. Access to parks is an opportunity to mitigate the onset or impacts of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues identified as prevalent in people with a disability. Royal Talbot patients also need to gain confidence in their mobility and access as part of the rehabilitation process. Enabling further access to the green spaces adjacent to Royal Talbot would help build this confidence. Weekly programs for outpatients would also benefit from being able to expand into the parklands.

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Imagine if rehabilitation programs at Royal Talbot could take it outside?

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This project is an important precedent for the provision of better connections between healthcare facilities and adjacent green spaces. We aim to produce findings that support the assertion that improved health outcomes for those suffering from mental health issues as a result of disability can be gained through improved access to natural surroundings.

How does the project related to the Greater Melbourne Urban Forest strategy?

The revitalisation of outdoor facilities and connections to parklands at Royal Talbot will also contribute to the Greater Melbourne Urban Forest strategy, and will involve re-vegetating a significant area with native species, increasing Greater Melbourne’s canopy, re-introducing native flora to the area, and providing increased access to enhanced active commuting opportunities.

How will the community as a whole benefit?

Contact with nature is essential to human health. We see the revitalisation of Royal Talbot and the adjacent parklands as a critical step towards improved health outcomes for all of community.There will be significant opportunity for community participation in the project, from consulation with disability advocacy groups around appropriate rehabilitation facilities to be installed in the parklands, to opportunities to become involved in revegetation aspects of the project. Outcomes benefit the community at large, but importantly, the invitation to participate in the implementation of the project will also result in health and wellbeing benefits for all involved. The local community consisting of residents, businesses, and park visitors will share in the positive health, environmental and economic impacts that an enhanced area of parkland will deliver.