“Our objective is to make Geelong the most physically active city in Australia,” Pat Murnane, Executive Board Support for the ‘Active Geelong’ initiative, explains. The claim is bold but Pat doesn’t seem at all daunted. “The purpose is for good health. People are more susceptible to many common illnesses because they don’t do the minimum amount of physical exercise on a daily basis. This amount is only 30 to 60 minutes per day – it’s not enormous.”
With the increasing population in Geelong, one of Active Geelong’s main plans is to push for “car-driven” Geelong to become a city with more “walkability”.
“We’re starting two types of walking groups with local GPs. There’ll be normal groups as well as ‘walking plus’ groups which will have a medically trained person with them and be able to do stretching and yoga. It’ll be a little bit more advanced.
“As the city grows and becomes denser and harder to get around, people will be happy to park and walk a few blocks rather than park right in front of where they’re going.”
Active Geelong began 18 months ago after a similar program in Geelong lost its funding and momentum.
“GMHBA initiated this program because they wanted to start something with true longevity. The only way to ensure that, was to engage the whole community. We’ve spent a lot of time building a solid foundation and finding people and businesses that will invest in the program and support the message, so that we can be around for at least a generation.
“If you have an objective to have the next generation being more physically active than the current generation, you’ve got to be around for at least the next 20 years to make sure that happens.
“We’ve been to every organisation in Geelong that we think would be a key stakeholder, including Barwon Health, Epworth, St John of God Geelong Hospital, Deakin University and many more. We’ve been able to get them all on board as long-term stakeholders.”
The program’s main roles in creating a more active community are in advocacy, education and support.
“We’re not an organisation with a shopfront and a heap of staff. We have an advocacy subcommittee of about 30 people who are our voices in the community. Our efforts are in working to educate, empower and support local GPs, businesses, schools and, ultimately, the whole community.
“We’re particularly working very closely with GPs and advocating for the importance of physical activity to be recognised in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. It’s not very common today but we know that a lot of GPs are listening to what we’re saying and getting on board.”
Pat believes that the Active Geelong model could easily spread across Australia and the world.
“There’s a lot of scientific research that says physical activity is an amazing contributor towards physical and mental good health. There’s a cry all around the world to increase physical activity. This isn’t something that’s unique to Geelong. I wouldn’t be surprised if Active Geelong is duplicated in other parts. It’s what we want, our message is about a healthier population.”
If you are interested in joining the Active Geelong movement, follow them on facebook and please visit https://www.activegeelong.org.au/.
Story: April Austen Photo: Pat Murnane on the Golf Course, taken by Chris McConville.