King’s Park

By Ken Eastwood 30 September 2009
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
This beloved botanical park is like a favourite relative to those who like to escape the madding crowd.

From its 65 m high throne, Kings Park reigns over the towering turrets of Perth’s CBD. Wrapped in royal robes of banksia, wattle, kangaroo paw and eucalypt, it wins the allegiance of its West Australian subjects from an early age, and subtly holds their hearts forever.

But unlike most hailed royalty (including Edward VII, for whom Kings Park was named in 1901 when he ascended to the British throne), Kings Park is far from aloof or pretentious: it’s more like a knock-around mate, great for barbecues, kicking a footy or mucking around with the kids.

Kings Park and Botanic Garden has just five permanent residents (not including a few illegal humpies for homeless people, which are hidden in the bush among the old sawpits from logging days in the early 1900s) and about 160 employees. But it gets some 6.5 million visitors a year, a staggering proportion – 80 per cent – of whom are West Australian. They come for family picnics, exercise, walking the dog, weddings, graduation photos and concerts. They visit for their first snog in a car, or drive up in limos for photographs on the night of their high-school formals. They celebrate special occasions and sunbake and read on the luxuriant green couch and kikuyu grass, courtesy of regular manganate and iron supplements. And sometimes, although it’s frowned upon by park management, they come to scatter the ashes of family members who also loved the place.

“I, like many West Australians, put my parents under a tree up here – they get a prime view of South Perth,” says artist Philippa O’Brien, whose beautiful marble mosaic and furniture installations have bookended the Banksia Garden since 1997. She says the view over the city is one of the attributes that makes Kings Park so special to so many. “Perth is flat – this has that wonderful high view. Perth hasn’t got a lot of that, so people get a real sense of where they fit in to the place. It’s an empowering view.”

For the full article, grab Issue 96 of Australian Geographic, on sale now.