5 September 2016

Hello Koala Lovers,

Happy Save the Koala Month!  The team and I are so thrilled to be hearing from you, telling us how you are going to celebrate.
This is the time for the AKF to receive financial support for our valuable work.
Remember, AKF takes no Government funding which allows us to speak freely for the Koala. 

I had waited to write to you until our new Parliament went into session. I wanted to evaluate whether I think the new Government will be Koala friendly. The first session was last week. 
Matilda and I hoped that Australians would tell our political leaders that “we are in charge” and I think this is what has happened. The winner has a one seat majority and there are now many new independents both in the House of Representatives and the in the Senate. Time will tell how this will work. In my view, this is good for democracy and I am so looking forward to seeing better arguments in the chambers so that others issues apart from economics are discussed. 2017 should be an interesting year. 
I was watching a programme called the Moral Compass last night that articulated how I feel; there was a woman from the bush featured, who talked about values and compassion rather than just economics. The Koala and its plight falls into this category but, ironically, even the economic arguments about the Koala being worth millions to tourism also fall on deaf ears.   

I have been busy. In recent times, I went to western New South Wales to be interviewed by a documentary maker about the death of an environment officer who tried to stop land clearing. The title of the documentary is “Cultivating Murder” and it was a sobering few days.
I drove there and back and, like when I was on the road with Matilda, I saw things that I know can be fixed but little action seems to be in place to address the problems. I think the bush is being ignored. 
Whilst there, I gained a renewed respect for farmers and their lives. I have always respected food production and while my own garden is not self-sufficient, I do understand the whims of nature and the harvest. The spring crops had just been sown and I was embarrassed to say that I did not know what chick peas and sorghum looked like as baby plants. I also learned from them that heavy rains can undo all that hard work. There is so much knowledge that we might lose as the family farmer loses out to corporate farming. As a child living in Tasmania I remember drawing sugar cane trucks taking a harvest to the mill. I loved learning all of that and I realise that it was good training for my life now as the Koala Woman.

It is hard sometimes to really get across that saving the Koala is not a simple proposition. Koalas love good real estate. They thrive in the same landscapes as us humans and, of course, then comes conflict.
One of the joys of the trip was meeting Fiona - a middle aged Koala, blind in one eye, Gus - a naughty little Koala whose Mum has probably died, and Sally – an old Koala who, although receiving excellent care, wanted to get out of captivity and back into the wild.
Fiona and Gus seemed to have bonded and I am hoping that when they are released, they will look after each other. As my book tells, I have great respect for the family structure of the Koala and one day hope to have that validated. It is shocking for me to know that many scientists do not think that Koalas have a social structure.

I could go on and on about what I have seen and there is never enough time to write it all, but your support makes me want to be better and to continue learning. To be truthful, I feel like my career is just beginning. There is so much to be done and us elders have to inspire others, particularly younger people, about how important the natural world is to us, as humans and of course all flora and fauna.

Next time you eat chick peas, I want you to think: Where was it grown? Did that paddock replace Koala habitat? Can Koalas and chick pea farmers peacefully coexist? The answer is "yes!" and of course this is where the Koala Habitat Atlas maps come in. You can do anything if you want to.

On a final note, it has been a bittersweet time for me. The AKF recently received a large donation from a woman who was not well and who wanted to get her affairs in order. I was able to send her my book with a message of thanks. Another bequest from a deceased person also came in – both Lorraine and I wish we had been able to thank her.

It is a privilege to receive these funds and I believe that the AKF will get a Koala Protection Act – it is the only thing that will enable all these complex issues to come together. 

For September, I wish you all a very happy Save The Koala Month!