July 2, 2021 at 7:13 am (Uncategorized)

There really isn’t enough of it, is there?

(And I benefit from that fact.)

I’m reading a book at the moment (re-reading, actually) and it takes place in a deeply unjust world. Most of the main characters fight against the injustice, but in very different ways.

One of them decides to take the political route; removing those in power and taking their place in order to make the world better. In order to gain this power, he commits new injustices. When he is brought low, he devotes the remainder of his life to serving those he abused while in power (…those that are still alive).

One of them gives up everything she has when she realises that everything she has is the product of theft. She helps matters quite a bit, but really does lose everything—and becomes a victim of injustice herself.

One of them believes that truth is the answer. He convinces a few to change their world view, but others simply will not believe the truth no matter what, and violence ensues.

One of them believes that the structures of injustice must be destroyed at the roots, no matter the cost. Many people are killed as a result, and many MANY others lose everything… which technically they did deserve. A few of them choose to rebuild a better and more difficult way. Others do their best to rebuild things exactly as they were, including the innate injustices of the system that used to let them be on top (at the expense of others). They probably won’t succeed, because they’re outnumbered by those they treated badly the first time around… but some of those they treated badly have internalised their status as less important/worthy.

One is a soldier who aims to kill those who have benefited from the injustice. Which is an entire society.

Random cat pic!

There are three great injustices in my life.

First, I am living on stolen land. Specifically, I am living on Ngunnawal land. Like most Indigenous nations around the world that had the bad luck to be living in a place that European invaders deemed suitable for a major city, the Ngunnawal people, culture, and language suffered even more intensely than the average Indigenous nation.

It is extremely obvious that Indigenous people around the world continue to suffer both physically and psychologically from past injustices as well as present structures and attitudes. It is equally obvious that I benefit from past and present injustice.

Should I give up the land on which I live (or, more realistically, pay compensation to the Ngunnawal people)? Should I attempt to quantify the amount of benefit I have received from my racist ancestors and devote that much time/money/etc to Indigenous charities? Should I be spending more time campaigning for the modern-day injustices perpetuated against Indigenous people to be changed (eg the appalling rates of maternal death, infant mortality, incarceration, and even child imprisonment)?

My closest Indigenous friend would snort at all this and tell me it’s over and I should move on. But he’s a bit of an a-hole, to be perfectly honest. I know perfectly well that it isn’t over, no matter what his side of politics says.

The second great injustice is even bigger, at least in terms of population. Australia is a wealthy and safe country, and we are not doing our share to look after those who need it in the rest of the world. Once again, the injustices of my European ancestors are proving amazingly beneficial to me and poisonous to others—and with our increased power, we in the West continue to subjugate other nations (eg by fighting unjust wars, stealing resources, lending money at interest, and so on).

I’m unable to engage with the political side at all, because even keeping up with the news sends my mental health into *blaring red klaxons* territory. But I’m reasonably at peace about this particular injustice ever since I started running the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group. Out of the limited resources I have, a significant proportion goes into directly helping the victims of global injustice. On this issue at least, I can face myself in the mirror without shame. (Here’s the GoFundMe, by the way.)

Time for another animal pic? Certainly.

The third injustice goes the other way, because life is never straightforward.

I am disabled, which means that a large portion of society believes that I have no worth whatsoever and/or that I am lazy or a liar. Despite what some think, I do deserve to live—including food and shelter and medical care, which means money. I live in a country that DOES give me a measure of support (and immediately withdraws it if I earn enough to be over the poverty line), but I have to fight for it. I don’t want to go into details because I’ll just get upset, but the paperwork one needs to go through to get disability payments is specifically designed to be hard enough to weed out anyone who can’t devote a considerable amount of time and effort to it (all the while knowing that one might receive nothing at the end of it all). I may have mentioned that I’m disabled? So not super flush with the ability to visit multiple medical specialists, let alone to pay for them? Or to go through it all over again from the start because I was refused the first time and now everything I did is out of date? Or to take a special trip to Tuggeranong with a pile of forms because I made a minor error on one of the hundreds of pages of forms?

