In February 2010, Recreation specialists from the universities and public service, around South Africa, united in their passion for the field, came together to form the Leisure and Recreation Association of South Africa (LARASA). The stimulus which propelled the launch of the association arose from the absence of a professional association to address the needs of individuals trained in this sector, and to create a unifying and enabling platform to address the issues that will sustain parks, leisure and recreation facilities and service.

What we do

LARASA is committed to providing recreation professionals and practitioners, an environment conducive to continuous learning and development. As an advocacy group, our role is to encourage the development of new strategies to reposition recreation and leisure within the public service to transform the environment to meet the leisure time needs of all.  To achieve the numerous benefits of recreation and leisure services, LARASA will assist in creating the awareness of the public on the essential nature of parks and recreation.  To achieve our objectives in transforming lives and spaces, LARASA will form cooperative partnerships with related stakeholders. Through learning opportunities, research, and creative repositioning campaigns and strategies, we will endeavour to generate public support for the association.  Based on a paradigm shift in the provisioning of leisure services, to a primary health care intervention, preservation of the environment and social model we will address the challenging burden of disease profile in the country and promote social cohesion.

The need for improved recreation and leisure service delivery in South Africa addresses the following critical issues :

  • Health of the Nation
    South Africans are exhibiting increased risk behaviour and attitudes towards unhealthy dietary habits and physical inactivity culminating in an escalation in the prevalence of non communicable diseases (NCD’s), among adults and high levels of obesity among children and youth. NCD’s contributes to the quadruple burden of disease in South Africa. NCDs, especially the lifestyle diseases of cardiovascular diseases, hyper tension and diabetes are mainly preventable as they share modifiable risk factors which are physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, use of tobacco and tobacco products and harmful alcohol intake. The South African Government’s Programme of Action (POA) (2009 – 2014), calls for partnerships and emphasises “Working Together We Can Do More”. The Programme calls for government action on building an economic and social infrastructure, to promote social cohesion, caring and sustainable communities and improve the health profile of all South Africans. (Singh, 2010)
    The World Health Organisation stated that the reduction in the risk factors are closely related to the cost of implementation. It has been shown that interventions related to increasing physical activity are low cost and contributes to a modest improvement in health.  Public parks and recreation services are well positioned as important collaborators who can help to alleviate the burden of disease through the design of the physical environment to increase physical inactivity, helping to reduce obesity and the incidence of chronic disease;  provide a natural environment to relieve stress levels, strengthen interpersonal relationships, and improve mental health.
    The credentialing and continuous educational development of recreation professionals will further contribute to addressing the health issues of the nation.
  • Building liveable and sustainable communities
    Building liveable and sustainable communities, ensures the preservation of cultural heritage, preservation of public parks, open spaces and the natural environment for future generations to enjoy.  The combined effort to support conservation of natural fauna and flora of the country goes a long way towards increasing state revenue by stimulating tourism, eco-tourism and the stewardship of land, water, and natural resources. The implications of sustainability for the individual are the enriching opportunities to enjoy the outdoor environment for adventure or to reconnect with nature. Parks and recreation professionals play a pivotal role in developing and maintaining a healthy  environment through a balanced ecosystem, provide clean air and water, and the preservation of natural resources.
  • Transformation and Social Cohesion
    The opportunity to play and lead a healthy lifestyle is the human right of every citizen.  Public parks and recreation services should be accessible and available to all citizens irrespective of income, level of education, race, gender, ability, or age. The provision of these services for everyone ensures the freedom of choice to associate and strengthen community bonds.
    “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” Nelson Mandela.
    In the context of South Africa, the concept of Ubuntu articulates a social humanism of interpersonal care, sharing, and a commitment to the greater social good. The humanist and inclusive social ethos, adopted by the Department of Arts and Culture and as outlined in the National Strategy for Social Cohesion, in 2012,  places every individual in a society based on positive social relationships with others. Endowed with a diverse, resilient, creative people, immense natural resources and a new-found democracy in a beautiful land, parks and recreation professionals have an obligation to implement sustainable recreation and leisure services, to build a unified and proud society of equality in which everyone will feel and be at home.
    LARASA supports and encourages initiatives that increase social cohesion in national and local park and recreation agencies and their communities.  LARASA’s advocacy efforts will be directed to achieve these outcomes through legislation, research and knowledge sharing, and providing practical tools to public park and recreation agencies across the country. Upholding social cohesion, encouraging the development of social capital, is a critical means of assuring the value of parks and recreation for future generations.
    All LARASA’s effort is directed to the provisioning of services to enable South Africa to become globally relevant. We will strive to serve as the intellectual nucleus for connecting advocates, professionals, the business sector and government leaders so that, together, we can achieve common goals and further advance our mission.

Our achievements to date:

  • The successful launch of LARASA in August 2010 at SASReCon held in Durban, where the late DG Mr V Petersen endorsed the organisation.
  • Successful bid submission to host the 2016 World Leisure Congress in Durban
  • Successful hosting of the inaugural LARASA Congress on 11-14 March 2013 at the ICC, Durban. Attendance 250 delegates
  • Successful delegate boosting for the 2016 World Leisure Congress in Rimini, 28 September – 3 October 2013
  • Special edition of the 2012 LARASA Congress in African Journal for Physical Health Education Recreation and Dance. December 2012
  • Successful 2013 LARASA International Congress, 16-19 September, Tsogo Sun  Sun Coast Conference Centre, Durban. Attendance 270 delegates
  • Succesful 2016 LARASA World Leisure Congress 27 – 30 June 2016, Durban ICC. Attendance 313 delegates
  • Special Edition 2016 LARASA World Leisure Journal, October 2017