Westbourne Woods


Westbourne Woods began as the larger part of the Yarralumla Nursery complex established by TCG (Charles) Weston in 1913.  The area covers nearly 120 hectares, and is bounded by Yarralumla Brickworks, Government House, Yarralumla Nursery, Lake Burley Griffin and CSIRO Division of Forestry and Forest Products.  Walter Burley Griffin probably named the arboretum; it first appears on his February 1917 town plan, together with Westbourne Circuit.  

Weston chose the site because of its relatively good soil and permanent water supply, and was big enough that all classes of trees could be planted and tested for Canberra’s climatic conditions.  Also it was on the edge of the city, and if appropriately designed it could later become a public park. 

Shale Hill Reserve, now part of the grounds of CSIRO Division of Forest Research and Royal Canberra Golf Club, was the first area to be planted.   Two months of preparation began on 13 July 1914, with the dynamiting of planting holes in the rocky soil.  More than 200 different species of conifers, exotic hardwoods and native Australian trees were planted, mostly between 1914 and 1918 with additional plantings in 1949.  In 1983 Westbourne Woods contained one of the largest and oldest collections of tree species outside traditional botanical gardens in Australia. 

By 1945 Westbourne Woods was suffering from severe drought and public recreational use that was damaging the trees.  To limit public access a golf course was proposed and in1949 fairways were cleared, grass cover established and additional trees planted. Use of water from the future lake was proposed as an appropriate watering and maintenance regime for the Woods and the golf course. 

In 1960 the Royal Canberra Golf Club accepted a 50-year lease under which the Commonwealth would remain responsible for long-term management of the area, and ANU forestry students would have access to the arboretum.  The course was redesigned, and a fine black locust was transplanted from the Acton site to a place near the new clubhouse.  A golf club sub-committee, including representatives of the Australian Heritage Commission, advises on maintaining the heritage values of the arboretum. 

In 1926 the arboretum provided the 12 year old cedars planted in front of Parliament House as instant landscaping for the opening in 1927.  Many of Canberra’s street trees were chosen because of their success in early plantings in Westbourne Woods.  It is still used occasionally as a source of propagation material by Yarralumla Nursery, and is a wildlife refuge. 

Westbourne Woods Action Association was formed in 1980 to increas public awareness of the value of the Woods and to protect them from further encroachment.  Westbourne Woods is listed on the ACT Heritage Register.


More information



ACT Parks and Conservation Service.
Draft Tree Management Plan for Westbourne Woods.  Canberra:  The Service; 1988.
ACTHL Location: H 711.4099471 DRAF

  Boden, RW.
  ‘Westbourne Woods Arboretum’, Heritage in Trust, Summer 1999, pp. 6-7.
  ACTHL Location: H 720.9947 HERI


Charlton, Ken,
‘The Sewer, the Incinerator and its Architect’, Heritage in Trust, Winter-Spring 2004, pp. 5-8, 16.
ACTHL Location: H 720.9947 HERI


Murphy, GP.
Parks & Gardens in Canberra: Origins & Foundations 1911-1920 [and] Thirty Green Years, 1921-51. Canberra: Department of the Capital Territory, 1979.
ACTHL Location:  H 712.5 MURP



Rout, Tony and Ken Eldridge.
Westbourne Woods. Canberra, ACT: Conservation Council, 1987.
ACTHL Location:  H 580.744 ROUT


Rout, Tony.
‘Growing with the Capital’. Canberra Historical Journal, no. 5, March 1980, pp. 24-30.
ACTHL Location:  H 994.7 CANB



The Royal Canberra Golf Club - Jubilee History 1926-1976.
Canberra: The Club, 1977.
ACTHL Location:  H 796.35206 ROYA