Park Ambassadors on wellbeing, Part 1

WA Parks Foundation’s Park Ambassadors share their experiences throughout COVID-19 and how they stayed connected to nature during the restrictions and self-isolation in Australia. The Ambassadors gave us an insight into their time at home over the past few months, and the discovery of new hobbies and pastimes. In Part 1, the Hon Kerry Sanderson AC CVO, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, Sophia Forrest, Richard McLellan, Gary Muir, and Hon Fred Chaney AO offer valuable advice and ideas for keeping a happy and healthy mind.


Hon Kerry Sanderson AC CVO

Kerry walking the Bibbulmun Track

“Isolation has given me more time because I don’t have to travel to meetings or over east and the extra time has enabled me to get outside each day. With constant changes in our environment I have needed Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft Teams to be in regular contact. I have not eaten at home so much for many years so I have also been learning about cooking again.

I think that speaking to others through Zooms and the equivalent has helped me, and I have been touched by the number of people who I haven’t seen for years who have contacted me just to check in.”

What’s Kerry’s advice?

“Keep busy, look to help others and ensure that you regularly have contact with friends or colleagues and that you take time in nature to absorb the wonders that nature gives us.”


Professor Lyn Beazley AO

“We are so lucky. My partner and I are staying in our house on the beautiful Peel Inlet (see video). I am chairing and attending board and committee meetings by Zoom (working very well and no crisscrossing the continent!). As Patron, I did two events. I shared the audio with an expert as we did a live video session from the underwater observatory at Busselton Jetty. I joined a web-based pitching competition for WA Information Technology and Telecommunications Alliance (WAITTA).

We walk next to the estuary but almost daily we visit the ocean at Blue Bay to swim (if warm weather) or walk on the beach. Amazing how the reef changed due to the recent storm.

Set up a kitchen-based mini herb garden.”

What’s Lyn’s advice?

“Have a routine but not a slavish one. Go outside every day; have an exercise routine aiming to be fitter than pre-COVID.”


Sophia Forrest

Sophia’s grandmother’s farm

“Isolation for me has meant a lot of time at home with my family and in front of a screen. I’m sure we’re all sick of Zoom by now.

I’ve always loved getting outdoors so during this time, walking along the beach, or out in Kings Park can be a highlight of my day. Yesterday I went down to my grandmother’s farm and went horse riding which was a real treat! Time spent outdoors around nature does wonders for my mental health and happiness. I’m very excited regional travel bans are easing to be able to explore more of WA. I’ve always been an avid reader but during isolation I’ve had more time to indulge. I’ve recently gotten into Stephen King’s novels and they are brilliant, highly recommend. Misery!”

What’s Sophia’s advice?

“My advice in this time is to appreciate what is around you and try not to worry about things that are out of your control. The news can be very triggering for anxiety during this time, but taking in the information and not letting it control your emotions I believe is very important. Have a cup of tea and chat to a loved one, read a good book and don’t beat yourself up for the isolation kilos.”


Richard McLellan

“I must be one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t minded the spatial distancing too much at all … as it has allowed me to really focus on the second chapter of my PhD. I’ve had some good “shut-up-and-write” time, shuttered-up in my home office and churning out the thousands of words that have gone into my second chapter.

Richard McLellan at Hamelin Station Reserve

I’m fortunate enough to live within a stone’s throw of the coastline in Geraldton, so there have been plenty of opportunities to get out onto the foreshore walks, and further afield into the nature reserves along the Chapman River. I’ve been amazed at the increased number of people out every day walking, running, cycling, roller-skating, roller-blading, and skate-boarding. I hope they all keep it up when this pandemic is over.

I’ve been busy with my PhD, but I have got out some of my digital SLR camera gear that I haven’t used for a while, and have been recording birds and other fauna in and around our yard. I certainly haven’t been bored.”

What’s Richard’s advice?

“Get outdoors, even if it is only into your front or back yard. We’ve got magnificent weather most of the time, and gorgeous parks and nature strips to visit. Most of us live within easy driving or cycling distance from the coast, or a national park or nature reserve, so get out there I say, and get some of that ‘natural therapy’.”

Picture: Richard McLellan at Hamelin Station Reserve alongside the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Richard regularly volunteers for Bush Heritage Australia at the reserve, which is also one of his field research sites for his PhD studies.

Gary Muir

“First, is has been great to see citizens of WA doing so well with the isolation and social distancing restrictions, while recognising and respecting those who have suffered the virus, lost friends and family and also the health workers with essential service staff who have risked their own health and wellbeing to help those in need and keep WA going.  We, as a state, can be proud to have managed to minimise its impact by staying at home and respecting guidelines.  This now is allowing us to get back to our new normal, yet with a bigger picture of understanding our own values, relationships and regard for the world we live and our role within it.

Gary Muir

I have been in isolation on the old family farm Rancho Relaxo, over 100 km away from Walpole were I normally am and have stopped our daily WOW Wilderness EcoCruise in the Walpole Nornalup-National Park and Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park.  It has been quite a shock as I have basically shared the daily cruise with thousands of people from around the world in the Walpole Wilderness for a quarter of a century!  I also have a tradition of camping out every Thursday Night (TNC) usually somewhere in the parks with friends.  It is important to recognise the experiences that you enjoy doing and set a routine to do them.  So I created up my own nature base camp on the farm as camping in parks was prohibited during isolation. This has been a great way to stay connected with the environment.

The old farm house at Rancho has a great library.  The book is one of our greatest inventions – the communal mind of the human species!  Isolation at Rancho Relaxo has also given me time to read as well as doing many audiobooks while doing activities on the farm.

This has been so inspirational and two of the books that have been most inspiring – The Invention of Nature – The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt by Andrea Wolf and The Tangled Tree by David Quammen.   I have also been doing some of the Great Courses – The Origin and Evolution of Earth and Biology: The Science of life by audiobook.     Books and courses allow us to comprehend nature and culture in a new light.  This has been quite motivational and stimulating. Up on the farm we have the old piano and this has been great to learn again.   It has also been a great time to improve fitness and staying physically active doing farm work. Checking fence lines by jogging, picking up rocks and sticks from paddocks, shifting stock by mountain bike.  Growing your own food and cooking straight from the farm means you eat and drink well.”

What’s Gary’s advice?

“Setting routines to do things you enjoy doing keeps you mentally and physically fit – such as cooking, reading, jogging, riding, hiking, learning an instrument and especially helping others. Learn about nature and then go out into it with a new sense of awareness and understanding.   Now that we can – share these experiences with friends in your favourite places!”


Hon Fred Chaney AO

“While it has prevented us from being with friends and family as much as we like we are at the fortunate end of isolation, retired from paid work, with voluntary work that can be done from home, in a comfortable home as a couple who like and love each other. In that sense we are not isolated. The regional travel restrictions have isolated us from our bush block in the South West but in the scheme of things that is a minor problem. We have used phone and other communication technology to keep in touch with others.

We have chosen to explore the banks of the Swan and Canning Rivers on our near daily walks and after nearly 80 years of living in and loving Perth are discovering natural delights that are new to us. There is a lot still to discover.

Each day I claim to find some new way of being an irritating person to live with. A grandson observed that my wife, his grandmother, was well practiced in dealing with that.”

What’s Fred’s advice?

“Help others as much as you can in whatever circumstances you are.”