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December 2018

Wall with forest image jpeg
The Toolangi State Forest wall.

Austin Health opens up to the great outdoors

Austin Health’s forest walk is garden and grounds officer Steven Wells’ latest project.

It brings a little bit of the Yarra Valley’s Toolangi State Forest into an environment at the Austin Hospital – where there are no gardens.

The walkways to the Lance Townsend Building host the forest walk.

They feature prints of the Toolangi State Forest on large sheets of wallpaper.

The walls give staff members and visitors the impression of greenery and nature.

‘Here’s an area where we can’t bring nature – and here’s a way of being able to achieve that,’ Mr Wells said.

‘It’s a nice change, as it’s made people stop to look – and touch even.

‘These corridors are usually full of fast-paced movement – it’s been really nice to see people slowing down to observe and enjoy.

‘There’s that momentary connection with nature and that experience of: ‘I don’t feel like I’m in a hospital’.

‘It’s a momentary opportunity for respite.’

Mr Wells has combined careers – as an Austin Health nurse and a horticultural therapist.

He studied horticulture at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley campus and is the 2012 ABC Gardening Australia gardener of the year.

The Austin Health garden and grounds project began in 2010.

More than 20 garden projects have been funded through donations, bequests and non-operational funds.

In 2015 Mr Wells was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to travel overseas and research the development, use and management of therapeutic gardens in healthcare settings.