Deborah Tabart OAM

Chief Executive Officer, Australian Koala Foundation

Deborah Tabart OAM has been leading the Australian Koala Foundation since 1988, and is recognised around the world as an advocate for koalas--or simply as 'the Koala Woman'. She casts her palpable passion, imagination and creative vision towards promoting a future of world-wide sustainable land-use and the regeneration of environments.

Deborah was initially given a brief to 'raise funds to save the Koala'. She soon realised it was not as simple as that. She began a steep learning curve in the world of Koalas, government, business, environmentalists, the community and science.

Under Deborah's direction, the Australian Koala Foundation has grown into an internationally recognised scientific organisation which has won a Computerworld Smithsonian Medal for excellence in mapping koala habitat. This has brought 'saving Koalas' to the world's consciousness and the Koala Habitat Atlas is a key achievement of the AKF team.    Thousands of man hours has gone into ground truthing Koala habitat and in 2017, the AKF will finalised the complete geographic range of the Koala – a huge area comprising of 1.5 million square kilometres. 

Deborah's vision for the Koala is that Australians will make positive and collective contributions to koala conservation by learning to live in harmony with Koalas.  It should be possible, with vision and great political leadership. 

In her lifetime, Deborah is determined to see the enactment of the Koala Protection Act and the establishment of Koala conservation zones where people live with respect and understanding for neighbouring Koalas and other wildlife.

In 2008, Deborah received one of Australia's highest accolades, an Order of Australia Medal.   She is proud because it shows that conservation is now becoming mainstream thinking; not relegated to a “bunch of tree huggers” want to stop progress.  In these dangerous times of climate change, Deborah is convinced that the Koala has a role to play in showing the world how to protect forests and for all humans to live sustainably. 

Deborah is also the recipient of the 2011 IABC EXCEL Award. She is the first Australian, first CEO of a Not-for-Profit organisation and first woman to win this prestigious communication award.

Winning this Award coincides with a dream of Deborah’s to have the Koala Habitat Atlas online as an interactive portal; KoalaMap is the culmination of 25 years hard work.


2008 - OAM for 'Koala Woman'

The fight to protect Koalas and their habitat has been recognised by the Queen’s representative, the Governor General.
'Koala Woman' Deborah Tabart, CEO of the Australian Koala Foundation, was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the Australia Day Honour List for outstanding service to the nation and humanity through her work with the Australian Koala Foundation.


Media Release: Triumph for Koala Woman

Ms Tabart was selected for an Order of Australia Medal due to her inspirational and unyielding commitment to protecting Australia’s wild Koalas and their natural habitat.

Announced on Australia Day 2008, these Honours are one of Australia’s highest levels of recognition, giving praise for outstanding service to the nation and humanity.

As CEO of the Australian Koala Foundation, Ms Tabart is seeing this as a great opportunity.

“There is a change in the air for conservation efforts.

“This recognition shows the increasing importance of protecting our koalas and the world’s natural environment.

“I plan to use the honour to raise the profile of our cause further and encourage the community, the government and businesses to do everything they can to lend a hand,” Ms Tabart said.

Ms Tabart joined the Australian Koala Foundation in 1988 and has built it from a tiny organisation to Australia’s principle group dedicated to the conservation and effective management of the wild Koala and it’s habitat.