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A part that gardens play

Most mornings, coffee in hand, I venture out into my little garden with expectancy and gratitude – expecting it to look different from the day before and often astonished by the changes I observe in such a short span of time. Still being fairly new to gardening, I am always surprised by the miraculous cycle of life that I witness as I wander from one plant to another, accompanied by a chorus of birdsong from the neighbours’ trees. I give thanks and praise God for gifting me this little sanctuary of creation.

Gardens have so many benefits for us – physically, spiritually, emotionally – and they have played a pivotal part throughout history.

Thumbing through more old ACW newsletters, I was surprised to find a brief report about a garden in the February 1978 issue. It was written by Olive Ackland of the Victorian Unit after she attended the annual National Council of Women Victoria event at the public Pioneer Women's Garden in Melbourne.

Olive wrote:

‘Australia Day provides an opportunity for Victorian women to recognise the debt we owe to the strivings of our pioneer women. Representatives from the many organisations affiliated with the National Council of Women gathered at the Pioneer Women's Gardens in Melbourne on Wednesday, 25th January, 1978, the seventeenth occasion on which this Service has been held.

Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden, Melbourne

‘The speaker was Miss Patricia Kennedy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Miss Kennedy began by quoting the works of Dame Mary Gilmour — she traced the influence of women on the development of the Australian Theatre. We were given insights into the history behind the Theatre from the beginnings in the early days until the present era, the melodramas of the 1800s and earlier, to the development of an indigenous theatre, the efforts of Nellie Stewart, Marion Dun, and on to the women who are working in the Theatre today such as Pat Lovell [possibly better known as Miss Pat from the Mr Squiggle television show for children], producer, and Jill Armstrong, Director. Miss Kennedy, quoting again from Dame Mary Gilmour, concluded a most interesting glimpse into this facet of our history.

‘Members of A.C.W., Victorian State Unit were pleased to be able to take Mrs. Win Dougherty, President of A.C.W. Working Committee [National] to this occasion. Later, other members joined us for lunch and further discussion during the afternoon. Another visitor to Victoria who joined us was the new Secretary of the West Australian Unit, Mrs. Andrea Strack.

‘The event commemorating Australia Day also received mention in the Melbourne Press …

“The history of the little known Pioneer Women's Memorial Garden is fascinating. It was built from funds raised during Victoria's centenary celebrations in 1934. The fund-raisers were a group of women incensed at the all-male membership of the official Centenary Council.

Land for the garden was given by the State Government, after representations from the National Council of Women. It was built by unemployed people, with money raised by the women's group paying for the fountain, the grotto and the pool.

Buried under the sundial, there is a collection – no one knows how many – of sheets of paper bearing the names of the women of the day and of their ancestors. Each woman paid one shilling for the privilege of adding her sheet to the pile.”*


This year, 2023, the 62nd Pioneer Women’s Ceremony will be held on Monday, 30 January from 10:00 am–12:00 pm at the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden in the Kings Domain, Melbourne.

‘This will celebrate Victorian Pioneer Women, conducted annually by the NCWV to acknowledge past and present women pioneers. As 2022–23 is the 150th Anniversary of Secular and Compulsory Education in Victoria, the focus will be on pioneering women teachers. Dr Deborah Towns OAM, co-author of the history of the Secondary Education in Victoria and numerous articles on education and teachers in the Independent, Catholic and Government systems, will highlight the women pioneers in Education and the early schools.’ [Quoted from the last page of the December 2022 newsletter of National Council of Women Victoria.]


*There is no source given for this quote by Olive Ackland.

Image dedicated to the public domain by John Torcasio.


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This Herstory Blog of Australian Church Women Inc. tells the stories of the women and activities of this national Christian organisation that was founded in February 1965.

Stories that inspired and encouraged me to begin this blog and share their inspiration with you. Stories that need to be told so that the women of ACW can be honoured and celebrated for their achievements and experiences in local, national and international communities of faith. And, most importantly, stories that demonstrate being disciples of Jesus Christ firmly underpins all that Australian Church Women represents.

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