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Djargurd Wurrung Country

The Camperdown Public Park occupies the Traditional Country of the Djargurd wurrung. For thousands of years, these volcanic plains have sustained human life. The Djargurd wurrung lived in small groups, hunting and gathering seasonal sources of food, and living in spiritual connection with the land.

The sandy bank on the east side of Lake Bullen Merri, known as Karm karm, within the western boundary of the original Camperdown Public Park reserve, was a long-established campsite for Aboriginal people. The site now occupied by the Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum, and the wider Camperdown Public Park reserve, was known to Aboriginal people as Gnotukk.

Dispossession of the Djargurd wurrung occurred from around 1830 to 1860 and many were relocated to Framlingham near Warrnambool.

Early period of the Gardens

The 1.2 hectare site of the Botanic Gardens and 6.9 hectare Arboretum are part of the 118 hectare allotment which was initially reserved in two stages in 1869 and 1870 as the Camperdown Public Park.

Daniel Bunce provided advice on the design of the park in 1870 and the Shire Engineer, David Harboardpresented a design in 1873. In 1878/9 an ornamental Rotunda designed by Alexander Hamilton was erected. Only the foundations of this Rotunda remain.

In 1879 the 292 acre site was permanently reserved by the Board of Land and Survey and by this time the botanic reserve was used regularly as an ornamental and recreational ground.

The influence of William Guilfoyle

In 1888 and 1890 William Guilfoyle, Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, recommended improvements to the amenity and layout. He prepared a further plan and planting list for proposed improvements in 1890.

He provided a more comprehensive plan for the entire site in 1910, which is still influential today.

Around the turn of the Century to end of WWII

Some of the early developments on the site were: a hot water facility with a chimney (1890); fencing of the plantations (1893); access road constructed (1904); dam and windmill built to water the gardens (1905); new entrance gates costructed at the lower entrance (1906); picnic shelters constructed (1908/9); Bathing house built on north bank of Lake Bullen Merri (1909); Glasshouse erected in the Gardens (1909). In the 1930’s the park was promoted as a camping facility.

From 1955 to 1990s

Camperdown Council takes over as the Committee of Management in 1955. The Rotunda was removed (1960). Caravans were first permitted into the Camperdown Public Park (1966). Friends of Camperdown Botanic Gardens was formed (1980’s). 12 trees are listed on the National Trust Significant Tree Register (1987).


From 2000 to now

The Conservation Management Plan was drafted in 2006 and finalised in 2016.

The Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (2011). The Camperdown Botanic Gardens and Arboretum Trust is incorporated (2013).

The Trust has mobilised a community of volunteers and led by the botanical expertise of Janet O’hehir. It has transformed the Gardens through the efforts of the Trust.

Community support has led to the reopening of part of the Arboretum. In 2022 the north eastern part of the Arboretum was reopened with the cattle removed and the area fenced and mowed and trees mulched. The western area down the hill has also been fenced.