Back in 2000 the national nursery industry organisation was Nursery Industry Association Australia. Since then the national body has operated under the watchful eye of five executive officers, undergone two name changes and completed an entire restructure. During her twenty years of service, Heather Henderson has seen it all.
In November 2000, Heather responded to an advertisement in the local paper which among other skills, sought a person with an interest in gardening. Following her successful application, she began working in the Epping office with then CEO Jolyon Burnett and Canberra based Industry Development Officer, Ian Atkinson. Heather attended her first national conference in Sydney 2003 at Sydney Olympic Park noting it was the first time she had an opportunity to meet Members face to face. She honestly states that while this was an important opportunity to put names to faces, the highlight for her was listening to Kieran Perkins at the industry breakfast.
Reflecting on the many initiatives she has supported over the years; Heather believes one of her greatest professional contributions was to the Flora for Fauna campaign.
‘It was a fantastic program. It was loved by many gardeners and adopted industrywide. I know how far-reaching the program was and I am proud to have been involved in it,’ said Heather.
Former national CEO, Robert Prince acknowledged Heather noting, ‘She is custodian of industry history and has always been a stalwart and champion for members of the Association.’
‘It was great to be able to facilitate, with Board support, Heather's attendance at National Conference and also to attend the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show. As a keen gardener she lives the industry,’ said Robert.
Richard de Vos, CEO of NGIA from 2002 to 2006 also commented on Heather's service. ' For all the years I worked with and for Greenlife Industry's predecessor NGIA, Heather was the friendly face and welcoming voice of the association. A tremendous asset as she knew so many people in the industry; and they knew and liked her. Her knowledge of industry history and personalities(and their quirks) is second-to-none. Congratulations Heather on 20 years of outstanding service!'
As an avid gardener who has a passion for both camelias and roses, Heather says being able to learn about the ‘behind the scenes’ of plant production has been a great experience and says one of her favourite parts of the job is being able to visit the Members and see their nurseries and garden centres in person.
In her twenty years Heather has also met many inspirational people and made some wonderful friendships. She shares a soft spot for all the national Life Members but holds a special place for Ralph Groves who always contacts her for a chat and has been full of encouragement and support of her in the role with the association from the beginning.
Glenn Fenton (President) and Peter Vaughan (CEO) thanked and acknowledged Heather for her contributions to NIAA, NGIA and GIA over the last 20 years. The Castle Hill based staff celebrated with a lunch last week and recounted memorable stories from conferences. Glenn informed GIA Directors of the achievement at the Board meeting on 10 November and advised them that he had on behalf of the Board and management, thanked Heather for her professionalism, diligence and support over the years.
‘I love the industry. I love the people in it. I love how it provides for people and the environment. I also love gardening and wish that everyone could understand the joy it brings as a community but also the solace it provides when we need an escape.’
When asked what she was looking forward to, Heather laughingly replied, ‘Retirement! And spending more time with my family and in my garden’. Heather quickly added, ‘But I’m still learning every day, especially new technology.’
So, while it seems retirement is on her horizon, we can all look forward to more time with Heather as she continues to support the industry, because in her words ‘I just don’t know when.’