Other people are writing online that marriage equality doesn’t exist if a disabled person loses their payments when they marry. I’m not sure I agree 100% but it sure does put a strain on a marriage when a partner has no choice but to financially support the disabled one for as long as the marriage lasts. And of course being disabled is expensive, too.

I know there are others fighting for my rights, and I’m so grateful, because I don’t have the strength (either physical or psychological) to fight for myself to be anything other than a second class citizen. Every so often I’m reminded that my worth is innate (even, gasp, as a fat female). I try to hold that truth in my head, but it’s slippery.

One last bit of gratuitous cuteness, from several years ago:

And that’s all I have to say about that.

At least, for now.

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Playground Tour 2021: Finally Complete

June 1, 2021 at 2:05 pm (Uncategorized)

I promised my kids last school holidays that we’d get to John Knight Park sooner or later. That was six weeks ago. The days are growing colder, and I’m so easily tired.

Yesterday was a public holiday and a friend was at my house. She mentioned she was taking her kids to the park, and I asked if we could tag along. She said yes.

Not sure what number playground this was, but ten seemed a good bet.

Of course, everyone who grew up on the North side of Canberra remembers this particular playground as “The Snake Playground”. It is now several playgrounds, but the one with the snakes has been rebuilt. . . and they kept the snakes.

I was really glad to catch the kids playing on this roundy-roundy thing, as an echo of a photo from way back on the original playground tour (which I can’t currently find but oh well).

John Knight Park is gorgeous, with waterfalls and pools and the lake and ducks and trees. It is an excellent end to this second and final playground tour. And an excellent end to Autumn, too.

I’m so glad I took my kids to all these playgrounds while they were still (moderately) interested. Of course we’ll still go to playgrounds now and again for a while, but a big part of their childhood ended while I wasn’t looking. That’s parenthood for you.

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May 19, 2021 at 10:01 pm (Uncategorized)

For various reasons, I never actually read the fanfic that people write about any of my stories (mostly so I can never accidentally steal someone’s ideas!) but I ALWAYS love hearing that it exists.

So here‘s a FanFic ending for “Choices That Matter: And Their Souls Were Eaten”. I believe it may not be safe for work so proceed at your own risk. Judging by the tags, it’s gay friendly (YAY).

An entry without an image is boring, so here’s a pic of my cat Zipper looking appalled at my rudeness (she always looks like this):

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Playground Tour 2021: 3 in 1

April 11, 2021 at 6:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Today we went to the Commonwealth Park Playground, also known as the Castle Playground (by me) and the Mouse House Playground (by some).

It is mostly made up of interconnecting tunnels, making it extremely hard work for parents of clingy toddlers (“Mummy come too!”) but a gorgeous location for those who take way too many photos. In unrelated news, I took eleven photos just of the rocks. Rocks are pretty.

This time, I remembered Lizzie’s tiara.

We parked at CIT (deserted on a Sunday), walked under the underpass (which I hope will have murals painted in it again one day), and turned right towards the Castle.

Here’s Lizzie signing “seven” in Auslan, and looking regal at the top of the slide.

On to Playground #8!

This is Yerrabi Pond Playground, in Gungahlin (and “eight” in Auslan):

Today was super windy again, and cold, and I forgot to bring jackets and beanies. I took a coupla pics and then let Chris run up and down fetching the flying fox while I sat in the car and ate popcorn (which was precisely why we went there on a weekend, with Chris).

Yerrabi Pond Park & Playground is good value, and it’s a real shame we forgot to take our scooters because it has a really good scooter area suitable for beginners.

Now, Questacon was meant to be one of our playground tour destinations, especially as Tim is 6 (for another few months) so only barely young enough to still go into Mini-Q (which is AWESOME) but it turns out Mini-Q is closed until further notice due to covid.

However, the National Zoo and Aquarium has an awesome new playground now, at the very top of the zoo near the rhinos (and rhino bistro) and big park area (which contains this artificial waterfall):

We went to the zoo very recently, with the refugees we’re mentoring (an epic day!)… so here’s Lizzie signing “nine” with as little context as possible.

Here’s a real tiger most definitely daring me to pat it on that gorgeous soft underbelly. . . something I would definitely fall for if there wasn’t major fencing in the way.

Here’s my son casually eating an ice cream while sitting on a giant snake. . .

