Jan McGilchrist

Tacking Point Lions Club Member

I have always been interested in how we can better support the community to become involved in local issues. As a member of the Lions Club, I have the opportunity and platform to engage the community. Koala Smart has been a labour of love that I think can truly make a difference for koalas in New South Wales.

Koala Smart is an idea which has evolved into a multi-faceted tool to educate, inspire and motivate people of all ages to find a way to think about and support change which will protect koalas and koala habitat for generations to come.

We have been hearing that koalas are in trouble for over 40 years. However, in the past couple of years, the imperative to save the koala has become critical and a unified approach is crucial. Linking people, resources, and sharing ideas is where my role begins.

I am a member of the Tacking Point Lions Club, a very active and busy group of people who serve the community of the Port Macquarie region. With help from the experts around us, we developed Koala Smart.

My motivation has always been the belief that even when the task seems overwhelming, as a collective many small contributions add up to great outcomes. As a Broadcaster, I interviewed many wildlife conservationists who all stressed that koalas were in trouble. I couldn’t understand why we, as a nation, weren’t hearing the message. So now that I am lucky enough to live in an area of key koala habitat, it’s time to help do something about it.

I attended a koala conference in 2018 with another Lions member, where we heard many talks about the variety of problems koalas are facing and that there didn’t seem to be much of a connection between koala organisations and the community. So, the idea emerged that as an International Service Club, Lions could be the missing link!

Given that schools are central to most communities, this seemed the logical place to begin. Koala Smart is a model for Primary and Secondary schools to adopt and use to motivate their students to take an active role in caring for their environment, while simultaneously achieving syllabus targets. Students have access to interviews, videos and presentations from the experts. They are encouraged to take their ideas beyond the classroom and apply them directly into their own community.

In 2019, 25 schools on the Mid-North Coast participated in the first Koala Smart programme. The driving question was ‘What Would You Do to Save the Koala?’. Answers ranged from community education projects to new inventions that could be adopted by homeowners. It was so inspiring to see these ideas start to come to life.

I worked closely with teachers, talking with them to find out what would be useful, how information was being accessed and used in the classroom, and what was missing that would make their job easier.  We were able to secure the NSW Koala Strategy which enabled classroom-ready content to be written by one of Australia’s best education writers and now we’re taking Koala Smart state-wide.

We were able to secure the NSW Koala Strategy which enabled classroom-ready content to be written by one of Australia’s best education writers and now we’re taking Koala Smart state-wide.

More NSW Koala Country stories

Photos this page courtesy of Jan McGilchrist