Outdoor Health: Taking Healthcare Outdoors For the Benefit Of All

Friday 27th May
Session 5
10.45 am – 11.35am
Room: TBA
Health and Wellbeing, Nature & Climate

Two years after the arrival of the covid pandemic, we are beginning to adapt to a ‘new  normal’, and organising ourselves in different ways. Meanwhile, rates of species extinction have reached alarming levels, and the effects of climate change are being experienced first-hand by many species. Like rising sea levels, rates of human physical-, mental- and social ill health continue to rise. Old wars are festering, and new wars are starting. This culmination of diseases calls for our attention. Do humans need to create a new normal, or do we need to remember old ways? Do we need to step up and change our ways, or step back and be less influential?

In the midst of significant social and ecological shifts, this presentation asks: What are the benefits of outdoor education, outdoor recreation and outdoor adventure therapies, and what role do outdoor practices have in addressing our shared challenges? While we are busy attending to our work with individuals, families and communities, can we also attend to species of all kinds, and the planet as a whole?

Contemporary research demonstrates that outdoor practices support wide-ranging bio-psycho-social benefits for humans of all ages, and potentially across the life span. Evidence has caught up with what people intuitively know – that supported physically active social time in nature is beneficial for human health, wellbeing and healing. Yet traditional Indigenous cultures have never forgotten the inextricable links between human health and the health of natural environments, and the reality that ‘humans are nature’. Perhaps ‘best practice’ outdoor practices prioritises relationships between humans and natural environments, and helps put ‘nature back into human nature’.

This interactive presentation will explore the roles outdoor practices currently play, and the promises our practices hold. Through research and practice, we will identify a role for outdoor practices within mainstream health and service systems, and locate outdoor practices in the wider outdoor health landscape. Presenters invite you to bring your whole self – your body, mind and heart – and your personal and professional selves to this round table conversation. Together, we will collaboratively explore the benefits and limitations of our practices, and create a collaborative space to imagine – or remember – how our work can support ecological and planetary health. 

Anita Pryor

Adventure Works Australia Ltd

Anita has been involved in the field of Bush Adventure Therapy (BAT) for over two decades in roles of practitioner, manager, trainer, and researcher/evaluator. Having trained in outdoor education, solution-focused therapy, narrative therapy, and family therapy in the 1990’s, in 2009 she completed a PhD in Public Health investigating the histories, practices, outcomes and evidence base of Australian outdoor adventure interventions. From 2012 to 2015 she was co-chair of the International Adventure Therapy Committee (ATIC) and international representative on of the Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy (AABAT). Anita currently supports BAT in Australia as Co-director of Adventure Works Australia Ltd and co-leader of AABAT’s Outdoor Health policy unit. 

Ben Knowles

Adventure Works Australia Ltd

Ben trained in education, outdoor education, experiential learning, and narrative therapy. Traversing these fields in various contexts over the last two decades has grounded and extended his life experiences and ideas about colonisation, racism, trauma, and importantly relating, reconciling, and healing. Ben was pivotal in establishing the Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy (AABAT) and has taught Outdoor Education and Bush Adventure Therapy at a tertiary level. Alongside undertaking his PhD in public health, he works as a Co-director of Adventure Works Australia, is Australian representative on the International Adventure Therapy Committee, and works as a senior clinician and trainer in the Neurosequential model of therapeutics for Berry Street Victoria.