And here’s a puma patiently waiting for YOUR child to come and play.

The zoo playground is, once again, a little too young for my two, but the animals hidden throughout are incredibly cool, and anyone under 5 (or old enough to be silly again, which the refugees certainly were) will love it. There are several different areas separated by plenty of greenery, so I recommend it for parents willing to either let their kids wander off into the jungle or to chase after them the whole time.

One more playground to go!

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Playground Tour 2021: Sculpture Garden

April 10, 2021 at 9:03 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes, I know it’s not a playground. At all.

Lizzie is making the Auslan sign for “six”.

I pointed out the National Carillon to Qusay, who already knew what it was since he used to live in Kingston.

My favourite sculpture is this one, because it’s so simple and dramatic and the shapes are so satisfying (as is the noise it makes when you tap on it), plus the contrast of the smooth metal and detailed trees is gorgeous, and all the more so as the natural surroundings reflect in the mirrored surfaces.

We took Qusay (our artist friend from Iraq), who was delighted by the sculptures, and delighted again when the mist sculpture switched on. It put him in mind of European style fairy tales, just as it does for me.

I was so busy filming the mist I forgot to take a photo, but this is a nice screenshot from one of the videos (ignore the scooter, of course).

Lizzie especially liked the sculptures of women:

It was very windy today and I thought it would be awful, but the gardens provided shelter. Tim and I went home while the rest continued into the gallery (which is currently ticketed, although still free except for special exhibitions). OF COURSE Qusay was especially excited excited about the Dali sculpture and abstract artists. Check out some of his work (which is all for sale in his shop, which I run for him).

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Playground Tour 2021: Boundless

April 9, 2021 at 9:46 am (Uncategorized)

Boundless is the name of an all-ability playground just up the hill from the bridge to the National Carillon (and yes, you can hear the carillon from the Playground without it being loud enough to be annoying). You have to approach the playground from the correct side of the Kings Ave bridge (heading northeast). Parking for the playground has been expanded and we easily found a spot (a disabled spot).

Boundless is very popular, but also very large. When Tim, Lizzie and I arrived around 11:30 there were probably 100 people there, but it wasn’t crowded. There are only two toilets, but they’re centrally located and since a lot of the kids were young enough to be in nappies the toilets were sufficient. By 12:30 about half the people had gone and it was a lot easier to scan those that were there when I was trying to keep track of my own kids. Most of Boundless has reasonable line of sight, which is handy, and the whole playground is fenced which is GREAT.

There’s a reasonable amount of seating and shade (and lots of picnic tables and even some bbq facilities just outside the fence), but at 11:30 the seating and shade didn’t align so a lot of people were sitting on the (wet) grass in order to be out of the sun.

In our original playground tour, this was #6, after the art gallery as #5, but our scheduled visit to the gallery yesterday was switched to Saturday so Boundless became #5. Savvy?

We’ll also leave out Questacon this time, as the Mini-Q section is closed due to covid until further notice.

I once again struck the issue that it’s difficult to take photos of a crowded playground without accidentally including other people’s kids. Ah well.

As usual, the roundabout (ie the fastest and most dangerous thing in the whole playground) was a favourite for my kids.

This whole playground tour is touched with melancholy, as I am witnessing the end of the ‘playground’ era for my children. Even Boundless didn’t hold them for long (as mentioned elsewhere, climbing frames and flying foxes are what it’s all about at the moment playground-wise).

Tim was very clingy as a baby and I distinctly remember that when he was nine months old he was interested in actually exploring playgrounds for the first time—starting with Boundless.

Yep, that’s my 6 year-old spurning the playground to read a book. A beautiful sight, but a little heartbreaking at the same time.

As usual, Lizzie is more open to enjoying what’s placed in front of her (in this case, a playground) and she made some friends while we were there. As a girl on the spectrum, she often struggles to make friends but tends to instantly connect with kids younger or older than herself. Another shot of melancholy as I remember how easily she made friends as a preschooler (and a baby and toddler). Things were simpler then. At nine years old, she’s on the brink of hitting puberty. A wonderful and terrifying moment. She is so very eager to please and willing to do anything to spend time with me. That is about to change.

