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30 Jan 2023

Gold medal achievement for volunteer Jan

About two decades ago Janet “Jan” Snodgrass planted a small Queensland Tree Waratah at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Garden’s fundraising arm, Foundation & Friends, and its vibrant volunteer movement. Since then, the budding number of volunteers has grown as fast as the towering tree she planted and reminds Jan of her love for the Garden.

Sydney 2000 Olympics catapults volunteer movement

Jan has been a passionate volunteer for 27 years, providing information and guidance to thousands of visitors to the Garden and she recently received a lifetime Foundation & Friends membership for her outstanding efforts.  

In the early 1980s the Garden’s first volunteer group consisted of eight guides taking the public for walks around the historic site, however it was the Sydney 2000 Olympics, which significantly boosted the volunteer movement.

Jan joined the volunteers in 1995 and subsequently became the first official Volunteer Co-ordinator, serving on the Foundation & Friends committee for several years. She was an Olympic volunteer herself and trained 60 enthusiastic volunteers, who helped the hordes of international visitors discover the joys of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney at different entrance points.

“After the Olympics were over, we had these 60 volunteers, who wanted to continue the work and a permanent information booth was eventually set up near Woolloomooloo Gate, where it still stands today,” Jan said.

Since then, there are now more than 300 volunteers across the three botanic gardens -  Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount TomahAustralian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

Janet has continued to encourage the growing community of volunteers, who appreciated her leadership, enthusiasm, and encouragement to ‘make it fun’.

“Our volunteers who work at the booth really enjoy helping people and telling them about the special places in the Gardens they can see.” she said.

“And it’s not just helping them discover the Gardens, we often help the visitors with their whole travel itinerary around Australia, and they appreciate this feedback,” Jan said.    

Jan and former Gardens director Dr Tim Entwisle planting the Queensland Tree Waratah (Alloxylon flammeum) to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Foundation and Friends volunteer movement in 2002.
Jan in front of the Queensland Tree Waratah today
“The Royal Botanic Garden is the lungs of the city and as a volunteer it is a such a wonderful place to be a part of – to talk to visitors from all over and to guide them on their special experience here,”
Jan Snodgrass

Devoted service rewarded with lifetime membership

Today the volunteers donate their time and skills to assist the Garden’s programs and work covering horticulture, science, visitor engagement and information services, herbarium specimen-mounting, bush regeneration, wildlife monitoring and asset restoration.

Foundation & Friends volunteers also assist in a variety of programs including the Growing Friends plant sales, botanical illustration and other art exhibitions and events such as the New Years’ Eve Picnic, now a major annual fundraising event, which Jan helped organise with a small group of volunteers.

Jan has always been working behind the scenes, such as formalising a catering team that provided refreshments for Foundation & Friends activities including an all-staff lunch for more than 300 people. Catering has been a big part of Jan’s volunteering efforts and she compiled and produced the first volunteer caterer’s recipe book.

Jan and catering team in the early 2000s

Solander Garden a favourite place for Jan

In 1999 Jan helped launched a range of merchandise for the Garden such as polo shirts, caps, umbrellas, bags, and cards carefully sourcing these items, gradually increasing the range until eventually handing over to the Garden’s Shop.

Jan was the ‘official photographer’ at many of functions, and produced several photo-albums, which became an invaluable record before the days of instant photographs and digital images.

Jan said one of her favourite places in the Garden is the Solander Garden near Woolloomooloo Gate that is named after botanist Dr Daniel Solander, who travelled on Captain Cook’s Endeavour voyage with Joseph Banks.

“I love Australian native plants at Solander Garden, which is all brought together by the marvellous Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus grandis) that stands so tall,” Jan said.

Solander Garden is one of Jan’s favourite places at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Foundation & Friends plays a vital role

Foundation & Friends CEO Peter Thomas said Jan remains a dependable and enthusiastic volunteer on several of our teams.

“The record of Janet’s extensive volunteer roles, and her continuing commitment to both Foundation & Friends and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, attest to her character and contribution to our wonderful Gardens,” Peter said.  

The Foundation & Friends has a proud history over four decades which includes:

  • 11,800 hours by Foundation & Friends volunteers last year
  • Over $150k raised in plant sales, and $185k from volunteer-run exhibitions
  • 320 active Foundation & Friends volunteers
  • And thousands of friendships forged and cultivated over its 40-year history

Join our community and support the Gardens. Annual membership to Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens gives you a range of great discounts and access to exclusive events and experiences.

Your Foundation & Friends membership will allow your Botanic Gardens to protect their unique plant life from an uncertain future, inspire the community to invest in plant conservation and help combat the spread of disease, as well as enable scientists to continue their vital research in plant science to fight the threat of extinction. Find out more here.

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