Welcome to the Victorian Branch. With over 500 members, the Branch is active in organising events throughout the year including lectures, informative walks and working bees in historic gardens for our members. We are vigilant in watching landscapes at risk and actively show our concern where appropriate. Recording the stories of people who have contributed much to the Society is currently a major oral history project for 2019. We are documenting significant Victorian gardens to ensure that these important garden histories live on for generations to come.

Branch Events

Working Bees

Our work in private historic gardens continues on a monthly basis. Working bees are just one way we support custodians of these gardens and demonstrate that we value their contribution and the assets they maintain. These are Members Only events.

Contact Fran Faul on 9853 1369 or email at or details of forthcoming working bees.

Oral History Update

In 2002-3 the Victorian Branch completed a series or oral histories with individuals involved in the formation of the AGHS. These included Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Tommy Garnett, Sophie Ducker, Phyllis Simons, Jocelyn Mitchell and David Yencken, with all interviews currently held by the State Library of Victoria.

The Victorian Branch has recently commissioned professional historians ‘Way Back Then’ to undertake an additional oral history project to capture and document the lived experiences and recollections of specific individuals who have been critical to the Society and to the history of gardens in Victoria. With the 40th Anniversary of the AGHS being celebrated in 2020, this project is particularly timely.

As at end of February three oral histories are in the progress with three more to be completed by June 2019.

Historic gardens in Victoria

Victoria contains many significant historic gardens and recording them is an important part of our commitment.

In 2019 and 2020 we have four new garden histories being recorded which will be completed in the first half of 2020.

The following Garden Histories are now available:

Advocacy Update: March 2019

Fawkner Park Pasley Street Entrance Works
Vic Branch sent in an objection to the permit application from the City of Melbourne to Heritage Victoria for the proposed upgrade of the access point to Fawkner Park in the Pasley Street area. The application which seeks to remove the existing basketball court and create a new sports court further west of the existing facility together with associated landscaping and two new pathways. Fawkner Park is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register for its historical, archaeological and aesthetic significance to the state of Victoria. It is one of Melbourne’s iconic, well-used parks characterised by long, straight pathways and avenues of trees with spacious open lawns in between. It is appreciated that Fawkner Park was laid out in 1862 as “a place for promenading and watching sporting activities” and this has continued throughout its history as many passive recreation and structured sporting activities are carried out in the park daily. It is also a major component of the “necklace” of parks and open spaces which Melbourne’s early founding fathers had the great foresight to plan and create.

Of concern to AGHS is the highly intrusive design of the proposed court and zig zag paths which would result in further loss of public open space in Melbourne’s precious parklands. The Fawkner Park Master Plan (2006) which guides the development and management of the park did not consider the requirement for a new sports court. It did however, recommend improving entrances to Fawkner Park, including the busy eastern access point from Pasley Street. This is certainly is in need of upgrading due to degradation, soils compaction and recent service works whereby sand has filled drainage pits and pipes causing flooding. We believe that the proposed court upgrade development does not adequately deliverer necessary solutions. Simple engineering works and some careful landscaping should be able to resolve and improve this area.

The proposed site for the new court requires it to be angled across the contours of the park and necessitates significant earth works with accompanying intrusive zig zag paths. It is also located further into the iconic Fawkner Park landscape of slopping lawns and paths lined with avenues of trees and will have a high visual impact. This is not acceptable.
We recommend the new sports court to be located on the current footprint of the existing basketball court, playground and picnic area. The court can be rotated to have a north-south orientation. This would enable the historic path system and open lawns so highly valued by park users (as documented in the Master Plan 2006) to remain intact as new secondary paths would not be required. Also, fewer than the eleven trees proposed for removal would occur and there would be less impact on the thirty-four other trees which may be affected.

The decision date for this application has been extended a further two weeks for objections to be considered.

Proposed Development in Yarra Park

Vic Branch wrote to the Melbourne Football Club and the Minister for Planning, Victoria State Parliament registering our concern on the proposal by the MFC to develop the northern end of the park.

As one of Victoria’s oldest parks dating back to the 1860s, Yarra Park was the original “village green” for Melbourne with a network of paths developed along “desire lines” across the park, with north south paths being established later with the introduction of the railway lines and the increase in usage for sporting activities. It has early associations with some of Victoria’s important historical figures such as Governor La Trobe and the landscape designer, Clement Hodkinson, as well as being an important Aboriginal site, evidenced by remnant scarred river red gums
The MFC proposal would destroy the northern section of Yarra Park by building a six-storey office block and separate apartment building over the railway line as well as developing nearly two hectares into an elite training oval.