In conclusion, this is definitely our last playground tour—and not just because I’m allergic to the outside world. My little ones aren’t little any more.

Those five fingers might as well be waving goodbye.

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Playground Tour 2021: The Arboretum

April 5, 2021 at 12:56 pm (Uncategorized)

The Arboretum is sprawled across several rolling hills close to Canberra’s heart. It has several monocultural forests of rare and endangered trees, building up a living seed bank. And it is very, very pretty.

The Bonsai and Penjing collection is rightly famous, and that’s where we began our journey, with our refugee friends suitably impressed by both the bonsai art and the stunning views across Canberra. They also explored the Discovery Garden, recognising many plants since Iraq is another somewhat desert-inclined country.

Then the kids went to the playground and I told the Iraqis to go explore on their own, which they did (after, as per usual, unloading food and chocolate on us and the kids).

So how was it?

The Arboretum’s famous Pod Playground is #4 on our list of playgrounds.

And it sucked.

It was super duper crowded, and hot, and noisy. There’s very little shade or seating around the Pod Playground, and the best part of the playground is a single-file journey through several pods and rope tunnels to the top of this epic slide:

The problem, of course, is that it really is single file. And very high. So kids get stuck partway all the time, delaying everyone and being incredibly difficult to extract.

Anyway, here’s Lizzie. Ish. You can see a tiny bit of her hat peeking out from the left-hand pod.

I lost patience real fast and hustled everyone home asap. There was screaming.

Thus endeth today’s journey. Hopefully things go better at the Art Gallery Sculpture Garden (not really a playground, but shut up) this Wednesday.

There’s a 60% chance of rain.

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Playground Tour 2021: The Cotter Reserve

April 2, 2021 at 5:41 pm (Uncategorized)

The Cotter Reserve Playground is a little young for my kids now, but it was really the river we were there for.

She’s not really rolling her eyes, honest.

When I sat down and looked at the ten playgrounds on my list, I marked four as being interesting to the (adult, childless) refugee couple that we’re currently mentoring as part of the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group. This, being a gorgeous natural setting near the Cotter Dam with lots of great walks in the area, was one of them. So we had our family of four + another family that is joining the Castle of Kindness (and has a toddler with strong opinions) + two Iraqis.

One of the major challenges for this location is that the internet tends to drop out a few kilometres before you get there. That means that GPSes don’t work, and neither does Google Translate (which we rely on heavily with the refugee couple). So it was a relatively complex plan that actually came together rather well. I forgot to check the water quality (which, now that I look at it, was rated yellow—it passed 60%-90% of the time, apparently), but none of us fell over in it so I’m sure we’ll be fine. The Cotter Reserve is a paddling spot rather than a swimming spot.

We took sausages to cook but luckily the others had plenty of yummy food to share because there were heaps of people around and the BBQs were very much taken. The playground was popular too, but I did manage to take this picture of Chris and Tim without bothering to get up from my spot near the water.

The refugees really enjoyed exploring up and down the river, and I had a little paddle myself.

It’s common to see wildlife there (including brown snakes) but there were far too many people today.

Lizzie’s holding three fingers up because this is playground #3 of 10. The next on the list is the Arboretum, which will feature the exact same crowd, an incredible playground, and amazing views across Canberra.

Here are the maps I shared with various people to help us find each other. It’s a big area so we used the playground as a meeting place.

Casuarina Sands (which you can see on the top map, and which we passed on the way) is much better for swimming. So there are lots of ways to enjoy the area, which is gorgeous without being inaccessible.

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Playground Tour 2021

March 27, 2021 at 11:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Today we tackled Playgrounds #1 and #2.

  1. Point Hut Playground, Gordon

The tower is much scarier to climb that one would think.

Lizzie took this picture of the view:

I misspoke six years ago, largely dismissing this playground. It’s definitely one of the best in Canberra, and richly deserves to be on this tour. There were several parties happening there today but there was still plenty of space for everyone. It’s really five or six playgrounds in one big grassy area (and a basketball court, and a brilliant picnic spot), and has enough range that my kids cheerfully bounced from one place to another. I’ve noticed they’re starting to outgrow playgrounds (even if they haven’t realised it themselves) but there was a great range of climbing stuff which is at a perfect level for them—both fun and challenging.

