Koalas in Aboriginal Art

Koalas in Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal people have depicted koalas in rock art, carvings and paintings for thousands of years. Art is a powerful cultural feature of Aboriginal Australia, and an important way to share Dreaming stories.

I have been involved in sculpture for a long time and when I moved to Port Macquarie, home of the long-established Koala Hospital, creating a sculpture trail centred on koala conservation seemed like a logical thing to do.

It took nine months working with the Hospital to create an authentic representation of koalas from our region which are smaller and less furry than the ones you see in Victoria and South Australia.

Koalas are a very important tourism asset. We use our Hello Koalas Trail to raise awareness of the very real threat that if we don’t look after koalas, and their habitat, they’ll become extinct. Kids, in particular, relate to this message conveyed by our Hello Koalas sculptures.

One of the Trail’s highlights is an educational exhibition under the banner “Save our Koalas”, featuring Hello Koalas sculptures on Sea Acres Rainforest Centre’s boardwalk.

Sea Acres sees around 10,000 school kids a year so it’s an ideal location to get our message out to the next generation of ‘wildlife warriors’. One of the sculptures there is Ranger Riley, roaming ambassador for the NSW Save our Species program. Riley visited Royal National Park in Sydney for the summer.

It’s amazing how engaged children are with our sculptures, seeing them as real characters. This koala behind me is called Percy Crossingsafe. Percy was designed by Port Macquarie artist Fran Barratt who drew inspiration from the urban koalas that visited her street.

Our hope is that once kids have connected with this particular koala, they will remind their parents: “Slow down. This is where the koalas are crossing”.

A recent commission is Benjamin The Return of the Thylacine, by Bellingen artist Fiona Morgan. This sculpture reminds us that the last Tasmanian Tiger died in the same year the animals were finally declared protected.

Koalas are widely regarded as a national icon, but if we don’t look after them now, they could become extinct as well.

Koalas in Aboriginal Art

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Aboriginal Rangers working in Conservation in NSW

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