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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 24 June 2021) . . Page.. 2003 ..

governing agreement to provide secure, stable funding to environmental volunteer groups over the next four financial years.

Providing reliable, ongoing funding for Canberra’s community local environmental volunteer-based groups beyond 30 June will allow groups such as the three ACT catchment groups, ACT Wildlife and the urban parkcare groups to continue their valuable work in caring for the ACT’s environment, including Namadgi National Park.

DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (10.36): I echo Minister Gentleman’s statement that Namadgi National Park is a special place for our community and for flora and fauna. It is important that we continue to protect the vast swathes of the ACT that are conserved as national parks, reserves and green spaces, for visitor and recreational opportunities and to safeguard against the impacts of climate change.

Our man-made and natural outdoor environments across the ACT play a crucial role in our health and wellbeing. Research has shown that feelings of loneliness can be reduced significantly by spending time outdoors. This is particularly important for people who live alone, where outdoor spaces provide opportunities for gatherings and chance encounters. In addition to the many physical and health benefits of spending time outdoors, in national parks such as Namadgi and in our nature reserves, reducing loneliness has many other positive impacts on individual health and wellness. It can lead to reduced risks of depression, heart disease and dementia.

Natural environments are also mood enhancers and can provide relief from social and other anxieties suffered by so many people in our communities. They can encourage relaxation and provide us with different perspectives of the world around us. There is a term, “lean on green”, which I quite like. It reminds us of the importance of connecting with nature.

Outdoor opportunities and experiences in natural environments provide respite and help us break down inequalities and injustices that we otherwise face in many other aspects of our lives. Nature is a leveller. Protecting nature and green spaces supports individual and population health, as well as helping to minimise the impacts of climate change. It is for all these reasons that I moved a motion in the last Assembly calling on the ACT government to explore the opportunity for Canberra to become a national park city.

Namadgi National Park was badly damaged in the 2020 bushfires and this was very unsettling and disturbing for many people in our community. They were distressed by the loss of wildlife and flora and by the restrictions on visitations and use. It is with much joy for our whole community that we are starting to see the environment rejuvenate. Most areas of the park have been reopened and will continue to do so.

I welcome the commitment and investment being made by the ACT government to “build back better” and to work with Indigenous traditional custodians through the recovery project. I thank everyone involved—our Parks and Conservation staff who work tirelessly, the many volunteers who dedicate time and resources, and traditional custodians who bring valuable skills and knowledge to park management.

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