Gadi trees at the Chau Chak Wing Museum

NAIDOC Week: Welcoming new Gadi trees on the Gadigal campus

4 July 2023
To mark the start of NAIDOC Week activities at the University, SEI Deputy Director Rosanne Quinnell introduced a series of new Gadi trees at the Chau Chak Wing Museum.

To mark the start of NAIDOC Week activities at the University of Sydney, Sydney Environment Institute Deputy Director Rosanne Quinnell spoke at the Aboriginal flag raising ceremony on Monday, 3 July 2023 to introduce a series of new Gadi trees at the Chau Chak Wing Museum. Below is an edited version of her speech.

“Good morning, everyone.

Thanks to Deputy Vice Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services (DVC ISS) for this opportunity to speak at the flag raising ceremony to mark the start of NAIDOC week activities on campus.

First and foremost, I offer my deepest respects to the Traditional Custodians of the land where we gather this morning as we celebrate NAIDOC Week – the Gadigal people. I pay my respects to the Elders past, present and emerging.

This morning I offer a very special introduction to some very special Gadis – or grass trees. "Gadi" is the Sydney Language name for the grass tree, which, pre-invasion, dominated the Sydney coastline. We are all responsible for revitalising language and learning the names of living things in the Sydney Language. 

These Gadis are important for a number of reasons. These gadis extend the signature "Gadi plantings" of the University, all of which are expressions of the Walanga Wingara Mura Design Principles, which offer the means through which Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members of the University can appreciate and experience the cultural connection First Nations people have with the botanical world. 

This human-plant relationship positions plants as teachers and Earth kin and has been recognised across this continent for 65,000 years. As a non-Aboriginal person, my thinking about the critical relationships that humans have with plants has been consolidated by rich discussions with Elders, to whom I am grateful.

The specific location where these Gadis have been placed, and where we will be moving to shortly, is the ceremonial space of the Chau Chak Wing Museum (CCWM), and their placement here completes the Museum’s landscaping vision. The ceremonial space is collective space as defined by Walanga Wingara Mura Design Principles where "relationships between different academic communities that constitute the University can be part of a network for collaboration and accountability for the good of the institution". 

In this instance the different communities were not limited to academic communities and included: DVC ISS, the Chancellor's committee, the Grounds Staff, and researchers in Faculty of Science and the CCWM. 

As we welcome these Gadis to campus I offer my sincerest thanks to the Chancellor's committee for recognising the importance of this project and for funding the purchase of the Gadis, my colleagues at the CCWM, Jude Philp and the former Director, David Ellis, and the Grounds Staff headed up by Rachel Gale.”

Rosanne Quinnell is an Associate Professor in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on the botanical world where she has examined the biology of symbiotic systems and developed ways to improve botanical literacy and human-plant interactions through transdisciplinary partnerships (TREES research group). She was part of a university-wide collaboration, supported by the University’s Sustainability Strategy, to create a curriculum garden on campus. She is a Deputy Director at the Sydney Environment Institute.


Troy, J. (2019), The Sydney Language. ISBN 9781925302868

Quinnell, R., Troy, J. and Poll, M. (2020), The Sydney Language on Our Campuses and in Our Curriculum. Cultural Competence and the Higher Education Sector: Australian Perspectives, Policies and Practice. J. Frawley, G. Russell and J. Sherwood. Singapore, Springer Singapore215-232.

University of Sydney (202, Walanga Wingara Mura Design Principles

NAIDOC Week website,

Header image: Photo by ISS Media Production Team

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