Gathering with friends and family at the local park to play cricket and cook up a storm on the public barbecue is a staple of Australian culture. While they may not be the flashiest asset in a park, public barbecues provide a place that brings people together to foster social interactions and a sense of community, making it an invaluable asset to any public park.
The concept of cooking outside, surrounded by nature with one’s loves ones, is an age-old tradition that heralds back through the centuries. Travellers spent nights under the stars, cooking game over a crackling fire. In Australia’s own backyard, people from the gold rush and initial settlement days gathered around bonfires to eat and share stories.
This tradition has been reborn in the modern day thanks to the inclusion of barbecues in public spaces. Australia is known to have some of the best public barbecues in the world, with most completely free to use and all regularly kept clean and well-maintained by users and the council. These facilities enable communities to gather with friends and family around the grill to share in good food and great conversation.
In this day and age, we often live very isolated lives due to desk jobs and social media. Psychologist Amanda Gordon says that eating in a social situation is very beneficial as “we get very little opportunity to engage with people at a deeper level…connecting around food can be a very [beneficial] way of [engaging with others].”
Research from Oxford University suggests that people who eat socially are happier and “more satisfied with life, more trusting of others, more engaged with their local communities and have more friends they can depend on for support…Communal eating increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing, and enhances one’s sense of contentedness and [connection] within the community.”
Public barbecues offer plenty of space surrounding the grill, allowing for large social groups to gather together, splitting up tasks evenly as people cook, butter bread, set up tables and lounge around, all in close proximity while sharing beer or bubbly. This allows for socialisation and a unique and personal feeling of togetherness and fulfilment that can’t often be replicated in a small home kitchen or restaurant.
It’s even better that this experience gets to be enjoyed in Australia’s great outdoors, where families can breathe in the fresh air and appreciate the beautiful natural landscape that the country’s public parks have to offer.
Australia’s public barbecues also hold a practical function. Tradies often gather in the early hours of the morning to cook a solid brekkie of bacon and eggs in local parks before heading off to start the day’s work, and backpackers and caravan travellers use public barbecues to make meals throughout the day – saving both money on gas and the trouble of lugging grills around.
The popularity of Australia’s public space barbecues speak for themselves, with many parkland barbecues sometimes receiving hundreds of uses a day, such as Bronte Park in Sydney, which has eight systems that regularly exceed 300 daily uses!
By including at least one barbecue in every public park in Australia, communities get to benefit from an invaluable and uniquely Australian experience that allows them to engage personally with loved ones, and foster emotional and social wellbeing.