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25 Aug 2022

Champions of three of world's best Botanic Gardens

Behind three of the best Botanic Gardens in the world are three Curator Managers always looking to make them even better.

David Laughlin leads the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Michael Elgey the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and Ashley Filipovski Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

Together they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, taking each Garden further and working with science and education teams to deliver the best experience for visitors.

'No two days are ever the same'

In a fortuitous coincidence, Michael Elgey, became Curator Manager of the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan last year, after starting his career with the organisation at the National Herbarium of New South Wales which now calls the 416-hectare site home.

Michael started at the Herbarium as a Support Officer in 2010 after completing a horticulture apprenticeship and working for several years as a Horticultural Trades Person.

While working in the Herbarium, he continued his studies with a Bachelor of Environmental Biology from the University of Technology Sydney part-time before transferring to the Horticulture Branch and then taking a role as the Curator Manager at Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Kershaw Gardens.

Michael Elgey, Curator Manager
Michael Elgey talking to Uncle Ivan at the opening of the new National Herbarium of NSW

Michael returned to Sydney last year to work with the Horticulture teams and manage the living collection and related projects.

“I’ve come at a time when there’s a lot of major projects happening, with the Herbarium Landscape, Greening our City tree planting program, continuing to manage the remaining African Olive strongholds and working on other conservation projects with Macquarie and Western Sydney University and Sydney Water,” he says.

“We’re continually building our living collections to engage our stakeholders. No two days are ever the same and a botanic garden is never static.

To the public it’s a beautiful place to visit and it’s calm and peaceful, but behind-the-scenes there is always a lot going on.
Michael Elgey, Curator Manager

The job that makes you come back

David Laughlin has been with the Botanic Gardens on three occasions totalling more than 12 years with a 20 year career working in horticulture.

Starting in 2004 as a mature aged apprentice, he has gained valuable insights on how to manage living collections from many extraordinary horticulturists and botanists he has worked with through the years.

His experiences working from apprentice to his current role of Curator Manager at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney has served him well.

"I really enjoy helping inspire a love of plants and nature through the great work of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust," he says.

"Originally from Ireland, one of my favourite things about Australia is the range of plants that thrive in this climate and the diverse species we work with every day."

David Laughlin, Curator manager
David Laughlin leads Sydney's iconic Garden.

'Hidden gems' discovered

The most recent to take on the Curator Manager role, Ashley Filipovski has already discovered Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah has a lot more to offer the public.

After exploring the 252-hectare site when he arrived for the job, he says there is so much untapped potential of the Garden.

“I’ve hiked through the remote areas of the gardens with staff and seen some remarkable sites,” he says.

"These hidden gems can offer some of the most unique experiences I’ve seen.

Ashley Filipovski, curator manager
Ashley Filipovski recently joined the Garden.
The pristine wilderness, the beauty of the cool climate gardens and the endless views of the mountain ranges left a profound impression on me, and I’d like to share this with more people.
Ashley Filipovski, Curator Manager
While he has a background in design and landscaping, Ashley has a passion for horticulture and skills in leadership management, so he plans to combine everything to take the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah to the next level.
“I hope to bring a fresh perspective to the Garden and really strengthen our conservation efforts. The soon to be released Living Collections Strategy will play a key role in this. The strategy will help us to confidently step forward into the future as a leader in conservation and sustainable horticulture, something I’m very excited to be a part of.”

Did you know?

Our three gardens are part of the the Australian Institute of Botanical Science which consists of the physical and virtual scientific collections, research, services and facilities and staff. The Institute is one of the nation’s premier botanical research organisations and helps to ensure the survival of plants and build more resilient ecosystems for future generations. Download the Australian Institute of Botanical Science prospectus for a detailed look at the vital science work we undertake.

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