After that, a not-very-surprising spanner in the works: we could not go to the George Gregan Playground, because it’s in a hospital. Given the lack of cases in the ACT (for many months) I thought we’d be okay so long as we sanitised like mad coming in and out. Of course I was wrong. There’s a pandemic on.

So instead we went to the new playground in Ginninderry, which of course wasn’t there six years ago. It’s maybe half the size of Point Hut, which is still a very respectable size, with lots of different things to do.

That’s a combination soccer/basketball field behind the merry-go-round. And very pretty mountains.

This climbing frame set up (there are others as well) was definitely a hit with the kids.

Spinny thing.

It also has a pretty pond nearby, with a bridge over it. I love a good pedestrian bridge (that’s not it, but another climbing thing).

We have a week of school to go, but soon we’ll be on to playground #3: At the Cotter Reserve. Hopefully with a bunch of friends along too.

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Ten Playgrounds in One Day

March 25, 2021 at 7:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes, I’m a teensy bit manic depressive. Some days I barely move. Other days I’m ON for hours and hours and I act like nothing hurts and nothing is hard.

This was one of those days, back in 2015 when Lizzie was three and Tim was just one year old. Overwhelmed with life and with all I couldn’t do with my children, I decided to throw common sense out the window and have an ADVENTURE. This is how it went:

  1. 1. Point Hut, Gordon. We arrived around 7:00am, ran across the playground, climbed the tower, and ran back to the car. The top floor of the tower is tilted.

This is the tower. As you can see, we started when it was still dark.

2. George Gregan at Canberra Hospital. At this point my adorable social butterfly was saying, “I want some kids here.” (I recommend GG because it’s super awesome, but also because it’s quiet.)

We always make sure to take some jumps off the crocodile. Oh! I forgot to mention that at this point it was six degrees outside.

3. Cotter Reserve Playground (just after the second bridge) although we barely touched the playground. She’s in swimmers and a towel jacket.

…and water shoes. My crocs went really well, but I refused to go deeper than (her) knees.

4. Arboretum Playground. I promised Louisette there’d be kids there, and I was right. She made two completely unrelated friends in the 40 or so minutes we were there – just enough time to go down all the slides a few times, then promise her a surprise at the next one. (I had of course a series of useful rewards planned out for the day; it was a test of her endurance as much as mine.)

At every playground, I asked, “Did you like this one or the last one best?” She always said emphatically, “This one!” until just after Questacon, and then said, “Questacon” for the last two. Then I attempted to get a definitive answer this evening and she was back to insisting that every playground we mentioned was her favourite. (PS You can see mountains in the background of this photo.)

5. (Somewhat easier for the pre-schooler hand to shape than 3 or 4.) The National Gallery Sculpture Garden, cunningly timed for. . .

The 12:30 fog sculpture. We sat beside the water waiting (I told her something surprising would happen at 12:30 because of a machine) and then hissssss, and suddenly fog rose from the ground before us. She was suitably impressed, and when the wall of white sent Evil Magician-style clouds right at us – blocking out the world – she stepped back. It was really eerie! After a bit we walked through it – cold and subtly wet – to the car.

6. Boundless! Directly across the lake (timed so we’d hear the Carillon play, although the Sculpture Garden would have done just as well). Those are water cannons. . . and swimmers.

Being there at lunchtime there was a single school group on their way out and then it was emptier than I’ve ever seen it. Louisette practised jumping on and off the merry-go-round, which was definitely something we need for the future – it goes seriously fast.

7. A water dragon (and two turtles not visible here) at Questacon’s Waterways exhibit. We also saw caged lightning and the earthquake centre – but deliberately avoided Mini-Q this time! Mum’s catch-cry was “Quickety-Quick!”

All kids love being able to manipulate large objects (including TJ), so this has always been a favourite. Plus I like photos of round things.

8. Commonwealth Park Castle. I had her crown in the car and forgot it! Ah well. She was reluctant to leave, but I promised a sleep in the car plus Nanny and TJ at the next one.

New umbrella 🙂 You can see the castle down the path. (Other people call it the mouse house.) I love taking photos and having picnics here, but it involves a lot of crawling and very little visibility. (The crawling tends to tire kids out fast too – unless of course they make a friend. We had it to ourselves today, or it would have been very difficult to move on.)

