Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


The time of our lives

Janelle Hatherly, the Trust’s Public Programs Manager for the past fourteen years, retired at the end of August. Janelle started her career as a science teacher, became an author of school textbooks and popular literature and quickly saw the importance of educating the broader community about science. She has been managing education programs in cultural institutions ever since. At the Trust she was responsible for the development and management of a wide range of community and school education programs, interpretation and volunteerism. She also contributed significantly to the development of thematic garden displays and exhibitions.

At her farewell function Janelle mused on the evolution of the learning culture in botanic gardens and her joy of working with teams of like-minded professionals and volunteers to achieve greater community engagement with plants. ‘You are a fantastic group of individuals who affirm my belief that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Through teamwork and by forging partnerships we have achieved great things together,’ said Janelle.

Janelle also believes we learn a great deal about society and ourselves by connecting with plants. For example, the Cadi Jam Ora garden display and associated public programs at the Royal Botanic Garden enable local residents and tourists alike to learn about Sydney’s Aboriginal heritage and the differing environmental perspective of the early European colonists. Significant environmental and social benefits are also being achieved as the Trust’s Community Greening and Youth Community Greening educational horticulturists help social housing tenants and their neighbourhoods set up communal gardens throughout NSW.

‘Like all museums, botanic gardens reflect what we, as a society, value and consider important. They are great places where school children, families and adults can readily connect with nature, appreciate the fascinating diversity of plants, learn to care for their local environment and adopt sustainable lifestyles.

‘I also see botanic gardens as ideal venues to stimulate public debate about complex environmental issues - from nature conservation to urban planning’, said Janelle.

As for retirement, Janelle embraces the term to mean a legitimate time to leave full-time employment and savour all that ‘the third age’ and more free time have to offer. She has had great examples in individuals, such as guides Jim Nicol and Lynne Cusack (pictured), and others who choose to volunteer in botanic gardens.

To maintain her own passion for volunteerism and science communication, Janelle and her daughter Suzie can be heard twice weekly on 2RPH (Radio for the Print Handicapped) reading articles from the New Scientist magazine.

Janelle also plans to stay connected ‘beyond these garden walls’ as an education expert and lifelong learner. She is convinced more than ever that botanic gardens have a significant role to play in modern society.

‘I’m currently exploring the concept of social epidemics portrayed in Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating bestseller The Tipping Point to see how a close positive encounter with plants might tip the way humans relate to the world around them. There’s lots more botanic gardens can provide globally, especially for children, at this time when we are experiencing a technology revolution that is changing the world faster, and with greater impact, than the agricultural and industrial revolutions before it.’



Janelle with guides Jim Nicol and Lynne Cusack