Every rock has a story tell.
The aims of the National Rock Garden (NRG) are to celebrate Australia’s rich geological heritage in a parkland setting within the Australian National Capital, and to demonstrate to present and future generations of Australians the diversity of rocks and minerals that contribute significantly to the nation’s landscapes, culture and prosperity.
The NRG will host over one hundred large rocks, anticipated to be between 5 and 20 tonnes each, which will be transported to the NRG site from across the Australian continent. Numerous eye-catching rock types will be sourced, including fossils and ore samples. Each rock specimen will have a fascinating story to tell, and will have signage and website information to explain its significance. A walk through the Rock Garden will be a journey through time, charting the evolution of the continent during the last four billion years. Through this unique collection, visitors will also learn about the importance of rocks to indigenous Australians.
The idea of a National Rock Garden was first proposed by Geological Society of Australia members, Doug and Caryl Finlayson, in 2008. They had attended an International Seismic Profiling Symposium at Saarriselka in the far north of Finland. While travelling around the country, they observed the great pride with which the Finns showed off the diverse geology of their country, with collections of rocks dotted across Finland for educational purposes. Doug and Caryl chatted about the possibility of a display in the ACT containing regional rock specimens. Caryl said ‘Why not for the whole of Australia’ and the idea of a National Rock Garden was born.
Then, on returning to Helsinki, Doug and Caryl saw the magnificent display of rock specimens in front of the Heureka Science Centre. This stimulated Doug to give a talk to the ACT Division of the Geological Society of Australia to promote the idea. Recognising that Canberra was already home to other ‘nationals’ such as the National Botanic Gardens, the National Zoo & Aquarium and the National Library, then why not have a National Rock Garden? So we talked to people—not just geologists, but people from all walks of life—about having large, iconic rocks from all over Australia, displayed in a park-like setting in Canberra. The response was uniformly enthusiastic. ‘What a great idea’, people said.
The next step was to find a home for the NRG and, noting that there was apparently some ‘vacant’ land on the western foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin, in 2009 we approached the National Capital Authority which was in the process of developing a masterplan for reinvigorating the somewhat neglected Lindsay Pryor National Arboretum, and received a positive response. In July 2010, at the Australian Earth Sciences Convention in Canberra, the National Rock Garden was officially launched by the CEO of the National Capital Authority, Gary Rake, and in April 2011, the NRG site was gazetted as a National Monument by the Hon Simon Crean MP.
On Friday 4 June, after more than 12 months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, an agreement was signed with the ACT Government to relocate the NRG to a new site within the National Arboretum Canberra (NAC).
Forest 13, within the NAC, is about one hectare in area and is located on Forest Drive (the main access road in NAC), just 100 metres north of the NAC visitor centre and carparks. To complement the NRG display of large iconic rocks from around Australia, Weeping Wilga (Geijera parviflora) trees will be planted in an indigenous pattern in Forest 13.