2020 hasn’t been kind to many of our Canberra institutions, but the Australian National Botanic Gardens, in particular, has had to make the most of a rough start which coincided with the Gardens celebrating its 50th birthday. Julie Akmacic, the Communications and Events Coordinator who has been working for the Gardens for nine years, spoke to the NCAA about the team’s persistence and optimism through the pandemic.
“We started planning about two years ago for the 50th year. We had organised a year-long program from January right through to December, with different events and exhibitions. Then everything had to be changed not once, but twice,” said Julie.
The first change was due to the thick bushfire smoke that made being outside in the gardens hazardous. Next was the hailstorm which brought significant damage to the flora. And finally. COVID-19 hit and resulted in a temporary shutdown of the Gardens.
“Our beautiful rainforest was very damaged from the hailstorm. Everyone worked hard to get the gardens back to where we were before the storm. But it is looking beautiful again,” Julie noted.
While the planned events are not able to go ahead, you can still celebrate by enjoying some Ad Crescendum Native Botanic Gin made locally by Underground Spirits, and visiting the Gardens.
“Come in and visit the Gardens to celebrate its 50th year. I am sure there will be something new and exciting for you to see. It’s a beautiful place where everyone can come, no matter if it’s the children or the elderly, and just breathe in and take a step back,” said Julie.
Like many workplaces across Canberra, there was a period that Gardens’ staff were required to be at home. Julie highlighted that it gave them an opportunity to sit down and do some strategic planning for the future of the Gardens. And while some worked from home, other staff continued to work on-site maintaining the Australian National Botanic Gardens collection.
“We are a museum. We may not have a stereotypical collection, but we do have an incredible collection of plants. The staff have been able to maintain it so when we reopened it was still beautifully presented,” Julie said.
On reopening, Julie noted the Gardens was somewhat fortunate, being an open outdoor attraction. With some simple changes, such as one-way walking paths and available hand sanitiser, a trip to the gardens has remained a safe activity to enjoy while socially distancing.
Some upcoming events that Canberrans can be excited about are the ‘Paradise Lost – Daniel Solander’s Legacy’ Art Exhibition in collaboration with the Embassy of Sweden; new Banksia Garden will be opening to the public in late spring; and the Sunset Cinema will be coming back over summer from mid-December into February.
Julie wants to tell Canberra that it is time again to come and visit the Gardens.
“It is looking wonderful. Spring is a peak time for the gardens. The animals come and say hello, the birdlife is vibrant, and we are open again for guided walks. Now is the perfect time,” Julie said.
“Come out to the great outdoors and just recharge; there is no other place like it in Canberra. It’s a treasure.”