|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
After 146 years of being part of various government departments management of the Royal Botanic Gardens passed to the newly established Royal Botanic Gardens Board in July 1992 under the provisions of the Royal Botanic Gardens Act 1991.
The functions of the Royal Botanic Gardens Board included:
- the conservation, protection and improvement of the botanic gardens and managed land and their collection of living plants
- to provide for the use of plants or plant specimens at the botanic gardens or managed land for scientific or reference purposes
- to increase public knowledge and awareness of plants and plant communities
- to provide for the use of the botanic gardens for education, public enjoyment and tourism
Background [from Australian Encyclopaedia, Vol.II, pp.57-58]
Governor Gipps having approved the establishment of a "public domain for the purpose of rearing and cultivating indigenous and exotic plants" in 1841 the Police Magistrate, William Londsdale, ordered Robert Hoddle, then surveyor-in-charge, to mark out a block of 50 acres on Batman's Hill and the adjoining riverbank. Nothing came of this order, but several other sites were suggested and in 1845 Superintendent La Trobe chose the slopes of a gully leading down to the Yarra River near the grounds of Government House. Here John Arthur, the first Curator of the gardens, appointed in 1846, fenced a five acre paddock and laid it out in flower-beds and plantations. Both he (1846-49) and John Dallachy (1849-57) paid attention to the introduction of exotic plants, and permitted the gardens to be used for horticultural shows. In 1857 a new office was created; Ferdinand Mueller who had been Government Botanist since January 1853, was made Director of the Gardens. He established close relations with similar institutions throughout the world and effected important exchanges of plants, re-arranged and extended the grounds and paid particular attention to the native vegetation. He also devoted part of the area to plant-beds showing a scientific arrangement of plants in their natural orders, and established a national herbarium. "Mueller's view of a botanic garden was as a scientific and educational institution and his development of the garden reflected this conviction" [Annual Report Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, 1993, p.5]
In 1873 it was decided to divide the positions of director and Government Botanist and Mueller was deprived of the former office, the directorship passed to William Robert Guilfoyle, who during his long term (1873-1909) extended the gardens by over 30 acres and increased the number of species represented. "With his radically different concept of a botanic garden as a place to provide inspiring views and to display plants artistically, and influenced by English landscape design, Guilfoyle totally redesigned the Botanic Gardens." [op cit] Also undertaken during this period was the deepening and straightening of the course of the Yarra which allowed an extension of the garden area, taking in the old river-channel and adding it to the existing lake.
In 1924 the offices of Director and Government Botanist were again united and the National Herbarium of Victoria was again brought into association with the Gardens, having been separated since Mueller's removal from the directorship in 1873.
The Cranbourne Botanic Garden was initiated in 1970 with the purchase of land by the Government for the purpose of establishing a native botanic garden. Cranbourne was opened to the public in 1991.