Nature nurtures human beings. Many of us seek peace and solace in green space, be that in our garden, in our favourite park or underneath a tree. We know intuitively that nature makes us feel good - we seek it out on holiday and flock to the beach or bush at the weekend. We bring flowers as a token of love and gift bunches to people who are sick. The beauty and tranquility of nature helps us to breathe and to heal - it reliefs our pain and stress. We extend an 'olive branch' to forgive and we plant trees to remember and to honour those we've lost.
Eucalypts along Honour Avenue (Lovekin Drive) in Kings Park at Dawn (Credit I McLean)
People have always been drawn to the majesty of trees. At the most basic level this has been for shelter, food or play but there's a deeper connection too. Trees are focal point, a symbol of strength, stability and hope for the future. They conjure feelings of wisdom, calm and peace.
The practise of publicly planting trees to honour those who had died began in Australia with a lady named Tilly Thompson. She began planting trees in 1917 during the first world war. Together with the community, including many returned soldiers, she planted 3,912 trees along the Western Highway in Ballarat. The creation of honour avenues caught on quickly and nearly one hundred years later, there are hundreds of honour avenues across Australia. After tree planting, Tilly Thompson continued her philanthropic work running charities and even opening her own home to those in need after the war. Her legacy brought nature into our towns and cities and helped create the places of peace we celebrate and share today.
Here in Western Australia, Arthur Lovekin started planting trees too. He first planted oak trees in Kings Park, in Perth, in 1919, using acorns sent from Queen Mary from the grounds of Windsor Castle. The acorns didn't grow well and were replaced with eucalyptus. Today the avenues through Kings Park are lined with mature trees including striking sugar gums and lemon scented gums that meander their way through areas of native bushland, parkland and gardens. The eucalypts have honour plaques dedicated to people who died overseas during wars or had no known graves. New trees and plaques are added each year.
WA's unique wildflowers in bloom surrounding honour plaques in Kings Park, Perth
Kings Park is so many things to Western Australians - a traditional meeting place, a parkland, botanical gardens and native bushland. It's the big green heart of Perth on the banks of the Swan River. This weekend it will be a focus for peace and contemplation. The serene open space, towering gums, wildflowers and winding pathways will help people connect with themselves, with others and their collective memories.
I'm very fond of Kings Park - my sister lives nearby and loves it - it's one of her favourite places - so we walk there together each time I visit. The park is alive with people and birds squabbling over native nectars, but there is always space for reflection - perhaps in a hidden garden or a grassy nook overlooking the Swan River.
The view over Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia at dusk
By protecting and cherishing our natural places, we can continue to enjoy the gift of tranquility, the opportunity for peace and contemplation, the chance to relax with family and friends or reconnect with nature’s wonders. As a community, we need nature and natural spaces to bring us together at times of celebration or collective remembrance. More than that, we need nature to be human - to keep our humanity.
For me, this ANZAC long weekend feels like a good time to plant some trees too - a time to reflect and like Tilly Thompson - do something good to leave a legacy of hope for the future.
P.S. If you've never been to Perth, make Kings Park the first place you visit when you do. It has a place of peace in nature waiting for you ...
With thanks to the Kings Park and Botanic Gardens Parks Authority, Perth for reference material.
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