As the northern boundary is the highest elevation within the site, not only would this result in significant loss of public open space, it would also obstruct key views towards the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, cast shadows by blocking northern light and require the removal of many significant trees and pathways thereby destroying the original design intent of the site and restrict public recreational access and use.

Domain Parklands Draft Master Plan

Vic Branch has sent in detailed comments on this document which has been prepared by the City of Melbourne (COM) to guide the management of the parklands for the next twenty years. COM states that the draft plan seeks to prepare the parklands to meet the current and future generations and respond to the challenges of climate change and population growth.

Given the important heritage significance of this place as one of Victoria’s oldest and most important parklands dating from the mid nineteenth century, associated with prominent historical figures such as Ferdinand von Mueller, William Guilfoyle, Joseph Sayce, Carlo Catani and Hugh Linaker, the AGHS is extremely interested in this complex site. It is recognised that the Domain Parklands contains many important historical places and listings such as the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Observatory, Government House, the Shrine, La Trobe’s Cottage and the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, managed by different Land Managers, together with the COM’s responsibilities for the Reserves. This creates many challenges to ensure a coordinated approach to a site with so many layers of history and different uses. AGHS has recommended that the draft plan must have relevance to the heritage values of the place, and be agreed between the Land Managers, if it is to be successful in pointing the way forward.

The Domain Parklands Master Plan was approved at the Future Melbourne Committee on 19 February.

System Garden – University of Melbourne

Vic Branch recently congratulated Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis on the public release of the Master Plan and progress on implementation of the first stage. Despite not been successfully listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, the AGHS considers the site to be of at least State Significance as it was one of the first major teaching gardens established in Australia, the first in Victoria and was unmatched in scale and scope anywhere in the western world. AGHS has urged the Vice Chancellor to give full support and commitment to implement all stages of the works set out in the complete Master Plan. This will ensure the System Garden is recognised as an important place in our garden history. The committee thanks AGHS member Trevor Pitkin for his close watch on this important place. (See Snippets. Australian Garden History v.30 no.1 July 2018 p.1 for more information).

Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum (CBGA)

The CBGA Trust was disappointed to hear that Heritage Victoria has extended a permit for the erection of two three-bedroom cabins in the caravan park, as well as issuing a permit for two amenity blocks and associated sewerage works, which will discharge into the northern section of the Arboretum. Corangamite Shire Council has allocated $200,000 towards the cost of these works.

More pleasing news is that the Shire Council has decided to put one of the Parks and
Gardens staff into the gardens on a half-time basis. This is a real acknowledgement that the site needs someone to look after it other than just relying on volunteers.

The first meeting of the Corangamite Shire Council’s CBGA Reference Group was held in July. On the agenda was the 150th anniversary of the Camperdown Public Park next year. When set aside in 1869, the 250 acres was one of the largest public parks in Victoria. The 25 hectares to the east now make up the CBGA as a large treed park featuring an ornamental garden as its centrepiece. Unfortunately, most of this land is leased to private interests for grazing and the caravan park, leaving only 1.2 hectares of botanic gardens for the public to enjoy. The CBGA Trust would certainly have something to celebrate next year if the public could again access this parkland.

The Victorian Branch has agreed to fund the restoration of the shrubbery and ornamental border, a key aspect of Guilfoyle’s design. Further funding is being sought from the National Management Committee for rejuvenation of the rose garden and tree planting.

Follow the CGGA on its two Instagram accounts: camperdownbotanicgardens or corangamite_trees. AGHS members are welcome at working bees anytime.

Management Plan for H V McKay Memorial Gardens, Sunshine

A Vic Branch representative is a member of the management group overseeing the Management Plan for the HV McKay Memorial Gardens in Sunshine.

National Trust Landscape Reference Group

A Vic Branch representative is a member of this group which has been resurrected by the National Trust to identify and record important natural and cultural landscapes.

Wendy Dwyer

Branch Committee

We meet on the 4th Tuesday of the month, 3.30 pm - 6 pm at Burnley Gardens, except for April and October where the meeting will be held on 3rd Tuesday of the month. You are welcome to join committee meetings at any time. If you wish to discuss opportunities to get involved please contact Robyn Robins, or contact one of the Committee members.

Chair: Robyn Robins
Vice Chair: Sarah Wood
Minutes Secretary: Robyn Robins
Treasurer: Anne Aston
Working Bee Coordinator: Diana Ellerton
Catering Coordinator: Annie Woodside
Newsletters/Publicity: Vacant
Advocacy and NMC Representative: Wendy Dwyer
Rep. Landscape Reference Group/Deputy Secretary: Anthony Menhennitt
Garden Histories: Tim Gatehouse