Last week our CEO, Craig Connelly, attended a site visit at Centennial Parklands new Children's WILD PLAY Garden, to see how construction is progressing for this exciting project.
‘My overall impression of the site is that the garden is going to be an amazing facility. Truly unique, quintessentially Australian…I believe it will be a genuinely fulfilling experience to visit The Ian Potter Children's WILD PLAY Garden when it is open to the public later in 2017.’ Craig Connelly, CEO, The Ian Potter Foundation
The Foundation awarded Centennial Parklands Foundation $1.5m towards the project, comprised of a $500,000 50th Anniversary Commemorative Grant, a $500,000 grant from The Alec Prentice Sewell Gift and a further $500,000 Education program grant.
The project meets very strongly with the objectives of The Alec Prentice Sewell Gift and Mr Sewell’s visions and passions. Mr Sewell was very fond of tending to his garden in Toolangi and hoped that one day he would develop similar sanctuaries for children ‘in every State in the Commonwealth’. He believed that children experiencing ‘bush life’ was important to their development as it had been for him. The project also met well with the objective of the Foundation's 50th Anniversary Commemorative Grants to deliver enduring benefits for the community.
The Foundation has previously supported a similar project, The Ian Potter Children’s Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Victoria, now a popular Melbourne feature. Since opening in 2006, The Ian Potter Children’s Garden has been a significant draw card for children and families in Melbourne, with over 207,000 visitors in 2016.
Currently, there are no children’s gardens in New South Wales. With a growing urban population, opportunities for children to access nature and wild play are becoming less common. The term ‘nature deficit disorder’ has gained popularity with many of today’s parents and educators, referring to the trend for children to be spending less time outdoors, with detrimental results. Australian children’s relationship with the great outdoors is waning rapidly. Today 10% of kids play outside just once a week, and only 35% of children play outside everyday compared to 72% of children a generation ago (Planet Ark 2010).
Children's gardens are important if we want children to connect with and care about the environment now and in the future. Providing natural space for children to develop meaningful connections with is the first step in creating an environmentally conscious society, and long-term sustainability for our planet.
The new WILD PLAY garden at Centennial Park will enhance an already well loved space in Sydney and enable the Park to triple the number of visiting students in their Education programs each year, which are currently running at capacity in their existing education centre. The garden will enable Centennial Park to cater for much larger school groups and offer a dedicated space developed by and for children.
There are currently 100 primary schools, 100 childcare centres and 58 Out of School Hours Care centres within 15 km of Centennial Park; many of which do not have outdoor play areas or any natural features. Centennial Parklands are centrally located and already accommodate 12,000 student visits as well as 20,000 community based visits each year, so the potential for the WILD PLAY Garden to have a positive impact for a wide of range of children and their families is significant.
The Foundation was one of the first funders to be approached to support this project and it's decision to offer a significant level of funding is due not only to the success of The Ian Potter Children's Garden in Melbourne but also the clear and growing evidence of the benefits of providing dedicated outdoor spaces for children in urban areas.
The Ian Potter Children's WILD PLAY Garden at Centennial Parklands will offer an interactive outdoor environment so children in urban Sydney may experience the learning power of nature.