100 iconic rocks for a proof-of-concept display at the National Rock Garden

Pillans, Brad1

1Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

The economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic will make it extremely difficult to fund the published masterplan for the National Rock Garden (NRG). As a result, the NRG cannot expect substantial financial support from Federal or State Governments, or from the corporate sector, in the foreseeable future.

Early in 2020, the NRG Steering Committee recognised the desirability of a “Proof-of-Concept” display of approximately 100 iconic rocks. This display would incorporate 10 themed rock clusters, linked by a meandering path, with appropriate explanatory signage. It would entail negligible excavation work, and no building construction, facilitating both works approval and reduced funding requirements.

The main financial outlay would be the cost of transportation of large (10-20 tonne) specimens, especially from distant locations. Transportation costs for individual rocks are expected to range between $2,000 and $12,000 which could be achieved with corporate support or by individual donations. NRG State Rock Selections Sub-Committees are fine-tuning their key targets to enable a small number of rocks to be delivered during 2021.

The “Proof-of-Concept” display will clearly demonstrate the goals of the National Rock Garden, and encourage modest levels of financial support. The proposed “Proof-of-Concept” display would also enable the Rock Garden to be opened to the public much sooner than could possibly occur with the original highly ambitious masterplan

The Steering Committee has recognised the desirability of developing strong links with the other national institutions in Canberra, including the National Museum of Australia, Questacon, the National Dinosaur Museum and the National Arboretum Canberra.

We also support establishment of a Natural History Museum, though this has not progressed beyond the 2018 parliamentary report which recommended that a business case be examined.

Proposed rock cluster themes for the NRG Proof-of-Concept display:

  1. Indigenous welcome feature
  2. Early Earth (Archean) – laying Australia’s foundations
  3. Building Australia and its resources (Proterozoic)
  4. Australia grows eastwards (Paleozoic)
  5. Gondwana breakup (Mesozoic) – the Great Artesian Basin forms
  6. Shaping the Australian landscape (Cenozoic)
  7. Peopling Australia (Late Pleistocene/Holocene) – linking cultural and geological heritages
  8. The Australian region – from New Guinea to Antarctica
  9. Geoscience knowledge – building our future
  10. The Federation Rocks – celebrating our nation


Brad Pillans is an Emeritus Professor in the Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU, and Director of the National Rock Garden. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of Australia and served as GSA President from 2010 to 2012.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.