The Australian Koala Foundation has been in operation and striving to make the world a safer place for koalas since 1986, when a chance meeting of like minds took place at the Oasis — an appropriate name it seems.
In 1982, Bob Gibson, the President of the Parents & Friends Association of Somerville House in Brisbane, invited Barry Scott to become the Founding President of the Somerville House School Foundation. To gain more area for a new campus, Barry negotiated for 6 months and assisted in the purchase of the Oasis Tourist Gardens and Reception Lounge in Sunnybank, Queensland.
During the mid 1980s, Steve Brown, a veterinary graduate who had developed a special interest in Koalas, was pursuing Ph.D studies at the University of Queensland, focusing on a not uncommon pathological condition in Koalas, cystic ovaries. This condition was associated with low reproductive rates. He provided evidence to suggest that chlamydial disease may be affecting population dynamics of wild koala colonies. As a result of his studies he became convinced that chlamydial disease was a major threat to the species, given the widespread occurrence of the organism. This conviction led him to seek support for the establishment of a body which could fund research into the koala and its problems.
In 1985, when Barry Scott was asked to manage the Oasis Tourist Gardens, he met Steve Brown who was acting as the honorary veterinary consultant to a colony of disease free Koalas that lived there. Steve was a passionate advocate for the Koala and he inspired Barry who suggested that a foundation for the koala be formed. Together they began to gather friends and supporters around them to form an organisation to help cure koala diseases and save their declining numbers, largely thanks to Barry’s experience at Somerville House.
A constitution was drawn up and on 17th January, 1986 a Certificate of Incorporation (no. 1262) was issued in the name of the Australian Koala Association Inc. This name was changed on the 3rd October 1986 to the Australian Koala Foundation Inc. Later the word Inc. was dropped.
The newly formed AKF was fortunate to have the support of Sir James Foots in Queensland, Sir Eric Neal in New South Wales, Sir Peter Derham in Victoria, Sir Geoffrey Badger in South Australia and Keith Parry and later Sir Charles Court in Western Australia.
On 14th May, 1986 all these Trustees signed a Trust Deed, where the Australian Koala Fund was established. On 25 June, 1986 the Australian Taxation Office granted tax deductibility to the Fund and Sanction Certificate no. 3293 was also issued allowing funds to be raised from the public.
In those early days, Barry Scott travelled from Brisbane to Perth, Adelaide and Sydney, setting up branches and bringing people together who would form the basic structure of the AKF’s honorary support.
Initially the focus of the Australian Koala Foundation was to ‘raise $5 million to save the koala’. At the beginning the general consensus was that the disease commonly known as chlamydia was the major threat to koalas and that it needed to be cured so the population could be saved. It didn’t take long, however, to realise that habitat destruction was and is the main cause of the koala’s problems. The direction of the AKF moved towards addressing the loss of habitat and reversing it.
“The koala suffers not only the ravages of habitat destruction, disease, drought and bushfires, but from humans who allow their dogs to attack, their cars to speed and kill them on the roads and also, unfortunately, public apathy” says Barry Scott OAM.
The Australian Koala Foundation is constantly working to educate the world’s people about the koala’s needs and to turn this trend around.