These are some of the beautiful rescued koalas being cared for by Colleen Wood and her team of volunteers at the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter here in Victoria. It's been a long time between visits but last Saturday Tony and I were thrilled to visit Colleen and her sister Jenni and have the honour of meeting the koalas in their care. Colleen has been a huge inspiration to us over the years. She has dedicated her life to the plight of the koala in Australia, she is a leading expert in koala care and education and told me that it didn't matter what was going on in her life, her mission to help and protect them is always her priority.
Colleen inspires me so much because she is not an extrovert or a natural leader, she is in fact a quiet person and even a shy person. But the call of her work gives her the strength to go out into the world over and over again to speak on behalf of the koalas who are facing so many dangers to their health and habitat. She educates wildlife carers, zoo workers and also people working for corporations involved in logging because she was does not want to attack - she is a warrior of love for the koalas and knows that the more people that know and understand this sacred and ancient animal, the more they will be compelled to act with care.
This year, after 20 years of service to the koalas, Colleen was finally recognised by the Australian government and she was awarded an Environment Achievement award on Australia Day. Her wish is that finally the plight of the koala and their habitat becomes more known so that we can act now to preserve them and their homes in the future.
This work is not easy. Colleen and her staff see so much tragedy. The work of the wildlife carer is linked as much to death as it is to life - they are right there on the frontline with the animals they love so much. I am awed by Colleen's determination to never stop helping and it made me think about ways that I can help more. We are not all able to do the same work and shouldn't judge or compare ourselves to others which usually results in feeling less worthy or courageous and that doesn't help anything. Instead, we can find ways to assist and do more in our own way. For me this was offering to hold a healing ceremony on the land of the shelter to honour the spirits of the koalas that have not survived and with love release the huge weight of grief that Colleen and her carers have been carrying. It is hard enough to do this work without carrying grief of the past. Once we hold our ceremony of release we will create a medicine dollmaking circle so that each carer can create a doll to hold hope and vision for them in the future. In difficult times in the future this doll will be a beacon of light to remind them of their strength and courage. She will be a bright reminder of their own love.
When I returned home I created a doll call FireVoice inspired by people like Colleen who despite their own quiet natures, stand up and speak out for the vulnerable. This doll will be auctioned at the upcoming Friday 13th StarTribes Dollmarket to be held online as a Facebook event next week and the funds raised will go to the koalas at the Southern Ash shelter.
You can also sponsor a koala at the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter for as little as $40 as well as give a donation of what ever amount you can afford. Southern Ash is the most amazing shelter we have ever visited, they receive no government assistance and everyone who works there does so as a volunteer - every cent you give goes straight to the koalas.
Thank you Colleen and Jenni! We look forward to our medicine dollmaking circle with you and your koala tribe!