BOODEREE Botanic Gardens in Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay Territory held a staff reunion spanning 65 years on Thursday.
Forty-eight past and present staff members were invited to gather in the newly constructed Koori Gardens to commemorate the hard work done on the 80-hectare gardens by elders.
Booderee Botanic Gardens manager Bernie McLeod said he wanted everyone to enjoy a much needed catch-up and show off the gardens over morning tea.
“I’m the third generation to work at the gardens – both my grandfather and my father worked here. It is a proud tradition,” said Mr McLeod.
“Today is a day of celebration. We especially want to commemorate the work done by elders and appreciate where the gardens are heading to for the future.
“The gardens are an important asset to the community and for the future of Aboriginal culture,” he said.
Mr McLeod has given local indigenous students work in the gardens as apprentices to teach them about workplace environments and give them a taste of Aboriginal culture.
“It’s about passing on cultural information to the next generation,” he said.
It wasn’t until later into the gardens’ initial development that a structure was organised using plants from the south east region of Australia.
The Koori gardens focus on Aboriginal plant use, demonstrating the connection between the Aboriginal lifestyle and the land.
One of the original gardeners Philip McLeod said it was about time they all got together.
“There were only three of us back then,” Mr McLeod said.
“I started with my dad at a very early age but it was nothing like it is today.
“Back then everything was done by hand. To dig a stump out could take you a good week.
“We would cart everything around in wheelbarrows and carry a lot of heavy logs on our shoulders,” he said.
The Booderee Botanic Gardens are the only Aboriginal owned botanic gardens in Australia.
Development of the site as botanic gardens started when the area was selected as the frost free annex of the Australian National Botanic Garden.
New initiatives include adopting water conservation measures and policies, such as using more local plants and installing new irrigation systems and water saving regimes.