Above Windana and Intrepid Landcare participants seed collecting at Maryknoll in September 2019.
For as long as we know people have been aware of the healing qualities of nature. Nature helps us to balance our minds, bodies and spirits, and is a powerful asset in the healing process from addiction.
According to Richard Price, Team Leader at Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery Inc., spending time in nature isn’t just recreational, it is also therapeutic.
“The mental and physical health benefits of time spent in nature are well documented. A huge part of wilderness and adventure therapy is building up a reciprocal relationship to nature,” Richard said.
Windana is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘which way.’ Windana programs offer participants choices, believing that change and growth are possible while acknowledging people as individuals.
Windana’s outdoor adventure experiences assists recovery for young people as part of a holistic therapeutic process. Rather than reflecting on their habits, personalities, tendencies and triggers in an abstract way, residents take part in goal-based activities which provide an increased sense of well-being, endurance, physical resilience, increased confidence and greater social connection.
Outdoor adventure therapy is valuable as it allows clients to engage with their innate resilience, ability and resourcefulness – qualities that are often challenged or lost in substance abuse. By tapping into these experiences, participants begin to re-engage with and strengthen these inner-aspects while simultaneously experiencing the joys of a sensory rich and healthy life.
Participants are encouraged to find positive activities and behaviours to incorporate into their lives beyond the program to help them stay on the path to recovery.
In June 2018, Windana participants were introduced to Landcare through their involvement in a retreat facilitated by Intrepid Landcare at Gilwell Park Scout Camp, Gembrook. According to retreat participant, Ryan Kel, everyone has a role to play.
“Making sure we give back is important. What better way to do that than by being in the environment where we are encouraged to be creative, to connect, to learn from our peers and to have a bit of fun while we are helping the environment,” Ryan said.
A group of young people, including those from Windana, went on to form the Western Port Intrepid Landcare Group. The group has now worked with other Landcare and Friends groups on tree planting, weed and rubbish removal, track work and fire recovery. The Landcare work is followed by an adventure activity that may involve bushwalking, caving, abseiling, canoeing or initiative activities.
Western Port Intrepid Landcare Group committee member and Windana graduate Adam Jones has always been fond of spending time in nature.
“Being in nature and doing stuff that seems to matter gives me a great sense of accomplishment. When I come out into nature, everything in my head seems to go quiet. All the stresses go away for a while. I can hear myself again,” Adam said.
The Western Port Intrepid Landcare Group has also demonstrated the vital importance of these new volunteers – young people with fresh perspectives and energy to back up the ageing and dedicated environmental volunteers who have often been involved for more than 30 years.
Marijke de Bever-Price is President of the Western Port Catchment Landcare Network.
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