Wittunga Botanic Garden

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:15): I rise today to discuss the importance of the Wittunga Botanic Garden, a beautiful 13-hectare garden tucked away in suburban Blackwood.

Wittunga Botanic Garden is important both for what it represents and for
what it offers our community. It is described on the Botanic Gardens of South Australia website as a 'hidden oasis'. It is a shame, indeed, that it is hidden, failing to share the profile of South Australia's more prominent botanic gardens, being Adelaide and Mount Lofty. Most South Australians are simply unaware of what is on their doorstep, but its beauty is undeniable.

The eclectic mix of indigenous flora, a billabong and a large collection of waterwise plants
from Australia and South Africa is a magnet for a variety of native birds and animal life. It is a haven for wildlife and a natural wonderland, a place I encourage everyone to visit, to explore the walking trails or just enjoy a simple picnic. It represents the very best of Australia's native wildlife and it represents the very best of our passionate and committed naturalists.

Wittunga was originally the private home of Edwin Ashby, an English-born estate agent and
naturalist. Ashby worked tirelessly to raise public awareness for the beauty and importance of Australian flora. Over the years, Ashby collected an array of birds, butterflies and plants, with today's bird garden and butterfly garden a reflection of his enthusiasm. In 1965, Edwin's son, Keith, bequeathed Wittunga to the Botanic Gardens of South Australia and in 1975 it was opened to the public.

The Botanic Gardens of South Australia have done a wonderful job in maintaining and
extending Wittunga to be the outstanding showpiece that it is today. I would like to pay tribute to the many volunteers involved in Wittunga, being the Friends of the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide, for their tireless efforts to preserve our precious gardens. Wittunga offers a wonderful opportunity to our community. It is a place where you can escape the noise and pace of modern life, spend time outdoors immersed in nature, listening to the birds singing and enjoying the natural beauty of Australia's unique flora and fauna.

Sadly, it seems too often we forget what a place like Wittunga has to offer and instead focus
too heavily on what we cannot do. The signage at the front is an unfortunate example of this, with a long list of no-go areas: no dogs, no bikes, no prams, no barbecues and no alcohol, amongst other things you cannot do in this beautiful space. Whilst I am not proposing that any of these items should or should not be allowed at Wittunga, I do believe we need to be more positive and inviting so people are attracted to what they can do at Wittunga, not what they cannot do.

Even the closing time is a deterrent. Wittunga closes at 4pm weekdays, even during daylight
saving, which means commuters who get off at Coromandel station cannot walk through the beautiful gardens on their way to their homes in and around Blackwood. Ideally, Wittunga would open longer so people could enjoy the gardens late of an evening. It would be wonderful to see the garden used more often. That is why I am a strong supporter by efforts by Mitcham council to develop a nature play space within the Wittunga Botanic Garden.

A nature play space would be a welcome addition to what you can do at Wittunga and it
would provide another important avenue of connecting people to plants and nature. If realised, the proposal would provide an active outdoor play space, which allows children to explore their environment while enjoying essential exercise. Children who play regularly in natural settings are less likely to fall ill, as mud, sand, water, leaves, sticks, pine cones and gumnuts can help stimulate children's immune systems, and children who spend more time outdoors tend to be more physically active.

Play spaces not only open up the possibilities of creative play for children but they also play
an integral role in encouraging families to spend time together in the outdoors and facilitate creative and new interactions across families, which is an important part of building community. I welcome the support of Nature Play SA and the Botanic Gardens of South Australia to develop a nature play space at Wittunga.

The Botanic Gardens' recent commitment to donate 2,000 square metres of land to the
project is significant and appreciated, and I appreciate the minister's in-principle support for the proposal. I hope this project can progress quickly and I strongly encourage the state government to extend its in principle support for the nature play space at WittungaBotanic Garden in a financial way.