Can cities and towns make us healthier?

Well-being Preventive health services Cities and towns Australia

In the early morning, there can be few more beautiful places to walk than along the tropical foreshore of Townsville in north Queensland, with palms framing views across the sparkling waters to Magnetic Island and beyond. The trail leads past cafes, swimming spots, parks and a stunning cultural display at Garabarra, also known as Kissing Point, where steel brolgas and other sculptures share some of the stories from this place and the traditional owners, the Wulgurukaba and Bindal people.

Artworks and storyboards illustrate the walk around the rocky headland, telling about Gabul the carpet python and the region’s creation story, as well as the medicinal and other uses for the soap tree and other plants that line the walk.

Embedded in the footpath are key dates in the history of colonisation, including the 1898 legislation that authorised the removal of Aboriginal people to reserves and the separation of children from families. The timeline also documents landmarks in local resistance, including when the Bwgcolman people of Palm Island called the historic 1957 strike in protest at their unjust treatment, an event whose sixtieth anniversary was recently commemorated nearby.

Lisa Paull takes this walk a few mornings each week, revelling in the views, the sense of connection to place and people, and the physical activity. Many other people are likely to be out and about, too, walking and running with prams, dogs and friends. Paull often works out on the foreshore’s public gym gear, which is where we strike up a conversation one morning in May…

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