Gandel Gondwana Garden: Our Living Past

Accessible Exhibition Handbook

This guide contains interpretive text and high-contrast versions of the illustrations within Gandel Gondwana Garden.

Welcome to Our Living Past

A map of the Australian continent today. A zoomed-in portion shows our current location, the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung People.

I’ve been here for a long time.

The Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nations have always lived on me, and always will.

My knowledge is shared through many people and languages across countries.

Come, listen closely to my stories.

Our living past

There are traces all around you.

You can see through time if you try.

Look at landforms and rocks, at wildlife with ancient ancestors and plants with roots that stretch down deep.


I used to be part of Gondwana: a sprawling supercontinent.

Over time, we drifted apart.

A simplified map of the Gondwana supercontinent, containing multiple land masses joined together: Arabia, Africa, South America, India, and Antarctica connected to Australia at the top-right edge.

As I moved, my ecosystems changed.
And changed again.
(And again, and again.)

Five ecosystems

An array of maps shows the Australian continent at five different points in time. First, it is connected to Antarctica and is partially covered by water. Next, it has detached from Antarctica and the water has partially receded. The central map includes New Guinea, showing Australia’s northern drift. In the fourth map, Australia and New Guinea are joined, and a land bridge connects Tasmania to the mainland. The final map shows the continent as it appears today.

Prehistoric Valley
120 million years ago
We’re drifting apart, Antarctica.

Ancient Rainforest
40 million years ago
Goodbye, Antarctica ...

Megafauna Shrubland
2.6 million – 120,000 years ago
Hello, New Guinea!

Resilient Bushland
120,000 – 40,000 years ago
Sea levels fall, revealing more land.

Living Country
Here I am. So, what’s next?

Map of Australian continent with dots spread out across Southeast Australia.

Even though I’ve moved, I’m still connected to those times.

There are traces of my past all around you—all those layers of landscape from before.

Come, let me show you what I have been home to.

Living Country

Map of the Australian continent showing the location of the garden. An arrow next to the map points north.

Here I am, today. Spectacularly unique. Deep knowledge, passed down:
Look after me, and I’ll look after you.

Familiar animals

Platypus and Echidna

Silhouette of a platypus on the left and an echidna on the right. Between them are three round eggs.

We’re related—our ancestor is down with the dinos. Maybe she lays eggs, like us?


Silhouette of a kangaroo standing on its hind legs with its head facing the viewer.

Have you seen my great-great-great-great-great auntie? I’m a giant ... but she’s a titan!


Silhouette of an emu standing on both legs, facing left.

Can’t fly. None of us ratites can ... so how’d we get all over the world?

Amazing plants

Silhouette of a tall grass with slender leaves and bushy seed heads.

I’m called Wuulot in Gunditjmara. I’m also known as Kangaroo Grass.

People have baked with us forever ... it takes muscle to turn our seeds into flour.

Silhouette of a plant with a long, thin stem with a cluster of flowers on top and roots on the bottom.

Psst! Hungry?

In Woi Wurrung I’m called Pike. I’m also known as the Bulbine Lily. My tasty treats grow safely underground ...

Silhouette of a plant with a thick trunk topped with a tuft of leaves and a tall straight stem resembling a kangaroo tail.

What could we make together?

My original name is unknown for now, but you can call me Kangaroo Tail.

Strong wood to make spears, leaves that cut, sap sticky as glue.

Silhouette of two round daisy-like flowers.

Bug bites? Shh.

In Gunai/Kurnai I’m called Gadwud. I’m also known as Coastal Pigface.

My salty juice soothes stings.

Silhouette of plant with oval shaped leaves and round fruits at the end of each stem.

Need a feel-good treat?

In Bunganditj I’m called Munter. I’m also known as Muntries.

Dry my berries: make a cake of soap or cake to celebrate!

Resilient Bushland

A map of the Australian continent, connected by land bridges to New Guinea in the north and Tasmania in the south. Human and kangaroo footprints show pathways across the landmasses.

Scratchy, tough, but everyone here knows, I’m rich with nectar and nutrients to share.

Now, how to find them ...?

Big animals and how to get them

in Gunditjmara language

Silhouette of a hunting boomerang with one side shorter than the other, creating the shape of a big L. 

