A new playground for the National Arboretum

Remarks at the opening of the National Arboretum playground

22 June 2013


Check Against Delivery

[Acknowledgments omitted]

I’m here today representing Federal Minister Catherine King, who I think perhaps has the best excuse in history for not being at an event: it is Catherine’s son’s 5th birthday today.

So she is organising his 5th birthday and I think if ever there was a reason to miss a playground opening, then that’s a pretty darn good one.

There are some events for a federal politician that aren’t so family friendly.

I was out doorknocking Kaleen this morning, and I’ve got to say when I asked my three little boys if anyone would like to join me, I didn’t get any hands going up in the air.

But for the Leigh family, being here is pretty special.

My middle son Theodore had a one-word description of this play space: he said it’s ‘great’.

And like Katy [Gallagher], I suspect I will be back on a very regular basis.

Gweneth’s work at the Arboretum really means that she has a love for this place.

But I wanted to say a bit too about the evolution of the playground, because I think the structure behind me really illustrates what an extraordinary journey play spaces have been on.

In order to have playgrounds, you had to first have childhood.

For most of human history, you didn’t really have a thing called childhood.

People were young adults, who weren’t ready to work, and then when they were ready to work they were sent off into the fields or into the factories.

And finally in the 19th century that we get the idea of play – the notion that there should be a period known as childhood, where kids really explore opportunities.

In 1859, the first playground is opened in Manchester.

And playgrounds steadily expand around the world, and there was a huge explosion of playgrounds in Australia after World War II.

And now we’re seeing what I regard as the next stage of playgrounds, because we’ve got a big challenge in Australia now with childhood obesity, with more and more kids living sedentary lifestyles.

Part of that is because of technology – those electronic games, the PlayStations and the Xboxes – are just getting better and better. And so the only way to fight that, I reckon, is for the playgrounds to get better and better.

So what you see over here is technology’s response to the Xbox.

This is playground designers saying ‘Fine, if you’re going to build some amazing electronic games, we are going to build you the most phenomenal playground you’ve ever seen.’

And it’s fitting that there’s acorns in there, because acorns – as you know – are those little things from which huge things grow.

And a great playground does the same thing, it’s a space in which children can have the opportunity to start off having that activity and doing that play that is so critical to evolving into a stronger person.

This playground is unusual – it’s got federal funding.

I know many Australians would regard the Commonwealth Government as already devoting a fair bit of money towards games that are played in Canberra.

But this is, I think, a fairly unusual initiative.

And the Federal Government’s done that because we believe this National Arboretum for all Australians.

This is going to be a spot where Australians come and say ‘this is my National Arboretum, in my national capital.

It’s got trees from around the world and it’s got a playground unlike any other.’

It’ll be a space for the whole family, and I’m delighted with Katy today opening this extraordinary playground.

Thank you very much.

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