Hello Koalas 2014 & 2017

Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail. A public art project. Located in the Port Macquarie Hastings region, NSW from September 2014 – December 2015, now permanent! Fifty large-scale koala sculptures, manufactured in fibreglass & hand painted & decorated by artists, to create an official Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail. A forward thinking project linking the creativity of artists, business sponsorship and the power of tourism, conceived by Arts and Health Australia.

I am thrilled to be able to say I was commissioned to paint not one, but two three koalas.

Komorebi

Hello Koalas - Komorebi - badge

Komorebi, was chosen to be sponsored by World Par-Tea, an Australian owned retailer & wholesaler specialising in chemical free loose leaf teas of the highest grade and quality.

Komorebi is a Japanese word which translates as, ‘sunlight filtering through the leaves on trees’. In reference to the koala’s forest habitat up high in trees. To see a koala for yourself requires you to also enjoy komorebi – looking up into the sunlight filtered by the leaves on trees.

Berry Beautiful

Hello Koalas - Berry Beautiful - badge

The second koala was a commission. Ricardoes Tomatoes and Strawberries had signed up early on as a sponsor, but there was no koala design submitted that was a good match for their business. So the Hello Koalas team went looking for an artist and thankfully they found my food themed paintings. I was asked to create a luscious, fresh food design based around the produce of the business.

Hello Berry Beautiful. A celebration of luscious, fresh fruit. A beary delicious strawberry delight!

See if you can find some of our local garden helpers, the blue banded bee, the black flower wasp and the blue triangle butterfly.

Benjamin
(The Return of the Thylacine)

Hello Koalas - Benjamin (The Return of the Thylacine) - badge

Fast forward a couple of years and the Hello Koalas project had been changed to a permanent attraction. As part of this, new koalas were being added to expand the trail.

One of my original submissions was The Return of the Thylacine, a koala painted as the extinct Tasmanian Tiger.

The Return of the Thylacine was originally considered too controversial for any sponsor to take on. The reference to extinction was too alarming! But just a few years later, the social landscape had changed and the very real possibility of koala extinction had become more widely recognised.

Benjamin (The Return of the Thylacine) is now installed at Sea Acres Rainforest Centre.

Most people are probably not aware of just how precarious the survival of the koala is as a species. The Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) is Australia’s symbol for extinction, in the way that the Dodo is for the rest of the world. Unless enough koala habitat is preserved by the people alive today – from building, roads, logging, mining, bushfire, and dogs and cats – we will lose our koala, symbol of Australian tourism, in probably just one generation. This is a wake up call. The koala is about to go the way of the thylacine.

There are disturbing parallels between the situation of thylacines and koalas. Thylacines were finally declared as protected wildlife 26 years after they were considered to be rare and highly sought after by zoos. Protection came far too late. The same year they were declared protected was the year the last known thylacine died. This individual lived in Hobart Zoo and was named Benjamin.

The koala is a very special animal to Australians. I don’t think we can imagine not having them. Our tourism industry heavily promotes our unique animals like koalas, yet most people would be unaware that the koala is almost endangered. Our national icon needs genuine and concerted efforts to keep it from extinction, now. By the time there are only a few koalas left it will be too late. From my understanding the koala has about 30 years of existence left. Their preferred habitat takes around 30 years to grow. We need to keep and expand their habitat now. This isn’t happening.

 

I live and work on the beautiful lands of the Gumbaynggirr people. Sovereignty was never ceded. I pay respect to their Elders, past, present & emerging.