Retiring Friends of the Koala committee members Margaret Russell (left) and Kay Sherring (right) get the ball rolling by giving donations to Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass and vet Dr Geoff Tomkins for the Building Appeal.
Retiring Friends of the Koala committee members Margaret Russell (left) and Kay Sherring (right) get the ball rolling by giving donations to Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass and vet Dr Geoff Tomkins for the Building Appeal.

Appeal for koala sanctuary

Friends of the Koala have launched a new appeal to raise funds for a $1.9 million koala centre that will include a specialised wildlife hospital.

While it’s an ambitious target and the new centre will have to be done in stages, Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said with a three-fold increase in koalas coming into care since the existing centre opened in the mid-1990s, more space and bigger facilities were needed.

The new centre will be built on the current site as Lorraine said the location, near Southern Cross University in East Lismore, was convenient for volunteers and visiting tourists, enabled easy contact and communication with researchers at the university, and was in the middle of a wildlife corridor.

“We were under the impression that the land belonged to the university, but we found it had always been in Council’s hands,” Lorraine said. “Last year we negotiated a 21-year lease with Council and we pay a peppercorn rent of $1 per year.”

Friends of the Koala recently engaged an architect to draw up designs so they had costings and could use the drawings as the basis for a development application. The DA is expected to be finalised in February.

“The first priority is infrastructure – sort out the sewerage, get the drainage right, locate vehicular access and parking spaces,” Lorraine said. “The next priority will be to redo the outdoor enclosures and runs to the best standard out there. Then we need to improve the facilities for the volunteers themselves, because these days you can go to the centre and there’s so many people it’s hard to hear yourself think! We desperately need more space.”

The facility will have an indoor/outdoor education and exhibition space.

“The longer-term vision is for the centre to become a wildlife clinic. At present we rely on local vets to treat koalas that come into care, and we also send injured animals to the Currumbin Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital and the Australian Wildlife Hospital in Beerwah,” Lorraine said. “To have a specialised wildlife veterinary facility with professional staff here on the Northern Rivers would be something the whole community could feel proud of.”

Lorraine said in order to protect Lismore’s koala population, residents and visitors alike have to have an understanding of and empathy with these iconic little Aussies.

“We should all know and learn as much as we can about the koalas we live with – the Northern Rivers is an acknowledged national stronghold for these creatures,” Lorraine said. “There’s a local responsibility to be looking out for our koalas, but this new centre would also provide a valuable place to support new scientific research into their survival and could also have an added economic benefit for Lismore as a tourist destination.”

Donations to the Koala Care and Research Centre Building Appeal can be made at www.

friendsofthekoala.org or by post to Friends of the Koala Inc., PO Box 5034, East Lismore, 2480.


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