Friends’

The first in our profiles of our dedicated team of volunteers…….

Gwen of Sturt Desert Pea fame….

Outstanding among our body of volunteers, Gwen Wilkinson has been giving of her best to the Botanic Gardens (Gardens) for almost a decade, and has become an ‘icon’ at the Gardens. The Sturt Desert Pea bed is her handiwork and if you have a look at the Home page on our website, you will note that it is a great place for wedding photographs, as it reflects the glory of the desert. Gwen’s hard work and care have paid off in a marvellous way.

This is not all, Gwen helps with eradicating the weeds for the ‘prickle hounds’ team (a key task in this environment), runs the 4th Saturday Brekkie, trims plants during Winter, is the Events Coordinator for venue hires and attends to many more such responsibilities. She managed to be at the Gardens, even during the COVID lockdown when many of the other volunteers were forced to stay away.

Gwen has lived all her life in Gol Gol or ‘Golly’ as it is lovingly referred to and having being exposed to the Bush at an early age, is as inseparable from the Bush as she is from her husband Terry. Along with diverse activities, Gwen has managed to be a good wife and mother to their two children. Terry often joins Gwen at the Gardens and gives the ‘Z-team’ a helping hand in repair and maintenance work. Gwen has lived an exciting life and engaged in a variety of occupations prior to volunteering at the Gardens, some of them being picker, cleaner, personal carer, supplier to florists and avid gardener.

A Life Member of the Gol Gol Fire Service, she adopts orphaned or injured birds and animals as a part of the Sunraysia Wildlife Carers group, and cares for them before they can be safely released back into the Bush. Certainly, a woman of many talents, with exceptional qualities of compassion and kindness!

Gwen nursing the little joey,
whose Mum was killed whilst crossing the road

If you haven’t sampled Gwen’s melt-in-the-mouth Lattice Vanilla slice yet – you sure have missed something really delicious!!!

On Australia Day 2021, Gwen’s contribution to the community was honoured by the award of a Certificate of commendation for being nominated for the award of Citizen of the Year by Sue Nichols, Mayor of Wentworth Shire Council. Congratulations Gwen, truly a well-deserved accolade.

Gwen, we wish you the very best and hope that there will be many more like yourself to contribute to the Gardens in the future.

Historical Background:

Friends’ of the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens

A Brief Overview

In and around 1983, three local scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), approached the Mildura Development Council with the concept of creating a semi-arid land Botanic Garden in the area. Their efforts were championed by Ms Kaye Gambetta, the first female Mayor of Mildura.

Additional details – refer About.

Eventually, the land in Buronga (Mourquong) owned by the government of NSW, was identified as appropriate for the purpose, in terms of area and affordability. Proximity to Mildura also played an important part in its selection. Many members of the communities of Wentworth Shire and Mildura joined hands and volunteered their services to make the project a success. In 1986, the Sunraysia Oasis Botanical Gardens Inc (name changed to Australian Inland Botanic Gardens Inc in 1997) was incorporated as a not-for-profit under Consumer Affairs Victoria.

At the time, there according to the records there were close on 400 volunteers, from both areas who undertook various activities around the botanic gardens (Gardens), such as planting and pruning roses, helping in maintaining and upgrading both international and native plant beds, and generally assisted in helping the incorporated not-for-profit association become a going concern. 

The first public meeting of the Friends of the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens (Friends) was held on 28th June 1989 at the Grand Hotel in Mildura. A Gallagher chaired the meeting, with Peter Smith, a renowned horticulturist as Speaker. It was generally acknowledged in 1990 at a Committee meeting of the incorporated association, that the Friends would function as a Committee of the association.

However, sometime after the above minute, the Friends decided to convert to an unincorporated entity, functioning under the umbrella of the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens Inc (AIBG). The Friends have their own ABN and are also registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC).

Today, the Friends, other than assisting the staff with general maintenance, rose deadheading, tree pruning, weeding etc, also run the highly successful Gift and Coffee Shop located in the Garnpang Homestead. Possessing the requisite Food Handling and other certification, the Friends are also able to provide refreshments for small tour groups, functions, and workshops.

It is noteworthy, that the Board of Management of AIBG is also made up of Friends volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise to the organization.

The key groups and leaders, made up of Friends members are as follows:

1.  The Dead headers: Marge Donellan, a colourful personality heads the team of dead headers who can be seen in season deadheading the roses at 6.30am in the morning.  

2. The Gift & Coffee Shop: Betty Phillis and Joan Tellesson, two spirited ladies always ready to serve you with a smile, who spearhead the Friends volunteer team who faithfully keep the Gift and Coffee Shop functioning for visitors, including tour groups.  

3. The Magenta Artists: an independent group of Artists led by Val Wakefield who meet every Wednesday and turn out beautiful works of art, some of which are on sale at the Gift and Coffee Shop. Keep an eye out for the annual Exhibition that is held during the Easter Weekend. Their talent is awesome!  

4.  The Nature Trailers: Val and Valerie Barnes, an unassuming and dedicated couple who keep the Nature Trail up to scratch with regular weeding and pruning and keep the indigenous trees and plants surviving through drought and dust storms.

5. The Prickle Hounds: a group of dedicated volunteers, led by leader Kevin Ashelford who meet every Wednesdays and are responsible for keeping the Gardens weed free.

6. The Z-team: a committed group of talented individuals led by Richard Munro who meet on Tuesdays are responsible for any task that involves woodwork and covers daily maintenance at the Gardens.

7. Next we have Val Wakefield, Gwen Wilkinson and Anne Zirngast who form the industrious support team that often undertakes catering activities for small functions. Gwen and Anne also undertake additional support activities such as lawn mowing, pruning and weeding, with Gwen creating the awesome Sturt Desert Pea bed – one of the main attractions at the Gardens.

8. Finally, we have Vic Eddy, currently President of the Friends who attends to hard core activities such as tree pruning, waste management by bonfire, etc and spends most of his waking time at the Gardens. Vic is an expert in Forestry and is largely instrumental in publicising the 2,500-year-old WOW tree at the Gardens.

The current Committee of the Friends is as follows:

Vic Eddy, President

Jenny Eagle, Secretary/Liaison Officer AIBG

Judi Harris, Asst. Secretary

David Macmillan, Treasurer

Dorothy Hodges, Roster

The Friends maintain links with other Friends organisations and other botanic gardens around Australia.

Please refer below for the relevant links.

Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG)https://parksaustralia.gov.au/botanic-gardens/

Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardenshttps://parksaustralia.gov.au/botanic-gardens/

Botanic Gardens of Australia and New Zealand. (BGANZ)https://www.bganz.org.au/

Landcare Australiahttps://landcareaustralia.org.au/

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