The nature of well-being: mobilising the benefits of connecting young people to nature.

Ms Abigail Wild1, Dr Gary Veale2

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia,

2Melbourne University, Melbourne, Australia

For the past few decades, scholars from several disciplines have sought to understand the human-nature connection and there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the the benefits of nature and green space for human well-being. Such research has gained increasing recognition in the field of criminology, and in recent years there have been a proliferation of nature-based interventions and ‘green care’ programs across the criminal justice spectrum. Researchers, practitioners and policy-makers in the field of justice have identified that nature and nature-based interventions can be effective at rehabilitating individuals both within or at risk of entering the criminal justice system (see, for example, the Ministry of Justice 2010). Our transdisciplinary research seeks to understand how the benefits nature connectivity might be more strategically mobilised to enhance the well-being of young people in and out of the justice system.  We present a new sense-making framework for understanding the human relationship with nature – the Tembo device – to guide academics and practitioners based on practical, evidence-based insights. This presentation speaks to the emerging literature of green criminology, drawing on concepts of biophilia, nature connectivity, and caring for country to provide a fuller consideration of the human relationship with nature and how our connections to nature are culturally mediated. Referencing environmental psychology research into extraordinary and everyday nature experiences – in an increasingly urbanised, technologically mediated world – we will discuss how initiatives might be tailored to a range of audiences and contexts.


Gary is an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne (School of Ecosystem & Forestry Science) and former Director with KPMG. His PhD and research is focused on the role of nature in unlocking human potential, the realities of people’s everyday nature experiences, new frameworks for making sense of the human relationship with nature, and corporate nature responses. He is currently leading a project for the Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, in collaboration with the University of Tasmania, to better understand, curate and enhance the nature experiences for different audiences.

Gary is the founder of ‘Geri’ and ‘The Nature of’, and splits his time between these ventures. Geri is focused on helping universities grow societal and industry capabilities, and The Nature of is focused on the realities and implications of everyday nature experiences in an increasingly urbanized, technologically mediated world. This focus builds on 25 years experience working with leading advisory firms and industry, often at the forefront of issues relating to sustainability, people development, innovation, growth, research and investment. His story includes dog sledding in remote Alaska, spending 8 years as a volunteer guide at Melbourne Zoo, and starting his career with a helicopter manufacturer in the UK and ski resort operator in Canada.

Abby is a research fellow at BehaviourWorks Australia in the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, where she works on a variety of projects, mainly in the environmental sector. Prior to working with BWA, Abby served in a number of research, teaching and consulting roles. This includes designing and teaching courses in the fields of psychology and criminology at Cambridge University, conducting behavioural research with cotton-top tamarins at Harvard’s Cognitive Evolution Lab and serving on the board of a venture capital firm.

Abby has an undergraduate degree in history and science from Harvard (USA). She obtained an M.Phil. in Criminological Research at Cambridge University (UK) and returned to Cambridge on a Gates Scholarship for her PhD, which she is currently completing. Her doctoral research is a study of three residential therapeutic programs in US prisons which analyses the key elements for fostering positive social environments in prisons.

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