The Australian Inland Botanic Gardens (AIBG) are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, and the attraction continues to grow from strength-to-strength thanks to the dedication of the committee, board members and ‘Friends’.
Located on River Road, at Mourquong, the AIBG is an independent organisation run by a voluntary board of management and is financially supported by both the Mildura and Wentworth Councils, who have representation on the Board.
President Judi Harris said that for three decades locals met to plan, gain support and fund-raise for a Botanical Garden to be established in the district.
“A lease site of 152ha in NSW was gifted to the people of Sunraysia by Orm and Rod McLeod,” Judi said.
The gardens were officially opened on April 21, 1991, when Lady Stephen, Patron of the Gardens, planted the first tree, a Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon scented gum) on the west side of the entry gates.
Her husband, former Governor General, Sir Ninian Stephen, planted a matching tree on the east side.
These two trees are the first of the long avenue of trees lining the entrance drive.
Sir Ninian was an Australian judge who served as the 20th Governor-General of Australia from 1982 to 1989.
He was previously a Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1972 to 1982. Sir Ninian passed away in October 2017.
Water is integral to the garden’s sustainability and with the assistance of three major irrigation firms and a local electrician, a pump was installed on the river as an ‘in-kind’ donation.
The water to the large irrigation system was turned on in April 1992.
Judi said that the ‘rose garden’ was established as the first feature of the gardens.
“It was supported by locals, who for $20, sponsored all the 1600 roses raising enough funds to cover the cost of establishing the rose garden,” she said.
“In the 30 years since the first tree was planted, support from all sections of our regional community has enabled the site to grow and prosper.
“The Sunraysia College of TAFE linked students’ theoretical studies with practical work at the Gardens. Other groups such as Service clubs; volunteers; the Green Corps; Work for the Dole; the Christie Centre; district schools and others have worked on garden beds, erected buildings and built huts and infrastructure.”
The Friends of the Gardens work on-site in several teams maintaining roses, managing the nature trail, digging out weeds and doing regular repair jobs.
Volunteers work seven- days-a-week in the shop selling food, drinks and souvenirs.
A major event held at the Botanic gardens each year is the Magenta Artists Art and Photography Show.
The Magenta Artists meet once a week to paint and run the annual Easter Art and Photography Show.
Judi said that the ‘Friends’ run monthly barbecues, drive the tractor train for tours, and hold fundraising events.
“This all helps to meet ongoing operational costs and improve the amenities on site,” she said.
“Support from local businesses and donors is critical to the ongoing success of the Gardens.
“The Sunraysia community has donated equipment, facilities and services.
“Individuals have financially donated generously so that the Gardens are improving every year.”
Judi said the future will be challenging with the expectation the climate will be hotter and drier.
“There will be a focus on the conservation of endangered and threatened regional plants; increased planting of trees and shrubs more suitable for home gardeners; improvement of sites suitable for events like weddings and parties; provision of a natural landscape, with a variety of trees and plants.
“That gives locals and visitors a healthy, green environment for leisure and exercise, as well as a place for education, recreation and enjoyment.”
Every fourth Saturday the Gardens have a sumptuous breakfast made by their talented volunteers, which is served from 8.30 am -11am.
There is no entrance fee, but a donation for the Garden’s maintenance is welcome. The Gardens are open to the public everyday from 10am to 4.30pm.