I can help you bring down something big ... from a safe distance.

Procoptodon goliah
pro-cop-tuh-don gol-eye-ah

Silhouette of a kangaroo-like animal with long arms and a short face, one leg in front of the other as if frozen mid-step.

Why hop when I can walk? Why have more toes when one will do? Works for me!

Macropus titan
mak-rope-us ty-tan

Silhouette of a kangaroo-like animal reaching tall with a joey in its pouch. 

Looooong legs help me hop further—to find fresh food!


Silhouette of an echidna-like animal with a long nose and long legs.

Hope future echidnas get this nose. And sturdy arms. Dig, dig. Slurp, slurp.

Pollinating love stories

Silhouette of a narrow cylindrical flower with a cluster of long, rounded leaves at its base.

I’m called Birrna in Gunaikurnai. I’m also known as Coast Banksia.

Illustration of a bird with a long, narrow beak in mid-flight.

How could I resist the sweet smell of your nectar?

Silhouette of a tree branch with narrow leaves, buds and delicate flowers with small, round petals.

My original names will be rediscovered soon. Call me Tea Tree until then.

Silhouette of a native bee with a short, round face and distinct stripes across its body.

Perfect match: my short tongue, your shallow nectar-cups. Flower, I love you.

Silhouette of a thick cylindrical flower with long narrow leaves at its base.

I’m called War-rak in Woi Wurrung. I’m also known as Silver Banksia.

Silhouette of a marsupial glider with distinct whiskers and long feathery tail.

My whiskers brush. Your flowers dust. I get fed. Your pollen’s spread. 

The rock

Little River Scoria
Not like other lava. Gas bubbled up in me when I cooled—forever full of fizz!

Megafauna Shrubland

Map of the Australian continent, with motion lines indicating northward movement towards New Guinea.

My seasons shift, growing cool and dark. Slippery shadows—shh! Something big’s between those trees …

Palorchestes azael
pal-or-kest-ease a-zay-el

Silhouette of a big bear-like animal with a wobbly-looking nose and stumpy tail walking on all fours.

Bent elbows, everlasting push-up. Stronger arms to grab those plants—yum.


The silhouette of a lion-like animal mid-jump with claws drawn and teeth exposed.

You might run. But I can hide. Don’t look up—you’ll wreck my body-slam surprise.

Thylacoleo joey

Silhouette of a baby mammal looking up, standing on its hind legs supported by a chunky tail.

Wish Mum was home—pouch comfier than cave. Can you get her?

Ancient Rainforest

Map of the Australian continent and Antarctica, recently detached from each other, with a new sea between them. Tasmania is still connected to the mainland.

I’m an island. My air’s humid, heavy with scent: flowers, feathers, fur. Seek them high up and down low.

Rainforest plants

Silhouette of a grass-like plant with a rough trunk with large cones and a fan of tall narrow leaves.

I’m called Burrawang in Eora. I’m also known as a cycad.

Dinos find my seeds delish, but your human tummy wouldn’t like them. At least, not raw ...

Silhouette of a fern frond with a feather-like arrangement of small leaves, each leaf a frond containing even smaller leaves itself, and so on.

I’m called Moo-laa in Tjap Wurrung. I’m also known as Bracken.

See how my pattern repeats? Come closer.
See how my pattern repeats? Come closer.
See how my pattern repeats?

Silhouette of a plant with five leaves at the end of a stem, each with three distinct parts sticking out from the center of the leaf.

My original names will be rediscovered soon. Until then, call me Lace Kurrajong.

Water-filled insides, bird-friendly flowers—they’ve helped me survive for aaaaages.

Fossilised leaves with living relatives

We haven’t changed much.

Fossilised leaf with rounded edges and point spike at the end.

Look for living leaves that share my spout.

Fossilised leaf with rounded edges and point spike at the end.

My original names will be rediscovered soon. Until then, call me Glossy Laurel.

After all this time …

Fossilised leaf with spiky edges

My family still grows here. See our spiky edge?

Silhouette of a slender branch with pointed leaves and clusters of small, round fruit.

I’m called Guwandhang in Wiradjuri. I’m also known as Eumundi Quandong.

I’m so old, I’ve fossilised.

Fossilised leaf with a zig zag shape

See my living relatives? Same zig zag shape.

