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Parliamentary Questions re: Herbarium and ANBG databases
1986 - 1987

17 March 1987 REPRESENTATIVES 989

National Herbarium (Question No. 4833)

Mr MacKellar asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 21 October 1986:

(1) Does the CSIRO operate a national herbarium known as the Australian National Herbarium.

(2) Has the herbarium been gazetted as part of the National Heritage; if so, when.

(3) Does the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) also operate a national herbarium which comes within the responsibility of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment.

(4) Did the Minister for Science announce on 7 July 1986 that a national herbarium collection data-base project was being established to create a file of the CSIRO herbarium’s botanical collection and to transfer that data to a computer data-base.

(5) Will the computer data-base project include data from both the CSIRO and ANBG herbariurns; if not, why not.

(6) What would be the advantages and benefits of having the CSIRO and ANBG herbariums (a) merged into one national herbarium, (b) maintain separate status but be brought under the responsibility of one Minister and (c) maintain separate Status and divided ministerial responsibility, but be encouraged towards a high degree of co-operative and co-ordinated objectives.

(7) What other herbariums are administered by the Government or its instrumentalities.

Mr Barry Jones—The answer to the honour- able member’s question is as follows:

(1) Yes. An herbarium was established in CSIRO in 1930, originally with the name Herbarium Australiense. In 1984 the Herbarium was renamed the Australian National Herbarium (ANH). The collection thus has similar status to the Australian National Wildlife Collection and the Australian National Insect Collection, both also maintained by CSIRO. The Minister for Science has Ministerial oversight of CSIRO, and therefore of the Australian National Herbarium.

(2) Yes. The collection was gazetted as part of the National Heritage, under the name Herbarium Australiense, by the then Minister for Science, the Hon. W. L. Morrison, on 25 March 1975. This was confirmed by gazettal under the name Australian National Herbarium by me as Minister for Science on 26 June 1984.

(3) The Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) as a national collecting institution with a display function maintains an Herbarium as an integral part of its collections to support its public, educationat and scientific roles. The Herbarium contains a major collection of vouchers for plants growing in the Gardens. The Herbarium and living collections together form a unified scientific resource. The Herbarium also contains a collection of mosses, lichens and liverworts and other lower plants and vouchers for cultivars registered by the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority. The ANBG, including its Herbarium, is the responsibility of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment.

(4) Yes. The announcement was made jointly by myself and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, because the project received funding support under the Community Employment Program.

(5) The computer data-base project referred to in (4) is specific to the Australian National Herbarium. The living and herbarium collections of the ANBG are being computerised. The living collections have been completed and work should commence shortly on the Herbarium records. Funding was not sought under CEP for the project at the Gardens. Most other herbaria in Australia have or are creating their own data-bases, with the encouragement of the Council of Heads of Austratian Herbaria. All the data-bases, State and Commonwealth, are readily accessible to staff of all herbaria.

(6) In earlier Governmental discussions on the roles and functions of the CSIRO and ANBG Herbaria, it was agreed that the two institutions had different functions, with the CSIRO Herbarium being mainly concerned with basic systematic and taxonomic research, whilst the ANBG Herbarium would be concerned mainly with its unique function of preserving a record of Australian plants brought into cultivation. They considered that these two distinct functions are best served in different environments; the basic research function of the Australian National Herbarium has developed strongly through the intellectual and physical resources of CSIRO, whilst the designated role of the ANBG Herbarium is clearly linked with the public education, horticultural and recreational functions of a botanic garden. Thus their preferred option was (c), maintaining separate status. The ANBG has developed some research interests associated with its Herbarium, and the two institutions have already achieved a high degree of co-operation. The research resources of CSIRO are available to ANBG professional staff, ANBG living collections are used for research by CSIRO scientists, and the two staffs frequently meet for seminars and professional discussions. However, the question of rationalisation of resources and examination of areas of possible duplication in Commonwealth museums, collectiRg and exhibiting organisations, including Commonwealth herbaria, is presently the subject of a Review being conducted by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment and the Minister for Finance, to which CSIRO has provided a detailed input. The Review, which is to be presented to Government early in 1987, will take account of similar developments in both State and local government institutions.

(7) None.


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