Green native grass waves in a breeze

Sydney takes green award for 'living classroom' native garden

24 November 2022
Curriculum Garden showcases cultural and environmental collaboration
The University of Sydney has won the 'Creating Impact' award in the Green Gown Awards Australasia for Nguragaingun, Ngara, Pemulian - our Curriculum Garden and Biodiversity Management Plan.

Announced on 17 November, the Green Gown Awards are considered the most prestigious recognition of sustainability excellence in the tertiary education sector in Australasia. In their 13th year, the awards are administered by Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS).

The University of Sydney was the winner of the 2022 ‘Creating Impact’ category for its new Curriculum Native Garden and Biodiversity Management Plan (pdf, 4.61MB).

The garden was created to mark National Tree Day in 2021, with staff and students partnering with IndigiGrow, a local Aboriginal-owned social enterprise, to plant and create the garden. 

Creating Impact Curriculum Garden (DVCISS media)

Associate Professor Rosanne Quinnell uses the garden’s critically endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub species in her formal Botany teaching curriculum. She says designing and driving the project provided the opportunity for the campus community to better engage with living campus environments and to learn about plants.

“The opportunity to work in close collaboration with colleagues from across the University to design and implement a garden focused on learning has been a rare gift. The Curriculum Garden makes learning about plants accessible for everyone and aids to increase community botanical literacy.  It’s definitely been a career highlight and that we have received formally external recognition is the midyim on top.”

Director of the University’s Sustainability Strategy, Gillian Graham-Crowe, said the garden was designed using Australian native plants to act as a wildlife corridor, to aid in restoring local flora, and to act as space for cultural and environmental learning.

“The Curriculum Garden is one of a series of ‘living labs’ on campus that showcase sustainability in practice. It provides research and education opportunities for students and the wider community to see and interact with the plants. Students can collect samples for botany labs which would otherwise need to be sourced from across NSW,” she said.

“The garden is also a tool to learn about Country, with plants displayed using their Sydney Indigenous names, and also in Latin. The site offers spaces for yarning, work and rest with recycled furniture and laptop power, with the broader precinct showcasing  sustainability initiatives with rain tanks and our biodigester.”


Image of newly planted garden with plants and woodchip mulch in foreground and rain tanks in background

The Curriculum Garden site

Creation of the garden was underpinned by the University’s Sustainability Strategy and its foundation of Caring for Country, as well as the pillars of the One Sydney, Many People Strategy (pdf, 8.31MB): Nguragaingun, Ngara, Pemulian – which represent Culture and community, Education and research, and Environment.

Alongside the launch of the Curriculum Native Garden, the University released a Biodiversity Management Plan (pdf, 4.61MB), outlining its commitment to prioritise and facilitate more environmentally-sustainable and biodiversity-positive management of its campuses, farms and lands.

Winning this award for Australasia will enter the University of Sydney into the International Green Gown Awards in this category, held in early 2023.

Contact the Sustainability Team