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