Australian National Botanic Gardens

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the splendid Australian National Botanic Gardens in my electorate.
Australian National Botanic Gardens
14 February 2012

The Australian National Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite places in my electorate of Fraser. It is not only a national institution; it is also a key part of the local community. The first plantings in the gardens took place in the 1940s, but it was not until 1970 that then Prime Minister John Gorton officially opened the Australian National Botanic Gardens. It was the first botanical institution to specialise in Australian native flora and has grown to be the world's most comprehensive display of Australian living native plants. Today the gardens have about a third of all Australian plant species represented.

But the Australian National Botanic Gardens is more than just a display of Australian native plants. It is also a chance for people with an interest in Australia's native flora, our environment and our environmental heritage to meet up and share those interests. The group Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens started up in 1990 and now has more than 1,600 members. It supports the work of the Australian National Botanic Gardens by funding new projects and facilities and also by providing support for activities within the gardens. The summer concerts, botanic art activities—like one I was pleased to open last year—exhibitions, student and community photographic competitions and volunteer guiding are some of the activities run by Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, making this national institution a part of the community. It demonstrates how we can use these facilities to build community.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens recognised the activities of volunteers on 5 December 2011 as part of the International Volunteer Day celebrations. I was honoured to present awards to the following people, who volunteered for 10 years: Catherine Busby, Maryna Goodwin, Paul James, Richard Schodde, Michael Todd and Jo Whitten. I also thank Warwick Wright and Shirley McKeown, who have each given more than 15 years of service.

On 23 January I had the honour of opening the Snakes Alive exhibition, a display of reptiles and amphibians hosted by the ACT Herpetological Association and held in the gardens. The exhibition showed the importance of snakes to the Australian natural environment and how they are part of Australia's delicate ecological balance. The event was a natural fit for the Australian National Botanic Gardens, with both having a focus on Australia's natural environment. I would like to thank Geoff Robertson and Dennis Dyer from the ACT Herpetological Association for putting on such a fantastic event, and executive director of the gardens, Judy West. And I would like to thank Steven Holland for his work as a sculptor in preparing some extraordinary sculpted snakes for the event. I was fortunate to be joined by my two sons, who were fascinated as a python was placed around my neck and who happily reached out to touch the sides of the snake—much to the horror of my wife, I must confess. The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a national treasure, and I am proud to represent it.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.