There are many things to report since the Autumn issue of Wellingtonia; it is a very exciting time for the Friends and for the Gardens.
The big news was our success in having the Fernery Redevelopment recognised by the City of Ballarat (CoB) with $1.4 million provided in their capital works budget for the 2015/16 financial year. We are of course delighted that things have finally started moving in this important and necessary development in the Gardens.
Full credit is due to Elizabeth Gilfillan, as Convenor of this project, for her tireless work in promoting the project, liaising with the architects, and numerous meetings with CoB staff and councillors.
Building on the groundwork laid down by Joan Garner during her term as President, Elizabeth has been a tower of strength, and we are all delighted to see her efforts rewarded. Of course now the hard work really starts as we have to embark on a fund raising venture to secure the additional funds which will be needed to see this project through to fruition.
Another delightful event was the recognition of our History Group by the National Trust as a finalist in the Ballarat Heritage Awards for Heritage Innovation. This was for their research into, and preparation of exhibits relating to the Botanical Gardens and World War One.
I was privileged to attend the Awards Ceremony with the Convenor of the History Group, Lorraine Powell whose initiative this was, along with other History Friends. This Award is valuable both for the public recognition of the Friends as well as the Gardens. Full credit to the History Group for their achievement.
We were pleased to be able to host the annual meeting of the Association of Australian Friends of Botanic Gardens on 5 June. The opportunity presented itself on this occasion for our Patron, Tim Entwisle, to launch the Lake Wendouree and Gardens Education Hub.
The Hub is an innovative concept by the BotaniKids and Education Convenor, Julie Bradby, to integrate all the various activities and interests around the Lake in an educational project for Primary schoolchildren, working with Federation University students.
We intend shortly to establish a permanent presence in the Conservatory by means of a display area. This will enable sale of our plants under an honesty box system, and provide a site for general displays outlining the Friends’ various interests and projects. We will be looking at a professional design to make the most of this opportunity.
As well as these activities, there are several other projects under consideration for the Gardens which, although not directly related to the Friends, are supported by us for the benefit they will bring to the Gardens and, as a consequence, to Ballarat tourism.
One such project is a proposal by the Trustees of the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial for an interpretation centre in the South Gardens, opening out on to the memorial. We attended a meeting with Council at which this proposal was presented. The intention is to provide an architect designed building which will house exhibits as well as meeting rooms and toilets. It will be a valuable addition to the memorial and much appreciated by visitors, especially those with a connection to names on the memorial wall.
Another project now under consideration by Council is an Indigenous Sculpture Trail in the Wetlands adjacent to the North Garden. This will recognise all aboriginal groups who formerly used the Ballarat location for periodic meetings, with sculptures specific to each clan. It will be valuable, both for aboriginal recognition as well as providing an additional interest in the Wetlands. The Friends will in due course be looking at ways to better incorporate the Wetlands in the Gardens’ visitor experience with better defined access trails to link them with the Gardens. Julie Collins, Public Art Co-ordinator for CoB, briefed the Committee on this proposal recently.
Finally, the Tramways Museum is looking at extending their premises with an architect designed addition on the south side of their existing building. This will enable them to better present their tram exhibits with more room to move around, as well as providing meeting and administrative rooms and possibly setting up a coffee outlet, which could eventually make use of their newly acquired Restaurant Tram.
So – much is happening in the Gardens. If and when all these projects eventuate, they will certainly add to the appeal of our Gardens and cement their place as one of Australia’s outstanding Regional Botanical Gardens.
Raoul Dixon – President