The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a major scientific and educational resource. It is the original national collection and the world's most comprehensive display of living Australian native plants. At the Gardens, which are located in Canberra and at Jervis Bay, people can experience the great diversity, colour, and special beauty of Australian native plants. The Gardens fulfils a significant role both nationally and locally, and its mission is:

The Gardens are young in comparison with the world's best known botanic gardens and this makes their horticultural and botanical achievements very impressive. The profusion of mature plantings, the towering trees alive with birds, and the cool beauty of the Rainforest Gully belie the fact that less than 50 years ago both sites were partially cleared grazing properties on low fertility soils. The Gardens today are the result of a skilful development of horticultural techniques and scientific research, with recreational and educational features that make them both an international scientific resource and a popular place to visit.

In carrying out its mission the Gardens has nine principal aims:

  1. to maintain and develop integrated living and herbarium collections of Australian and related floras;

  2. to display the living collections in an educationally useful and attractive setting that enables people to enjoy and appreciate the recreational and horticultural values of botanic gardens;

  3. to encourage people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to enjoy botanic gardens;

  4. to provide an information resource for government, industry, science and the community;

  5. to conduct and encourage research on the collections;

  6. to promote the protection, conservation and wise use of Australia's flora;

  7. to foster understanding of Australia's plant heritage and its environmental and cultural values;

  8. to provide a national focus for, and cooperate with other organisations in, matters concerning botanic gardens and herbaria;

  9. to maintain an accountable, efficient and flexible organisation that is responsive to clients and provides opportunities and encouragement for staff.

Considerable progress towards achieving these aims has been made since the establishment of the Gardens. About one-third of Australia's known flowering plants are now in cultivation at the Gardens and a research and reference collection of some 270 000 preserved plant specimens, including the largest Australian collection of cryptogamic plants, is housed in the Herbarium. A significant photographic collection of Australian plants and their habitats has also been developed. The information on all collections is integrated and cross-referenced through computer databases, which also maintain the most up to date references to the names of all Australian vascular plants.

The Gardens' collections are used by a wide range of scientists, in Australia and internationally, for research into the biology and taxonomy of Australian plants. Current research by staff of the Gardens focuses on cryptogamic plants, particularly mosses and lichens, and on Australian orchids.

Plant conservation programs are a major activity; some 20 per cent of Australia's rare and threatened plant species are held in cultivation for conservation purposes. Staff have developed expertise in propagating and cultivating endangered plants and have become involved in programs to ensure the recovery of these species in their natural habitats.

The Gardens conducts education and community involvement programs to increase public awareness of the diversity of Australian plants, the horticulture of those plants and the need for their protection. A special effort has been made to ensure all members of the community have equitable access to these programs. The production of resource kits for schools and the loan of displays to other venues extend education efforts beyond the Gardens sites. A community outreach program is provided through the Friends of the Gardens, the service of the Friends Guides, and the opportunity for volunteers to work in a range of programs.

The Gardens, both in Canberra and at Jervis Bay, are major visitor destinations and are also used extensively by local residents. They provide beautifully landscaped environments in which visitors are encouraged to learn about and enjoy Australia's flora. The quality of the landscape setting and the high degree of technical achievement in the construction of the Gardens in Canberra are recognised in their inclusion on the Register of the National Estate. The Gardens at Jervis Bay have also been nominated for inclusion on the Register.

The Gardens play a major role in coordinating the activities of Australia's herbaria and botanic gardens and in supporting other organisations that are active in this area. The Australian Cultivar Registration Authority, which registers cultivated varieties derived from the Australian flora, is based at the Gardens in Canberra, as is the national office of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation. Gardens staff played a leading role in establishing and developing this Network. The experience and expertise thus developed have been drawn upon in efforts to establish similar bodies in New Zealand and Indonesia.

Gardens staff have been instrumental in developing national standards and protocols for the storage and exchange of botanical information and in gaining State and Territory acceptance of these standards and protocols. A national network of regional botanic gardens is also being developed, and staff are involved in advising on planning and development.