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Backyards or Obesity

Backyards or Obesity

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Published by Judie Gade
Has the decreasing size of the Australian backyard and the increasing size of houses, over the last thirty years, been the beginning of health related problems, both phsyical and mental, for current and future generations? This article discusses the impact of the loss of the back yard on communities health and the environment.
Has the decreasing size of the Australian backyard and the increasing size of houses, over the last thirty years, been the beginning of health related problems, both phsyical and mental, for current and future generations? This article discusses the impact of the loss of the back yard on communities health and the environment.

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Published by: Judie Gade on Oct 20, 2010
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10/20/2010

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By Judie Gade
©2004 - 2010
Over the last three decades our houses have become bigger, our
back yards smaller and our kids fatter, unhappier and discontented.
Could the decreasing size of the Australian backyard, over the last
thirty years, have been the beginning of health problems for future
generations?
Driving home one night, I glanced at a passing housing development. I
wondered “what has been the effect of society’s changing choices, on what
was once the norm for Australians of my parents’ generation?”.
Back then, a three bedroom house with a big backyard in a quiet street
was what they aspired to. A picket fence would be nice. Healthy kids,
enough money for a holiday and food on the table. A little bit to put aside for
a rainy day as well.
Walking to the ‘outhouse’ was a ‘regular’ event, the recognisable odour
of Phenol assaulting our noses; no plumbing or flushing mechanism, just raw
excrement, torn newspaper, if you did not have toilet paper, and chemicals.
Walking was a part of our lifestyle back then. We’d walk to school, to friend’s
homes, sports training, shops and the bus stop. Maybe we could bike it?
Now jumping in the car to go to the local milk bar is common.
An environment where kids could be kids, thrashing around in a make
believe football game in the backyard & playing street cricket during
summer.
Barry Bodsworth, from the Defence Services Homes, once said “After the
war, blocks of land were far bigger than what they are today. Houses were
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basic 3 bedrooms, if you had the money”. A large place for kids to play,
safely outside, was deemed a necessity for growing families.
Pacman was not even heard of then, let alone a VCR. DVD players,
Playstation and Xbox were things of science fiction.
Kids had few choices: watch a bit of TV, play outside, sports training or
do your homework. Homework was not high on our list of priorities when
young.
Digging holes in the garden & making cubby houses with your Dad were
happy memories of a less stressful time. Now you need council permits for a
home made cubby and tree houses are deemed unsafe. Heaven forbid a
child falls over.
Kids were thinner, happier and fitter. Even the word ‘takeaway’ was not
in our vocabulary. Fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper, on a Friday night
was a ritual for many Aussie families. We didn’t get sick from eating off
week old print either.
Families ate together and kids did not roam the streets in gangs at age
10. Assaults on teachers were a rarity. Respect was demanded and received
by elders. Capital punishment in the form of the strap or the cane and
writing a hundred lines on the blackboard were standard school procedures –
and yes, some teachers were a little too enthusiastic.
The stresses on my generation were few. Clothing labels existed, but
wearing white socks, instead of black, was considered the biggest faux par.
Levis, Wrangler and Lee jeans were standard. For children at school,
especially high school, we wore uniforms.
Our subjects at school were more basic than today. A few people went
on to university; it wasn’t expected of us by our parents. A trade, an office
position, retail sales job or a good government position would be fine. Get
married, have babies at about 25 and pay off your house. All pre-planned.
Our mothers mainly stayed at home, or worked part-time, so there was
someone at home when the school bell rang. Only a few had careers and
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childcare was not an issue. They were rarely forced back to work full-time to
contribute towards the mortgage, as many families lived in War Service
Homes with extremely low interest rates.
School canteens had pies, pasties and sausage rolls but they also had
healthier options. Mostly, we took a cut lunch to school, lovingly prepared by
our mothers. Once a week a canteen lunch would be a reward. Rewards
were less frequent and more meaningful back then.
Boys who were more ‘hands on’, and non-academic, went to technical
schools preparing for a trade. You could get an apprenticeship at 15. They
knew where they were going as the choices were limited. Children were not
overloaded or given high expectation of academic success. They could go
outside, play sport and just ‘be a kid’.
Dads went to the pub after work for a couple of beers, but were home on
weekends to see their kid’s play sport. Six o’clock closing in hotels was in
force, allowing fathers to be home for the family dinner.
Now in the new millennium, the range of choices is huge, but so are the
obstacles to get to where it is wanted to go in your life.
The build up to the year 2000 saw Australia slowly turning into a nation
of want - and wanting it now, now, now. Instant ingratiation ruled the
psyche.
The 1980’s saw huge growth, massive crashes and huge shoulder pads.
The cast was set back then by changed behaviours, wants and perceived
needs to feel happy. Money ruled and was seen as the key to happiness.
It was a period of opulence and greed, fuelled by a desire to succeed;
working overtime became expected if you wanted to climb the success
ladder. Slowly parents became more invisible to their children.
Now, in 2010, two storey homes are common. When I was a child, only
rich people lived in them; it was a novelty to visit one and the temptation to

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