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Botanic Gardens appoints first female director

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The Botanic Gardens of South Australia has appointed its first female director after 160 years of operation.

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Dr Lucy Sutherland, an internationally recognised expert in plant conservation, education and botanical gardens, will oversee Adelaide Botanic Garden in the city, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden in the Adelaide Hills and Wittunga Botanic Garden in Blackwood.

“It’s a real honour for me,” Sutherland told InDaily.

“I’ve worked in botanic gardens for the lion’s share of my career … I’m very excited.

“I hadn’t even considered that aspect [being the first female director of the Gardens].”

Sutherland is currently national coordinator of the Australian Seed Bank Partnership and has previously worked as acting director of the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra.

Dr Lucy Sutherland. Photo: supplied.

Dr Lucy Sutherland. Photo: supplied.

She holds a research Masters and Ph.D in botanic gardens management and has published papers on botanic gardens collections management, biodiversity and plant conservation, nature-based tourism, education and interpretation policy and practice.

A State Government spokesperson said the contract of previous Botanic Gardens director, botanist Stephen Forbes – appointed to the role in 2001 – had ended in May this year.

The spokesperson said the Botanic Gardens has been going through a period of “leadership renewal” and that Forbes did not reapply for his position when it was thrown open to candidates.

Sutherland said her vision for her time as director was to keep the Gardens relevant to the community that uses them, and to strengthen ties to research organisations.

“The most important thing for me … is [for the Gardens] to, very strongly, be relevant to the community,” she said, adding that she was impressed by the Gardens’ history of providing innovative plant-life education programs.

Chairperson of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium Board Judy Potter said the organisation was “thrilled to have someone of Lucy’s calibre appointed to the director role”.

“Her experience in working with Botanic Gardens around Australia and across the world, and her strong track record of partnership building will be invaluable assets to the institution,” Potter said.

Environment Minister Ian Hunter said Sutherland was “an accomplished leader with considerable experience in national and international organisations dedicated to promoting and maintaining the important role that botanical gardens hold in citizens’ lives”.

“As the Gardens’ first female director, Dr Sutherland will lead our Botanic Gardens in its next chapter, showcasing our cultural and natural world heritage.”

Festival of Ideas founder Greg Mackie and Janice Goodwins, of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, have each acted as interim directors for the Gardens during the recruitment process.

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