• Photography in Hospitals - Royal North Shore and Centennial Parklands Health and Lifestyle

    New health initiative takes nature into hospitals


A new exhibition Nature | Photography | Health has been officially opened at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, launching a new collaborative health initiative bringing nature into hospitals.

Opened by the Hon. Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, the exhibition explores the positive connection between contact with nature and human health.

The Hon. Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, with Kim Ellis (left) and Dr Andrew Montague (right)

The Hon. Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, with Kim Ellis (left) and Dr Andrew Montague (right)


Guests at the exhibition opening also heard insights and personal anecdotes from Dr Andrew Montague, Executive Director Operations at Royal North Shore Hospital, and Kim Ellis, Executive Director of Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands.


. . .  wonderful photographs are truly works of art  . .  which can lift the spirits, enhance the health and support the recovery of patients in this great hospital – Royal North Shore. – the Hon. Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO


The exhibition

The exhibition consists of 20 beautiful images, mostly from Centennial Parklands, that provide stunning natural images of the Parklands trees, ponds and other natural features. Taken by a range of photographers who all have a common love of the Parklands and nature, the images will be on temporary exhibition for public viewing:

  • Dates: Until 30 May 2015
  • Location: Acute Services Building (Level 3 Link to Clinical Services Building), Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards (see map)
  • Opening hours: See Visitor Information for hospital opening times


One of the fantastic images on display: "Two Trees - by Bettina Cutler"

One of the fantastic images on display: “Two Trees – by Bettina Cutler”



Nature | Photography | Health : the project

The potent power of nature has been understood for many millennia. It shapes our lives and our communities. It has shaped our past, it will shape our future.

Contact with nature, and working with the ebbs and flows of the seasons, has been part of human culture since early days. However, with the dawning of the industrial age and the growth of urbanisation in developed nations, there has been a gradual disconnect between humans and nature.

In 2007, for the first time, urban population exceeded rural population globally.

As cities grew, green spaces within them shrunk, and green spaces outside them stretched further into the distance. Contact with nature moved from an everyday occurrence to an occasional activity.

Today, for many, to visit nature is an effort. Many children born today live in high-rise apartments or high-density suburbs with no backyards, no leafy parks to visit nearby, and competition for their attention is intense.

As an urbanised society, we have become estranged from nature.


Nature, is one of the greatest allies we have to good health – physically and mentally. In recent decades there has been an increasing research focus on identifying and quantifying the health impacts of contact with nature.

Evidence has come from fields as diverse as ecology, biology, environmental psychology and psychiatry, and showed that access to nature plays a vital role in human health, wellbeing and development.

This research indicates that humans are, among other things, dependent on nature for psychological, emotional and spiritual needs that are difficult to satisfy by any other means.

While visiting nature is the most effective, there is now substantial empirical and theoretical evidence for the positive effects that simply viewing natural scenes can have on human health. The healing effects of a natural view (such as those provided by parks) are increasingly being understood in stressful environments such as hospitals, nursing homes and places of confinement.


Our urban parks are the most available, yet often most under-valued part of our communities. They are a repository of environmental, social and health benefits, and promote social cohesion and respite from the urban landscape around us.

Parks are a fundamental health resource, particularly in terms of disease prevention. The initial evidence documenting the positive effects of nature on blood pressure, cholesterol, outlook on life and stress-reduction is sufficient to warrant incorporation into health strategies for priority areas of ‘mental health’ and ‘cardiovascular disease’.

As early as 1875, lawmakers in advanced economies had identified that space for public recreation in urban centres was critical for the health of the society. The UK Public Health Act 1875 actually prioritised the creation of public parks for the health of their citizens.

The New South Wales Parliament, led by Sir Henry Parkes and his allies, pushed forward bills to acquire land and create a series of public parks in Sydney. Around half the parks created in Sydney in the second half of the nineteenth century officially came into being in the period 1884-1887 alone. Public recreation and good health was their primary purpose.


In 1886 the NSW Parliament, at the instigation of Sir Henry Parkes (who also, as an aside, opened Royal North Shore Hospital in 1885), elected to recognise the 100th anniversary of European settlement in Australia through the creation of a public park. Not just any park, the largest urban park in the southern hemisphere at the time.

Centennial Park was created in less than two years, and was dubbed ‘the People’s Park’ – a place for the population to come and “take in the air”.

From its outset in 1888, Centennial Park was intended as a place to sustain and improve good health.

127 years later, the Park maintains that tradition.


This exhibition encapsulates why parks and nature are so important – it is a practical extension of a body of research that delves into the positive connection between nature and human health.

Parks are not simply the green spaces between – they are a critical part of our communities and our health network.

Another of the fantastic images on display: "Duck Pond - by Phil Quirk"

Another of the fantastic images on display: “Duck Pond – by Phil Quirk”




We were honoured to have had the Honourable Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO open this exhibition on 30 March 2015. This exhibition would not have been possible without the work and support of a number of project partners:

  • Centennial Parklands
  • Royal North Shore Hospital
  • IBM (Community Grants Program)
  • Health and Arts Research Council, Inc
  • Centennial Parklands Foundation

We would also like to recognise the in-kind and other support of the following organisations:

  • Kayell Australia
  • Australian Natural Timber Framing

This exhibition features photographic works taken by a range of photographers who have one common uniting feature – a love of Centennial Parklands and nature:

  • Nicole Cheung
  • Bettina Cutler
  • Chris Gleisner
  • Ralph Hilmer
  • Roy Laban
  • Jaime Plaza
  • Niki Pollock
  • Phil Quirk
  • Mirek Rzadkowski
  • Paul Westrupp


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