Director's Report

Presented at the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the ANBG
on 13 February, 2007

Anne Duncan

Director, Australian National Botanic Gardens


The presentation tonight will be about the challenges for the future, my vision for the future, a framework which might help in developing a shared vision for the future of the gardens and a comment on the role of the Friends in that vision.

Challenges for the ANBG

There are many challenges ahead for the gardens – climate change, national relevance and resources, are key ones. Climate change is a challenge not only for the ANBG site (which plants should we have in our collection?) but for the nation. We are working with other botanic gardens around Australia which we hope will lead to a national strategy for botanic gardens in contributing to climate change adaptation planning. Leadership in climate change adaptation is one way to increase our national relevance and national relevance is key to the survival of the ANBG as a truly national institution. Resources will always be a struggle for a small entity within a large bureaucracy with many competing priorities. The ANBG has to decrease its reliance on government and look further afield to add corporate sponsorships and partnerships into its resource base. To be an attractive proposition in that market means marketing ourselves as national and indeed delivering national level outcomes.

Director’s  30 year vision for the ANBG.

The following vision is a personal one and no doubt it will be further refined over the years ahead. However the Director’s role is to help the ANBG develop a vision on behalf of the nation. And I believe a key to success is to engage our national stakeholders in developing that shared vision.

  • The ANBG will have a living collection which will be an integration of
    • plants for national ex-situ conservation priorities (conservation)
    • plants which we need to tell the stories we want to tell about Australian
               plants, biodiversity and culture (education and interpretation)
    • subtle landscaping to maximise visitor enjoyment and appreciation and
               blend in important aspects of Australian art and culture
  • It will be housed in a garden based on state of the art sustainable horticulture principles.
  • The ANBG will be a centre of horticultural excellence internationally and nationally renowned for research on propagation of Australian plants, and as a provider of training and information to the community and the horticultural industry. 
  • There will be a nationally renowned visitor centre which is a window on the world of botany (a questacon of the plant world?) and into the virtual world of the ANBG’s national and international activities. The messages and stories told inside the Visitor Centre will be integrated into the outside story in the gardens through subtle and best practice interpretation.
  • There will be an education program which underpins the Visitor Centre and local education activities which is nationally and internationally recognised as state of the art biodiversity education and this can be accessed via the web.
  • The ANBG will be part of a thriving and nationally and internationally renowned scientific collaboration involving international institutions, CSIRO, Universities and land management agencies which addresses both
    • the basic taxonomic and systematic research necessary for us to
             catalogue and understand biodiversity
    • management oriented research about climate change impacts, mitigation
             strategies, ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation.
  • Science will be used to inform a web-based authoritative and comprehensive encyclopaedia of Australian plants, botany and horticulture which is nationally and internationally recognised.
  • The work of the gardens will be supported by a strong network of national stakeholders and resourced through a combination of government, corporate sponsorships and donations and strategic partnerships.

It is heartening that many aspects of this vision already exist and indeed the better marketing of the ANBG is a key to increasing our national relevance. In other words there are many significant national outcomes already being delivered but they are not well known or perceived as not important.

The framework for the future

The outcomes of the ANBG are delivered at three levels : National Capital, National and International.

National Capital

  • The Living Collection as tourism/recreation in ACT
  • Education for ACT schools
  • Sustainable horticulture for ACT residents
  • Underpinned by National Capital community support and engagement. This
           has principally been the important role of the Friends of the ANBG.

While this reflects a role in Canberra /ACT region, there is still a “national” component in this level of focus which is important to recognise, and which would most likely manifest itself in the need for a sense of “national excellence” in all aspects of the on ground management of the ANBG.


  • The Living Collection as conservation and supporting science
  • Leadership
    • Science – botany, taxonomy, horticulture
    • Botanical information management
    • Ex-situ conservation
    • Climate change adaptation
    • Education
  • National tourism icon
  • Part of the national culture fabric
  • Underpinned by national level stakeholder support and engagement


  • Leadership
    • Commitment to Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (CBD)
    • Botanical information management
    • Commitment to Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)
    • Taxonomy and systematics
    • Ex-situ conservation
    • Climate change adaptation
    • Education
    • The “The pre-eminent botanic gardens of the Southern hemisphere”?
  • Underpinned by international networks and partnerships

These levels are not discrete but overlap significantly. In fact the Living Collection at the ANBG can be viewed as a cornerstone supporting all the other outcomes. However it assists management to clearly identify what we need to deliver at each level and why we are doing it.

As an example - the living collection at the National Capital level is just a nice garden to walk in. However by taking leadership in ex-situ conservation and climate change adaptation, this means that the Living Collection is also delivering nationally significant outcomes. Further we could export our experience in climate change adaptation and ex-situ conservation planning and take a global leadership role in this.

A further example: education can be simply delivered as programs to ACT schools, but the materials and curricula can be delivered nation-wide via networks and partnerships and accessed on the web, even internationally. Given the high visitation to botanic gardens, particularly by our urban populations the role of botanic gardens in biodiversity education has been identified a significant one at the global level(GSPC).

The more we move into leadership projects, the more resources are required but the greater the possibility of corporate or strategic partnership arrangements, if wisely marketed.

The following diagrammatically represents the framework described above.

Where do the Friends fit into this framework?

The Friends provide valued community support and assist with engagement at the National Capital level. They have had a very significant role in building support for the ANBG in Canberra since their inception and in turning the focus of the ANBG outwards. The question I look forward to discussing further with the Friends is how can the ANBG work with the Friends in the future to add value to our current partnership?

*   *   *   *   *