Outdoor spaces found to benefit ex-refugees’ wellbeing

Dunedin's beaches and parks are beneficial for former refugees’ health and wellbeing but barriers to access need to be overcome, a new study has found.

"We could certainly consider ways to further support better access," lead author Olivia Eyles said.

Greenery experienced in the everyday lives of former refugees was also healing and stress-reducing.

Barriers preventing access to these therapeutic environments included transport, time constraints and weather, Ms Eyles, who is a University of Otago master of arts geography student, said.

Former refugees faced many challenges regarding their physical, mental and social health and wellbeing during resettlement, and outdoor spaces offered support in "building attachment, identity and a feeling of home".

Lack of a car and the perception that public transport was hard to navigate were key issues for some study participants.

A better understanding of the need for support systems or respite was needed, as well as knowledge transfer and sharing of easily accessible local destinations.

This could be through local health-promoting, therapeutic landscape maps created by councils or resettlement organisations, she said.

More support for programmes such as the Red Cross Open Road driver training programme and providing bus timetables and routes in other languages could also help.

The study, titled "Former Refugees’ Therapeutic Landscapes in Dunedin, New Zealand" was published in the online journal Sites, and based on interviews with 15 former Syrian refugees living in Dunedin.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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