The 16 ha area that is now Olive Pink Botanic Garden was gazetted in 1956 as the Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve after intense lobbying by the Garden’s founder, and first honorary curator, Miss Olive Muriel Pink.
The Garden is part of a substantial area of contiguous Crown Land that extends east from the Todd River on the southern edge of the Alice Springs Central Business District. Prior to 1956 the land was unoccupied and grazed variously by feral goat, rabbit, and cattle populations, such that the vegetation on the floodplain area was fairly modified and devoid of tree and shrub cover when Miss Pink took up occupancy there in 1956.
Miss Pink and her Warlpiri assistant gardeners including Johnny J Yannarilyi pictured below, spent the next two decades battling drought conditions and almost non-existent operational funding to develop Miss Pink’s vision for the Reserve. Together they planted a somewhat eclectic collection of trees and shrubs native to the central Australian region as well as various cacti, garden flowers, and introduced trees around Home Hut that could withstand the harsh summers.
After Miss Pink’s death in 1975, the NT Government assumed control of the Reserve and set about fulfilling Miss Pink’s vision of a public area for the appreciation of native flora. During the next decade networks of walking tracks were put in place, the Visitor Centre built, extensive plantings of mulga, red gums and various other tree species established, a waterhole and sand dune habitat created, and the existing interpretive display installed within the Visitor Centre.
The Garden opened to the public in 1985 as the Olive Pink Flora Reserve, and was renamed Olive Pink Botanic Garden in 1996. The Garden is managed by a voluntary Board of Trustees which has employed a succession of Curators to manage the expanding plantings and visitor’s experience of the Reserve.
Olive Pink Botanic Garden was listed on the Register of the National Estate in 1995, and nominated for inclusion on the Northern Territory Heritage Register in 2007, because of its strong links to Miss Olive Pink, anthropologist, campaigner for Aboriginal social justice, artist and visionary gardener.
In early 2007, the Garden joined other properties in the Alice Springs region in being part of the Land for Wildlife voluntary conservation program.