February 2009

Dear Koala Supporters,

I am sure you have all seen this image of Sam the Koala being given a drink by a firefighter. It is the image that captured the world’s attention in recent weeks when the southern Australian state of Victoria experienced the worst bushfire disaster in its history.

The landscape has been ravaged and over 200 people have been killed. It is estimated that one million native animals may have died in the path of these fires.   The ironic thing is that while these fires raged, the top end of Australia was flooding and still is. 

It reminds me of the famous Australian poem by Dorothea McKellar – My Country: 

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me.

I love my sunburnt country, and when I was a child we learnt it by heart and it seems so appropriate now to remember it and understand.   I think that poem made me realise even then I knew how different Australia is to the rest of the world.  

Last week I spent time in Victoria and felt the terror and anger that fire brings. On a TV program I heard some of the sounds of the fire as it swept towards towns in the bush and it sounded like hell.  People just could not believe how hot it was and how quickly it ravaged their lives.   Our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes and their loved ones.    

To be frank, I do not think that there is going to be many Koalas brought into care.  I think this fire was so hot that they will have just been killed instantly, which is a blessing in many respects.  I also think that many of the koalas that were “asking” for water from humans prior to fires in both Victoria and South Australia during one of the hottest weeks on record may well also have perished.    Koalas normally do not drink and over recent days, I have come to think about how those animals were pushed to seek support from the human population when they should just be in good and healthy habitats.  One has to question whether this is the beginning of the signs of global warming in our country.  With temperatures peaking at 48 C on the day of the fire – I think it is.  

All these events say to me that the AKF’s work is now just beginning. To understand how these fires wreaked so much destruction and what opportunities future land management could hold is now the job of our scientists and mappers. There is to be a Royal Commission into the issues surrounding the bushfires and Dave Mitchell, our mapper and Dr Douglas Kerlin, our ecologist are starting to prepare documents that will articulate the AKF’s land management recommendations for the future of our majestic wildlife and wild places in Victoria. The application of these recommendations will have nation-wide, whole-of-landscape scope.

I took the time to read sections of the Royal Commission of 1939, when fire ravaged Victoria 70 years ago.  It was fascinating to read the document and it could have applied to these fires.  It made me realise how difficult it is to bring about change.    Australians always want to tame the bush and these fires show we cannot.

 When these fires have been extinguished and the koalas are healed and ready to return to the bush, the Australian Koala Foundation will do everything it can to educate and advise all those in power of what we think might be done better for our future in this uncertain climate arena.    Hopefully our mapping expertise will play a vital role in this process and review.       

The Australian Koala Foundation team is amazing and we are very proud to have your support in our future endeavours.

This week, you will find the first of my Blogs which will be written regularly and available on our website as ‘From the Desk of Deborah’. I feel that we need to make sure you understand the AKF’s work and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I am convinced that we, the people, need to be heard more about the future of our planet.   This may be a golden opportunity for you to help us to bring about change.  

As always I look forward to hearing from you, thank you for your support.

Yours sincerely, Deborah