B.T.Dickson The Dickson Room
Australian National Botanic Gardens

The naming of this room honours Dr B.T. Dickson who prepared the Report suggesting the establishment of the Botanic Gardens on its current site. The proposal for naming the room was made by Dr Robert Boden, and it was approved by the then ACT Memorials Committee.

Dickson's Role

In July 1933 there was a recommendation to the Minister of the Interior from the Federal Territory Advisory Council

"that a start be made with laying out portion of the site set apart for the Botanical Gardens and of planting same with native and exotic trees, shrubs and plants of economic value as distinct from those grown for ornamental purposes only."

It was Dr Bertram Dickson, Head of the Division of Plant Industry at the newly established Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR now CSIRO) who was co-opted to examine the proposal and report on its feasibility.

For more than a year Dickson, assisted by Colin Barnard, also of CSIR Plant Industry, gathered information about botanic gardens around the world. On 4 September 1935 Dickson submitted his report to the Advisory Council. It was accompanied by a set of photos taken by Barnard.

Dickson went back to Walter Burley Griffin's plans for Canberra's gardens and endorsed some elements of them. He selected the present site on the lower slopes of Black Mountain, although his proposal envisaged an area three times the size of the present Gardens. He also located it adjacent to both the proposed University and the research laboratories of the CSIR, for he certainly saw a scientific role for the Gardens:

"The authorities would be well advised to plan the proposed gardens at Canberra so that they are developed with a balance between the scientific and the aesthetic, and certainly not to the neglect of the scientific phase."

photo: Dickson and Wrigley
Dr B.T.Dickson (left) and John Wrigley, the then Curator of the Gardens (right), at the opening ceremony for the Gardens in 1970.

Dickson promoted the use of native plants, which, considering his recent arrival as an immigrant from Canada in 1927, was quite innovative for the 1930s. He was already referring to 'our' flora:

"Many of our native plants are eminently suited to garden and landscape treatment and this is well recognised abroad for one may read in catalogues of highly prized plants originally obtained from the Australian flora."
"All plants and trees of the Australian flora which are found to be hardy should be grown"

The Dickson Room

The Dickson Room is opposite the ANBG's Theatrette and is used for meetings and functions. It has an attached kitchenette. It is part of the Visitor Centre which was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1985.

Updated 20 September, 2010 by Murray Fagg (anbg-info@anbg.gov.au)