Cadi Jam Ora Garden continues to provoke and inspire

I've been surprised by a lot of things during my twelve years in Sydney. I came up from Melbourne a little unsure of the city and its people but both have exceeded expectations (of course some improvements could be made in each but this isn't the place to dwell on such things).

My first surprise was that the Olympics were actually fun. I had planned to find an excuse to travel back to Melbourne during September 2000 but ended up enjoying the excitement, variety and even some of the sport...

A big surprise closer to home (or work) was the Cadi Jam Ora - First Encounters Garden in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. Some visitors find the storyline confronting and challenging but almost without exception they read it. The Garden is situated next to the First Farm, where European agriculture and horticulture began in 1788, and is an important addition to interpreting the history and importance of this place and of its plants.

It's just over ten years since the first plantings in this provocative and inspiring garden, telling the story of Aboriginal history in this country with an emphasis on the Gadigal (or Cadigal) people of the Eora nation.

A community planting day was organised for 9 August 2000 - United nations International Day of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples - with elders and students from Plunkett Street Public School, Redfern Public School and Soldier Settlers public school participating. We hope to have some of them return today to celebrate the garden's first decade and to plant an Angophora costata seeded from a remnant tree in the Yurong Precinct of the Domain. Other plantings will be from the 2000 list, included at the end of this posting.

We believe the 'Cadi Garden' was the first public garden to recognize local Indigenous history and culture in Australia in such an overt way. It followed closely the appointment of the Botanic Gardens Trust's first Aboriginal Education Officer, John Lennis, in 1999. John's role was critical in establishing close relationships between elders, local communities and the Gardens.

Today each of the three botanic gardens run by the Botanic Gardens Trust employs Aboriginal education officers, has an identified Aboriginal apprentice, and runs Aboriginal guided tours.

The Cadi Garden won the Interpretation Australia National Awards for Excellence in Heritage Interpretation 2002, and has become the focus of a wide range of educational programs about Aboriginal culture, history and plant-use.

The Parliament of New South Wales voted last week to change the constitution preamble to recognize Aboriginal people as the State's first peoples. So reconciliation continues, albeit with plenty still to do. I would hope that the Cadi Jam Ora - First Encounters Garden is a place where reconciliation can continue to flourish.

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This is the original planting list for the Cad Jam Ora - First Encounters Garden, with local Aboriginal names in bold where they are known.

Eucalyptus piperata ssp. piperita Sydney Peppermint
Eucalyptus tereticornis Forest Red Gum
Eucalyptus resinifera Red Mahogany
Corymbia gummifera Red Bloodwood
Angophora costata Smooth-barked Apple Marridugara
Syzigium paniculata Brush Cherry Daguba
Achmena smithii Lillypilly Midjuburi
Cupaniopsis anacardioides Tuckeroo
Backhousia myrtifolia Grey Myrtle
Casuarina glauca Swamp Oak Guman
Casuarina cunninghamiana River oak
Melaleuca linarifolia Paperbark Budjur

Rapanea variabilis Muttonwood
Acacia terminalis Sunshine Wattle
Acacia longifolia var. longifolia Sydney Golden Wattle Wadanguli
Acacia longifolia var. sophorea Coast Wattle
Banksia ericifolia Heath Banksia Wadanggari
Banksia serrata Saw-tooth Banksia Wiriyagan
Banksia spinulosa var. spinulosa Hairpin Banksia
Grevillea linearifolia White Spider-flower
Grevillea buxifolia ssp. buxifolia Grey Spider-flower
Grevillea sericea Pink Spider-flower
Grevillea speciosa var. speciosa Red Spider-flower
Persoonia pinifolia Pine-leaf Geebung Mambara
Lambertia formosana Mountain Devil
Kunzea ambigua Tick Bush
Pimelea linifolia ssp. linifolia Slender Rice-flower
Angophora hispida Dwarf Apple
Melaleuca nodosa Ball Honey-myrtle
Polyscias sambucifolia Elderberry Panax
Carpobrotus glaucescens Pigface
Ficus coronata Sandpaper Fig
Gahnia sieberiana Red-fruited Saw-sedge
Rubus hillii Broad-leaf Bramble
Rubus hillii Native Rasberry
Livistona australis Cabbage Palm Daranggara
Callicarpa serratifolia Black Wattle
Eleocarpus reticulatus Blueberry Ash
Blandfordia nobilis Christmas Bells Gadigalbudyari
Patersonia glabrara Leafy Purple-flag Bugulbi
Podocarpus spinulosus Spiney-leaf Podocarp
Dianella caerulea Paroo Lily
Dianella revoluta Spreading Flax Lily
Lomandra longifolia ssp. longifolia Spiny-headed Mat-rush
Gymnostachys anceps Settlers Flax
Geranium homeana Cranesbill
Dendrobium speciosum var. speciosum Rock Orchid Wargaldarra
Tetragonia tetragonioides Native Spinach
Dodonea triquerta Native Hop Bush

Xanthorrhoea media Grass Tree Gulgadya
Macrozamia communis Burrawang
Telopea speciosissima Waratah Warada

Themeda australis Kangaroo Grass Bamuru
Danthonia linkii Wallaby Grass

Hardenbergia violacea Purple Twining-pea Waraburra
Billardiera scandens Apple-berry
Smilax glyciphylla Sweet Sarsparilla
Clematis aristata Old Man’s Beard
Clematis glycinoides Old Man’s Beard
Stephania japonica var. discolor Snake Vine
Cissus hypoglauca Flat-leaf Water Vine
Eustrephus latifolius Wombat Berry

Blechnum cartligeanum Gristle Fern
Cyathea australis Rough Tree-fern
Pteridium esculentum Bracken Gurgi

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Images: At the top, the Cadi Jam Ora - First Encounters Garden today (in fact, 2007), and just above, the first plantings in 2000.


Tim Entwisle said…
More on the history of the Garden at
Sean Freeman said…
Tim you and the garden staff are rightfully proud of the Cadi Jam Ora - First Encounters Garden, and I believe you are also right that it has and will continue to play a role in making reconciliation more than just a sound grab.

I should be honest and admit that the times I have visited the gardens from Queensland I have made a bee line for the bigger older trees, esp the Figs.....but I will make more of an effort to walk through the First Encounters Garden next time I'm in Sydney.
Tim Entwisle said…
Thanks Sean. The idea, design and upkeep of the Garden and its continuing success are due to some very enthusiastic staff, led by Dawson Ougham and Paul Nicholson. Of course continue to enjoy the big trees and other attractions - the spring walk is spectacular right now...