GardenDrumDavid Mabberley leaves Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens

Professor David Mabberley, widely respected and admired Executive Director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens has abruptly left his job.

Why this has happened less than 2 years after his appointment remains unclear, as RBG staff are not forthcoming and Adam Cooke, Director of Public Affairs at the Office of the Environment has so far not returned my phone call. But a resignation this sudden and immediate (one day’s notice!) does not bode well. People in the horticulture industry I’ve asked about it were shocked and surprised to hear of his sudden departure.

Rumours I hear from several sources suggest conflict between Mabberley and the Board and possibly also departmental staff. Maybe this also included the minister, the Hon Robyn Parker, Minister for Environment and Heritage, who has been very conspicuously ‘hands on’ in her involvement with RBG goings on, being seen at most openings and events.

Whatever the reason, keeping it hushed up, which is no doubt part of some agreement, allows us all to imagine the worst.

The unrest in the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage seems to be a continuing thing, with former Sydney Living Museums (Historic Houses Trust) Executive Director Kate Clark suddenly ‘relocated’ to a policy job with the Office of Environment and Heritage in August.

To lose one head of an important state cultural institution in such dubious circumstances may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks a lot worse than carelessness.

UPDATE 27 Sept – the latest rumours I hear is that Minster Robyn Parker was putting pressure on Mabberley and the Sydney RBG to become more commercialised and park-like, which Mabberley refused to do, believing that the RBG is an important independent scientific institution, so he was forced to resign. A NSW State Government minister who thinks that the RBG is just a park. Heaven help us.

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3 thoughts on “David Mabberley leaves Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens

  1. In the Government’s Plan 2021 there is a strong statement of commitment to Accountability – but in reality more the opposite. There has been no coherent explanation for Professor Mabberley’s departure and a considerable number of stakeholders have good reason to feel let down by the Government and Minister Parker. With regard to your comments in the 27/9 update check out the most recent annual report for Centennial Parklands. CP in 2011/12 self funded 94% of their operating budget. Perhaps Minister Parker, Chris Eccles and others believe the CP model is appropriate for Australia’s oldest scientific institution. But Science isn’t high on the priority list in the OEH. Take a look at how Climate Change has been marginalised. The big budget drain in the OEH is National Parks but tackling chronic poor management there is beyond them. The EPA has enjoyed an increased budget but there again organisational culture issues haven’t been addressed and money is being wasted on ‘gloss’. The RBG is an easy target. I wonder what Catherine Cusack – the NSW Shadow Minister for Environment -as at 25th March 2011- makes of this. However not all bad news in OEH as there is an intelligent approach to the protection of Aboriginal culture with Danny Gilbert heading up their working party on reform.

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