Benchmarking shade in NSW playgrounds

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia.[1]  Almost all skin cancers are caused by overexposure to the sun’s UV radiation, and children are particularly at risk.[2]

The Cancer Institute NSW has pledged to champion the role of trees and shade in preventing skin cancer and is undertaking research to benchmark shade in NSW playgrounds.

High sun exposure in the first 10 years of life more than doubles the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.[3] 

Our aim is to reduce childhood exposure to the harmful effects of UV radiation as a priority of the NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy. It is part of our commitment to help prevent the next generation of adults in NSW from experiencing skin cancer. 

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Tell us what shade is like in your local school or community playground

We want to know what shade is like in your local school or community playground. Take our short survey to help us understand how we can improve sun safety in your community. 

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An illustration of a playground under shade sails

High quality and well-designed shade in our playgrounds can reduce children’s exposure to harmful UV radiation by up to 75%.[4]      

What is the benchmarking shade in NSW playgrounds project?

The purpose of the project is to understand the answer to a simple question: how shady, sun safe and cool are NSW playgrounds?

This project is a first of its kind in Australia to provide comprehensive state-wide data about shade and sun protection in our playgrounds.

Together with our research partners at the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Southern Queensland, we are exploring if there are inequities in the availability and quality of natural and built shade in NSW council and school playgrounds. 

The project team will also speak with industry professionals about achievable targets for shade and possible solutions to ensure our playgrounds are sun safe and green.

With these insights, the Cancer Institute NSW will work with others across the sector to inform future initiatives related to shade in schools and public spaces.


An illustration of a swing set with no shade covering

A study from 2014 found inequities in the shade available in playgrounds in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods of Sydney.[5]   


What are the benefits?

The shade benchmarking project will inform the development of solutions to ensure NSW playgrounds are shady, sun safe and cool.

High quality built and natural shade in playgrounds not only helps reduce UV radiation by up to 75%, but also helps keep children cool while outdoors and protect them from extreme heat.

Common surfaces used in central schoolyards, such as unshaded asphalt and artificial grass, can climb to temperatures of up to 60C during the day.[6] Providing shade can reduce the temperature of these surfaces by 20C.[6]

Shady, sun safe and cool playgrounds will help keep our children healthy and reduce their risk of developing skin cancer in the future.


When will the project be delivered?

Researchers will be conducting virtual and onsite audits of shade in playgrounds from September 2020 until June 2021.

Project findings are expected to be published in late 2021.


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How you can get involved

We are asking NSW community members and schools to participate in an online survey about shade in their local school and community playground. If you would like to be involved, tell us more by taking the short survey.

Helpful resources

You can help us promote the survey in your local community or school. Download our resources to tell people how they can get involved.

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  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Skin cancer in Australia. Canberra: AIHW; 2016.
  2. Armstrong BK. How sun exposure causes skin cancer: an epidemiological perspective. 2004. In: Hill D, Elwood JM, English DR, editors. Prevention of Skin Cancer. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands; p.89 – 116.
  3. Kricker A, Armstrong BK, Goumas C, Litchfield M, Begg CB, Hummer AJ, et al. Ambient UV, personal sun exposure and risk of multiple primary melanomas, Cancer Causes Control 2007 Apr;18(3):295-304 Abstract available at
  4. Parsons, P., Neale, R., Wolski, P. & Green, A. 1998, ‘The shady side of solar protection’, Medical Journal of Australia, 168: 327–to330
  5. Anderson, C., Jackson, K., Egger, S., Chapman, K., & Rock, V. 2014. Shade in urban playgrounds in Sydney and inequities in availability for those living in lower socioeconomic areas. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health, 38(1), 49-53.
  6. Pfautsch, S., Rouillard, S., Wujeska-Klause, A., Bae, A., Vu, L., Manea, A., … Leishman, M. (2020). School Microclimates.