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Activating Parks for Health

Speaker Name/s


Jo Hopkins, Tony Varcoe, Parks Victoria and Louise Czosnek, DHHS (AUS)

Speaker Profile

Jo Hopkins 

Manager National and International Engagement, Parks Victoria

Jo Hopkins has over 20 years’ experience in park management. She is responsible for the delivering of high level partnerships that deliver on policy at local, national and international levels. 

Jo has a combination of substantial professional experience with a deep commitment to the vital role that parks and protected areas play in ensuring a healthy natural world.

Jo is also the Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Health and Well-being Specialist Group, Chair of Health Sciences Advisory Board for Deakin University and Co-Chair of the World Urban Parks Advocacy Committee. 

She holds a B.A. in Recreation with Distinction from RMIT University. With experience in establishing two start-up not-for-profit organisations, Jo has a proven track record with ensuring good governance, developing policy and proactive communications with a membership base.

Jo is a keen swimmer and enjoys spending time in nature, particularly in many of NSW and Victoria’s spectacular coastal parks. 


Tony Varcoe 

Director Community Partnerships, Parks Victoria

Tony Varcoe is the Director Community Partnerships for Parks Victoria. Tony has more than 25 years experience in park management having held roles in policy, park planning, senior operational roles, research management and evaluation and more recently in community programs that connect people with parks including social research, health and volunteering.    As a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas and with a background in conservation, recreation and education, Tony’s current interests are in how people and parks interact hopefully for the benefit of both.


Abstract title


Activating Parks for Health




The links between health and nature have long been established and the evidence continues to grow. Parks, protected areas and natural urban spaces offer significant benefits to people and cities including heat reduction, improved air and water quality, healthy settings for socialising, physical activity and relaxation, while conserving biodiversity. The Victorian Government has demonstrated leadership at state, national and international levels over more than twenty years in achieving co-benefits for community health and nature. This includes the development of the 2017 Memorandum for Health and Nature, Parks Victoria’s Healthy Parks Healthy People approach, the recent release of Biodiversity Plan 2037, and Active Victoria’s ambition to be the number one destination for sport and recreation in Australia. This session explores how the Victorian Government is working with partners on integration of policy and planning, research and activation of community-based health programs in parks for the health and well-being of all Victorians.