23rd July 2012

I am back in Australia and very glad to be home. Sometimes though, looking at things from far away can give you new perspectives and I must confess I have returned home, like all Australians very grateful for the beautiful country we call home and of course to my team and my home. Mr. Darcy was particularly pleased to see me.

What we have to remember is that the Koala is now listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act in New South Wales, ACT and Queensland. Not in Victoria and South Australia.  Although it is not perfect it is a huge achievement and I want anyone who has helped to take a big deep breath and say well done to yourself and others.  

And then, let us get on with better ways of doing things.  

In my discussions with the United States lawyers who support the AKF totally with our desire to have a Koala Protection Bill I learnt a great deal. One is that the new legislation must not link to the EPBC Act, because for one, it is going to be watered down (is already by the sounds of things) and two, because it has too much ministerial discretion.

This is key and I keep saying to both them and to legal people here, we must see the Koala, like the Bald Eagle is to the United States; so important that it needs its own legislation. In my meetings in DC and with a huge flu making me lose my voice it was frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time to hear the discussions about what we can and will do for the future of this legislation. There are some tremendous minds in Washington DC on such matters. 

Having to be quiet with no voice, it was a relief to just listen and while listening, I realised that all this legal speak is now too complicated for me alone and the AKF, will over time be looking for environmental lawyers here in Australia to become committed to helping us. We have found a senior legal counsel and I am hoping that there will be young environmental lawyers, even at University who might want to help the AKF in these initial stages. 

I am personally committed to the simple model – which the Bald Eagle Act in 1942 personifies. The day to day detail was and still is worked out on a daily basis and on a case by case basis. I think, in an endeavour to try and sort it all out, the legal words become too complicated. For instance I realised that if a simple Koala Protection Act passed, one key issue would be: How do you identify koala habitat for the Act to protect.  In our minds, we would prefer that the Koala Habitat Atlas maps were the ones used and there is at least one Council who has realised that AKF maps are superior to Government maps.  So, we now have a two pronged problem. – the legislation and the mapping.

The National Koala Conservation Strategy has identified that there should be a standardised mapping approach and Mr. Dave Mitchell over the coming months is going to produce for the AKF and for the Australian public a list of trees that we believe constitute Koala Habitat throughout the Koala’s entire range.

 We are currently reviewing the list with academics around the country and we will launch this on September 1 as part of Save the Koala Month activities.

Our theme this year It’s Time to Worry Mate!

And it is. After tripping around the world, reading world newspapers, watching unemployment rise and seeing the destruction of forests – it is time to worry and the AKF is always totally committed to protecting our little part of heaven here on this planet.

I know times are tough, but donations would be very welcome or better still get a box on your workplace counter or anywhere where you can collect funds for us.  We take no Government funds and I note with great interest that many groups and organisations are losing their Government funding. This is no risk to us because of YOU.

Regards, as always.

Deborah 

And feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions regarding my latest Diary entry.