9. Yerrabi Pond Adventure Playground. She’d had enough of taking photos with her hands in difficult number positions (I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did – changing locations is exhausting, but surprisingly helpful for preventing melt-downs – especially when there are snacks in the car.) I’d decided en route to save TJ for last, but Louisette didn’t mind because I still had one deux ex machine up my sleeve. . .

A bubble gun! It’s operated by blowing in the end and cost the princely sum of $4. (And she even modelled the crown I forgot at the caslte.)

10. John Knight Park Snake Playground. Poor Louisette is trying so hard to follow directions (as my mum holds tiger TJ steady on her lap) – ten fingers, and her face, and the snake at the top right.

Looking down from the top of the snake tower on TJ and my mum. After that we fed some extremely enthusiastic birds and then went home! 

I love my special Lizzie time, and I love a good adventure.

Total cost: About $10 in parking (Arboretum, Sculpture Garden and Questacon – which can work with one ticket); Two days physical recovery if I don’t exercise (Thursday and Friday are writing days, so that works). We have Questacon membership so that was “free”.

Total time: A bit under 12 hours.

Worth it for me? When I can do something that is difficult but within my range of ability – and I know it’s something I do better than most – that has a value that can’t be measured. Even if/when it’s a manic episode. It generally only happens a few times a year, which is not enough.

Worth it for Louisette? She likes adventures, but would usually rather spend a day with a friend (although her ability to play nicely breaks down noticeably after an hour or two). We got to know each other better (I love how much fun it is to just talk to her these days), and I definitely feel that Boundless is the biz for the not-that-healthy parent of a moderately-sensible preschooler (although the shade and the seats were very far apart at noon). We went to several places that we wouldn’t normally attempt without Chris, and that was rewarding for Louisette, plus of course she’s once again the star of a unique family story. Although everything was her favourite sooner or later, I think paddling in the Cotter River was the most special, and the surprise fog and/or Questacon were the most immediately absorbing.

In summary:

  1. Point Hut Playground, Gordon. Cool tower; otherwise it’s only included here to be nice to South-siders.
  2. George Gregan Memorial playground. AWESOME and so photogenic, but inside a hospital so there’s a risk of infection maybe—and the parking is awful.
  3. Cotter Reserve Playground. If you’re going there, check the water quality here and keep an eye out for brown snakes. And of course water shoes are a good idea, but/and those underwater rocks are super slippery.
  4. Arboretum Playground. Super awesome and stunning views across Canberra but the main part involves a long and scary trek through large tubes and pods, followed by a pretty intense slide… if your kid needs reassurance, you’ll have to work hard to get them out.
  5. Sculpture Garden. Not technically a playground, but super cool, especially when the mist is on. And within hearing of the National Carillion.
  6. Boundless. Disability-friendly (including toilets) but parking isn’t great. Also near the Carillion (closer, actually; you can walk across the bridge to its island).
  7. Questacon. Expensive (and currently you need to book in advance) but really cool and educational. There’s a gallery especially for littlies called “Mini-Q” which is only open to those 6 and under and their families. Even when there’s not a pandemic on, you need to book for Mini Q as numbers are limited and it’s super popular.
  8. Commonwealth Park playground/mouse house. Very pretty, very hard on the knees. A fair walk from the nearest car park.
  9. Yerrabi Pond Adventure Playground. Lots to do.
  10. John Knight Park. Everyone who’s grown up in Canberra loves the snake playground, but it’s one of three playgrounds next to each other, and the waterfall, ponds, and lake are pretty (assuming your kid isn’t the kind to immediately hurl themself into the nearest body of water).

I reckon we’ll try to arrange to visit these ones with our refugee mentees, because they’re interesting to adults as well as kids.

Cotter Reserve Playground, for the nature.

Arboretum Playground for the views, and for the Bonsai Garden Exhibit.

Sculpture Garden. It’s part of the National Art Gallery so OF COURSE we’re taking our artist friend! We’ll try and time it to enjoy both the mist sculpture and the Carillion’s bells across the water.

John Knight Park. Including a BBQ, probably.

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