Silhouette of a banksia flower

I’m called Bullagai in Wiradjuri. I’m also known as Swamp Banksia.

Critters big and small

Silhouettes of three small animals: a bird with a round tuft of feathers on its head, a bat with a little round body, and a possum-like creature clutching a branch.

Small, swift, high and low. We find the food and fill the gaps those dinosaurs left.


Silhouette of a massive bird-like creature with feathered wings spread wide, and a long bill filled with spiny teeth.

Up here! Any fish left? Swoop, scoop— need lots of fuel for long-haul flights.

Boulders with curious fossils

Harcourt Granite rock
I started out hot. Stayed underground. Crystals grew. Ended up real cool.

Fossils from Koonwarra dig site

Lived, died and fossilised, all on a peaceful lake. Lots we forgot over millions of years. Can you imagine what?

Silhouette of a flower, its actual size is 26mm high.

My bright bloom’s gone grey. What colour was my flower?

Silhouette of an insect wing, its actual size is 8mm long.

Do you reckon I was noisy? Swoosh! Bzzt? ... Flap-ap-ap?

Silhouette of a flea, its actual size is 8mm high.

Hungry flea, me. So long since last feed. Who might I bite?

Silhouette of a fish, its actual size is 160mm long.

Slippery swimmer before I got stuck—did I wriggle, glide or dart?

Silhouette of a feather, its actual size is 12mm long.

I was on a bird ... but which bit?

Prehistoric Valley

A map of the Australian continent, connected to Antarctica and partially covered with water. Dinosaur footprints show a pathway across the two land masses.

My polar forest, connected, full of life. Creatures creep across cold continents—can you see them growing, eating, thriving?

Dinosaur action


Silhouette of a small, nimble dinosaur running on two legs, with a long thin tail that trails behind it.

Good to be small. Ferns easy to reach. And me, harder to see!

Silhouette of a dinosaur nest with curvy, uneven edges, containing fourteen small spherical eggs.

Snug in here. But almost crackle-time. Which dino’s our mum?


Silhouette of a large and agile dinosaur running on two legs, with a mouth full of sharp bared teeth and two arms that end in powerful curved claws.

Big arms, long fingers, curvy claws. Perfect for grabbing Leaelly snacks.


Silhouette of a tiny, pudgy marsupial with a long nose, fur, and stumpy legs that end in claws.

I’m different from dinos! I lay eggs, but with soft shells ... and my babies are way fuzzier, too!

Dinosaur plants

Silhouette of a round pinecone and a frond composed of seventeen small, narrow leaves.

See my round cones? Early model. Ancient, even. But they still spread my seeds.

My original names will be rediscovered soon. Call me Kauri Pine until then.

Silhouette of a tree branch with twenty-eight small, narrow leaves on either side in a featherlike arrangement, ending in a long cylindrical pinecone.

Psst—seen any dinosaurs? Tell them to stop biting my branches. I want to survive!

My original names will be rediscovered soon. Call me Wollemi Pine until then.

Silhouette of a tall fern plant with fronds that each contain many small leaves in a featherlike arrangement, and new curl-shaped branches growing at the base of the plant.

Rough-looking, but soft-hearted. Fed and shaded dinosaurs. Now we can feed and shade you.

My original names will be rediscovered soon. Call me Lacy Tree Fern until then.

Victoria state emblem


Silhouette of a huge, four-legged amphibian with a broad, wedge-shaped head and a thick tail, crawling over the ground.

Big jawbone, massive mouth. Fish, turtles, tiny dinos ... munch, gulp. But where’s the rest of me?

Silhouette of a cluster of eight round amphibian eggs, sticking together with jelly and each containing a small black dot.

Don’t squish my babies! They’re growing in those soft-jelly eggs.

The rocks

Heathcote Greenstone
Remember the time before dinosaurs? When this was all underwater? I do.

Omeo Gneiss
See my shiny crystals? Mountains grew over me—big slow squish made me sparkle.

Basalt Columns
Crack! Continents split, we bubbled up between. Then pop! We cooled and snapped to tidy shapes.

Parting message

Map of Australian continent with dots spread out across Southeast Australia.

You’ve just made some weird and wonderful friends, who have all called me home.

I’m ancient and unique. Look after me, and I’ll look after you.

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