Walking the talk on health and wellbeing at Government House
Helped by cool weather and the warm spirit of fellow walkers, Her Excellency the Honourable Dr Jeannette Young AC PSM set a cracking pace in the Community Bushwalk at Government House in support of Veterans’ Health and Queensland’s inaugural War Widows Day.
The Governor and Professor Nimmo led a group of about 100 people – and three special four-pawed friends - through the Fernberg Estate on Wednesday.
It was the latest in a series of walks fulfilling Her Excellency’s pledge to encourage a ‘healthy and active Queensland’, and to open the estate grounds to more Queenslanders
The group included representatives from Health and Wellbeing Queensland, the Office for Veterans and Office for Rural and Regional Queensland, Legacy Brisbane and Deadly Choices, which promotes health and wellbeing in the Indigenous community.
Veteran George Hatchman and his wife, Christine, have more than 70 years of military and police service between them, and three children currently serving in the Australian Defence Forces.
“We take advantage of DVA (Department of Veterans’ Affairs) exercise programs, water aerobics and the like, and we come from the bush, so a bushwalk was right up our alley. It’s also developing awareness of veterans’ concerns,” Mr Hatchman said.
“A lot of war veterans are starting to age, and many have disabilities suffered through their defence employment, and we need a focus on health. In today’s sedentary society, you can become a couch potato and sit there thinking about the past. But if you get out and get active, you get greater wellbeing in life, not to mention social interaction.”
Trevor Potter laughed that with one daughter a doctor and another a nurse, “that’s my aged care management plan sorted”, and he was walking because of his years as an Army reservist and 17 as an Air Force active reservist. “I’ve got an interest in this sort of thing,” he said, regarding veteran health and wellbeing.
Assistance dogs Shadow, Coop and Vader accompanied their veterans, Ben Whiley, Jerry Quevorts and Ben Meighan, on the walk. It was a rare privilege, as dogs are not usually allowed on Government House walks, and despite all the new sights, sounds and smells, the three were very well-behaved. (Well, not so much Shadow, but he’s still a puppy with his assistance dog ‘L’ plates on.)
Legacy Brisbane, which looks after families of veterans who have passed away or been medically discharged, was represented by a team of staff and volunteers.
Claire Lyons said: “We have to look after mental health, too, because it can be very stressful at times. And getting out as a team is really good, because sometimes you get so buried in your work.”
Deadly Choices Ambassador and rugby league legend Steve Renouf remembers the first Governor’s wellbeing walk and has been to nearly every one since.
“I just think it’s so great that she’s opened up the grounds here, everyone’s invited. It shows what sort of person she is,” he said.
“And their belief and what they do is exactly what we’ve been doing with Deadly Choices, and that’s about our community, healthy food healthy lives, being active. And that’s why we’re such a great match with Health and Wellbeing Queensland. Across the state we deliver the same message.”
Health and Wellbeing Queensland Executive Director Gemma Hodgetts was joined by Charlie Cush, CEO of the Brisbane Festival. The Governor is Patron of both organisations.
Ms Hodgetts said promoting health and wellbeing in the arts was part of her agency’s remit.
“We’re trying to help the arts in lots of ways, but when the public purse gets tighter quantifying the impact of that on health and wellbeing in the arts, and being able to measure that, is one way we’d like to help,” she said.
Mr Cush said Brisbane Festival contributed to community wellbeing via its many community arts programs in recent years, including notably a recent program called Night Walks With Teenagers.
“We’ve worked with a whole range of young people who have experienced homelessness. They’ve come through a program working with arts workers. They’ll meet in King George Square and go on a two-hour walking tour around the city.
The aim is “active and healthy outcomes” for all participants, he said.
Health and Wellbeing Queensland chair Steve Ryan said the walks had become integral to Her Excellency’s role as Patron.
“We are kicking goals and the Governor has been very supportive,” he said.
“Opening up the grounds of Government House for more Queenslanders to experience it is also something Health and Wellbeing Queensland is very proud to support.
“As a team our aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of all Queenslanders, and walking is one of the easiest ways to achieve this. It not only boosts your physical and mental health, it’s also a great way to start the day and stay connected with others in the community.”