From small things big things grow
From small things big things grow.
Nature Play QLD supporting and inspiring change in the community.
A small seed was planted for me back in early 2013, although at the time I did not know it. Each morning I would buckle in for the drive to work and make the early morning commute across town to a towering multi-story office building. I would sit beneath blinking florescent lights, idling at my desk in stuffy air conditioning for 7 hours a day amidst the constant hum of buzzing phones and noisy chatter. I would find myself with only fleeting moments each day to gaze out the window and up to the hillside to the bush just a few hundred metres away, or out over the town and off to the islands in the distance.
Many mornings whilst sitting patiently in the traffic, I would notice the same little mini-bus heading in the opposite direction, filled with chatting, smiling faces. All dressed in big hats and khaki work shirts, the Conservation Volunteers, off to spend their day in nature. I longed for such a sense of purpose, I envied their opportunities to contribute to their community as well as connect with the great outdoors and I spent many moments day-dreaming of if I would ever have such a chance.
In late 2013, I gave birth to our first child. She was restless and unsettled from the start and very early on we noticed that the more time we spent outside with her, the more contented she seemed. On reflection, I noticed that I myself reacted in a similar way.
Whilst experiencing anxiety and depression, time spent in nature became a salve to my soul. As I went through various strategies to cope with the everyday struggles of motherhood, I came across Nature Play QLD and their resources.
“The trees, the flowers, the birds, the bees,
Nature is the heart beating inside of me”
Into a rabbit hole of self-discovery I dived. I read blogs, followed playlists, and downloaded resources in an effort to get out of a rut. I was desperate to spend quality time in nature for the benefit of both myself and my daughter. As time passed, further opportunities presented themselves in the way of free locally delivered Nature Play QLD events and workshops, each one proving to be just what I needed and amplifying my new passion to make a change. I was seeing opportunities for change within our community, and an opportunity for me to chase that day-dream of many years ago.
What if I was to change my path when I returned to the workforce after maternity leave? How would I do it? Where should I start? This new direction of thought was both exciting and terrifying. After much self-reflection, I realised that the perfect scenario would be to find a career which allowed me to balance my new family life, remove me from the corporate chaos which included being stuck indoors for 7 hours a day and that a new career needed to align with our families’ love for the outdoors and for the environment. I wanted to make a difference in the word my child would grow up in.
I started to share my passion for outdoor play and our family adventures with the Nature Play QLD community by writing blog pieces and attending workshops and activities hosted by Nature Play QLD and our local Council. From that, feeling inspired and supported by the resources available, I listed a family nature club that eventually became a very popular community-based playgroup called Mothers in Nature. All of a sudden the loneliness of motherhood dispersed and I was able to enjoy spending time outdoors with not just my child, but with other families also. We hiked, be beached, we visited parks and wild spaces, we did nature craft under the big Raintrees. Most of all we connected and we watched our children thrive.
After baby number 2 and a little more home time, the time came for me to return to the workforce. I decided to look into study options, new skills would help me to put my best foot forward if I wanted to make a real impact within the local community. Still not 100% sure of what my ‘dream job’ looked like, I was supported and encouraged by the wonderful team at Nature Play QLD and inspired by their passion – so I thought that perhaps studying Community Development would be a step in the right direction.
During this period of study and exploration, I attended the Childhood Summit in Brisbane and listened aptly to Mac McCartney, a wonderful story-teller and very inspiring speaker. He spoke of leadership in our world, and our obligation to the children of today and of the future. I left that summit energised with a sense of purpose and a real drive to make difference to the children of our community.
“What is it that you most deeply and profoundly love?
What is your deepest and most profound responsibilities?’
-Tim ‘Mac’ McCartney
Fast forward almost 18 months and I have completed my Diploma of Community Development with Tafe QLD. I have also been working in an amazing position at a local Catholic School as an Environmental Support Officer, a role I would have only dreamed of previously. Every single day I have the pleasure of being able to support our teachers and inspire children to spend time learning outdoors, connecting with nature, culture, and the environment. Above all, helping to build a community of nature lovers. I share my passion and I share my love of learning about and being in nature every single day.
The real icing on the cake has been my nomination for Vocational Student of the Year with the Queensland Training Awards (QTA). Shortly before completing my studies, I was advised that I had been nominated for Regional Student of the Year by my wonderful Tafe teacher. Now a few months later I can report that I was honored to win the QTA Vocational Education and Training Student of the Year Award for both our Region (North Queensland) and then the State Awards. I will now represent QLD at the Australian Training Awards this November. Such a far cry from the deep well of anxiety and depression that I spent the early years of motherhood swimming in.
I share this story because it demonstrates the great power of community and the influence that programs such as Nature Play QLD can have on individuals. As a parent and as an individual, the value is enormous, and it all started with that little seed some 7 years ago and a google search of nature play ideas. Watered with some inspiration and a sense of community vision, now grown into a passionate life, a job, and a wonderful opportunity for me to support more outdoor play and wellbeing in my community.
I must share a big thank you to Angela, Hyhano, and the whole Nature Play QLD for your ongoing passion and constant support and encouragement. Your contribution to this adventure of mine has been huge and without you all, this award and outcome would not have been possible.