Australian businessman, politician and founder of the Young Australia League, J.J. “Boss” Simons, established a holiday camp for this youth organisation in 1929.
He chose 59 hectares of deep shaded valley in Roleystone as the site for his splendid camp. Creeks running through the long valley created a cool moist climate, making it the ideal site for his dream garden. Simons called his valley Araluen, an Eastern States Aboriginal word meaning “singing waters,” “running waters” or “place of lilies.”
League members and volunteers created pathways, roads, steps and terraces. The buildings and structures throughout Araluen were designed by leading Perth architect W.G. Bennett and built from local stone and timber.
J. J. Simons’ Legacy
One of the many features from Boss Simons’ era, The Grove of the Unforgotten, still remains today. Built in memory of 88 Young Australia League members killed in World War I, The Grove is a series of terraces descending a steep slope, flanked by pencil pines that form the shape of a lyre, a symbol of music. A waterfall cascades through the terraces, settling in a calm reflection pond.
In spring, Araluen was (as it still is) a sea of colour from the tulips planted on the terraces and in The Grove of the Unforgotten. Araluen became a popular place for Western Australians and the early gardens thrived in Araluen’s unique climate.
Changed circumstances saw the Young Australia League sell Araluen in 1985. With strong community support, the State Government purchased the Park in 1990. The Araluen Botanic Park Foundation became incorporated in July 1990 with the aim of working with the WA Planning Commission (WAPC) to restore the Park. From 1995 to 2010, the Foundation managed the Park under lease from the Commission.
Much was achieved in this time, particularly in the restoration of heritage structures, gardens, paths, steps and terraces, as well as in the completion of new capital works programs such as the green central lawn ‘heart,’ the spectacular watercourse and the extra public facilities that replace a noisy and unsafe bitumen carpark.
Since 2010 Government management responsibility has been transferred to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). DEC is directly responsible for the bushland areas of the park, while the Foundation is contracted to provide management services for the 14 hectares of developed gardens. It continues to direct its efforts towards restoring the Park and its gardens, and towards planning for the future. With the community’s support, Araluen is fast achieving its mission to become a Botanic Garden of Excellence.