Val Wakefield, Artist par excellence

Artist par excellence, Val Wakefield, the daughter of a grazier from Camborn Station was born in February 1933 at the Wentworth Hospital. Val married Gordon Wakefield, Grazier from Carstairs Station in 1952. Sadly, Gordon passed away after 68 years of happy married life in 2019.

Prior to moving to Mildura, Val and Gordon lived at Carstairs. Val adapted to life in the Outback and adopted roles as a wife, mother, housemaid, seamstress, cook, and hairdresser. Interestingly, Val says that on occasion she had to be prepared to adapt to being a station hand as well!

Val and Gordon’s eldest daughter Deserie was born in 1960 and is married to a grazier and they live in the mid north of South Australia, with their three sons aged 31, 23 and 15. Deserie is actively involved in Shooting Australia and mentoring and coaching developing athletes. Val’s second daughter Christine and partner, son aged 32 and daughter 29 and four grandchildren reside in Darwin, Northern Territory. Christine enjoys playing golf and also assists with the programming of events administration.

Val and Gordon moved to Mildura in 1971 to further their children’s education and continue living as a family, rather than board or splitting the family unit. Soon after arriving in Mildura Val worked at the Golden River Fauna Gardens in the Kiosk greeting visitors. Thereafter, she became a soft furnishing contractor, working at a curtain outlet and then from home (after converting the billiard room to an industrial sewing centre). Val also volunteered at the Art Centre Friends where she managed the Kiosk before the relationship became untenable. Currently she is a volunteer at Cancer Resources.

Val is among one of AIBG’s long standing volunteers, serving here for approximately 18 – 20 years. Val initially formed a social art group and then formed the Magenta Art Group in 2010. The Art and Photography Show widely attended by interested artists and others across Australia since 2010, is one of the key annual events at AIBG. In the past Val has manned the kiosk and organized Big Brekkies until the change of event management. Val often helps with waitressing for weddings and functions held at AIBG. She is a champion!

Determined Val, never gave up a challenge and managed and participated in the cleaning roster to raise required funds/capital ($14,000) to be able to host the Art and Photography Show each year. An indomitable spirit indeed!

Among her sporting interests were tennis, watching her husband playing cricket and as a family she mentions that they travelled Australia, Clay Target Shooting. A truly interesting and rich life.

Overall, Val may be described as one of AIBGs outstanding volunteers, whose unique contribution to AIBG is unmatched. We wish Val the absolute best as she prepares to host the renown Magenta Art Show in Easter Week, early April 2022.

Historical Background:

Friends’ of the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens

A Brief Overview

In and around 1983, three local scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), approached the Mildura Development Council with the concept of creating a semi-arid land Botanic Garden in the area. Their efforts were championed by Ms Kaye Gambetta, the first female Mayor of Mildura.

Additional details – refer About.

Eventually, the land in Buronga (Mourquong) owned by the government of NSW, was identified as appropriate for the purpose, in terms of area and affordability. Proximity to Mildura also played an important part in its selection. Many members of the communities of Wentworth Shire and Mildura joined hands and volunteered their services to make the project a success. In 1986, the Sunraysia Oasis Botanical Gardens Inc (name changed to Australian Inland Botanic Gardens Inc in 1997) was incorporated as a not-for-profit under Consumer Affairs Victoria.

At the time, there according to the records there were close on 400 volunteers, from both areas who undertook various activities around the botanic gardens (Gardens), such as planting and pruning roses, helping in maintaining and upgrading both international and native plant beds, and generally assisted in helping the incorporated not-for-profit association become a going concern. 

The first public meeting of the Friends of the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens (Friends) was held on 28th June 1989 at the Grand Hotel in Mildura. A Gallagher chaired the meeting, with Peter Smith, a renowned horticulturist as Speaker. It was generally acknowledged in 1990 at a Committee meeting of the incorporated association, that the Friends would function as a Committee of the association.

However, sometime after the above minute, the Friends decided to convert to an unincorporated entity, functioning under the umbrella of the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens Inc (AIBG). The Friends have their own ABN and are also registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC).

Today, the Friends, other than assisting the staff with general maintenance, rose deadheading, tree pruning, weeding etc, also run the highly successful Gift and Coffee Shop located in the Garnpang Homestead. Possessing the requisite Food Handling and other certification, the Friends are also able to provide refreshments for small tour groups, functions, and workshops.

It is noteworthy, that the Board of Management of AIBG is also made up of Friends volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise to the organization.

The key groups and leaders, made up of Friends members are as follows:

1.  The Dead headers: Marge Donellan, a colourful personality heads the team of dead headers who can be seen in season deadheading the roses at 6.30am in the morning.  

2. The Gift & Coffee Shop: Betty Phillis and Joan Tellesson, two spirited ladies always ready to serve you with a smile, who spearhead the Friends volunteer team who faithfully keep the Gift and Coffee Shop functioning for visitors, including tour groups.  

3. The Magenta Artists: an independent group of Artists led by Val Wakefield who meet every Wednesday and turn out beautiful works of art, some of which are on sale at the Gift and Coffee Shop. Keep an eye out for the annual Exhibition that is held during the Easter Weekend. Their talent is awesome!  

4.  The Nature Trailers: Val and Valerie Barnes, an unassuming and dedicated couple who keep the Nature Trail up to scratch with regular weeding and pruning and keep the indigenous trees and plants surviving through drought and dust storms.

5. The Prickle Hounds: a group of dedicated volunteers, led by leader Kevin Ashelford who meet every Wednesdays and are responsible for keeping the Gardens weed free.

6. The Z-team: a committed group of talented individuals led by Richard Munro who meet on Tuesdays are responsible for any task that involves expertise with woodwork, steel and other media. Their excellent workmanship means that they are a team AIBG cannot do without. Their activities cover the extensive daily maintenance work at the Gardens.

7. Next we have Val Wakefield, Gwen Wilkinson and Anne Zirngast who form the industrious support team that often undertakes catering activities for small functions. Gwen and Anne also undertake additional support activities such as lawn mowing, pruning and weeding, with Gwen creating the awesome Sturt Desert Pea bed – one of the main attractions at the Gardens.

8. Finally, we have Vic Eddy, currently President of the Friends who attends to hard core activities such as tree pruning, waste management by bonfire, etc and spends most of his waking time at the Gardens. Vic is an expert in Forestry and is largely instrumental in publicising the 2,500-year-old WOW tree at the Gardens.

The current Committee of the Friends is as follows:

Peter Bramsen, President

Jenny Eagle, Secretary/Liaison Officer AIBG

Judi Harris, Asst. Secretary

David Macmillan, Treasurer

Dorothy Hodges, Roster

The Friends maintain links with other Friends organisations and other botanic gardens around Australia.

Please refer below for the relevant links.

Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG)

Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens of Australia and New Zealand. (BGANZ)

Landcare Australia

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