KOALA HOSPITAL, PORT MACQUARIE & LIVING with KOALAS
This is an open letter to inform the public, particularly staff and volunteers of the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie. Below are extracts from a very disappointing, ill-informed and myopic letter from a lawyer representing the Koala Hospital (Koala Preservation Society.) My response is in green.
But firstly I will say that I am not a surgeon or animal carer and can’t help save a koala’s life under immediate threat from sickness or injury… but I am a writer and can produce words that inform, educate and hopefully motivate humans to do some positive action to save the koalas from extinction.
The survival of koalas shouldn’t be an excuse for a squabble of human ownership of the problem. It is a problem for all to share. For all to solve.
Now to answer some the Koala Hospital’s concerns / statements.
“The KPS [Koala Preservation Society] does not support your book.”
A disappointing and strange comment since, in an interview with Cheyne Flanagan (Clinical Director at KPS) in Focus Magazine, Port Macquarie, September 2016 edition and later repeated in the Koala Hospital publication Gum Tips she said: “When G approached me with the concept [The Good Thing About… Koalas], I thought it was a great idea and loved the writing and illustrations he was proposing. The only stipulation I made was the facts had to be accurate. It’s great to have an accurate informative book about koalas… although written with humour, it highlights the real dangers facing this sadly threatened species. Raising awareness of the plight of koalas can only be … a Good Thing.”
[Cheyne Flanagan and other members of the Koala Hospital read through the first draft of The Good Thing About… Koalas and suggested some minor corrections. The book was also read by a number of Zoo keepers and university students studying koalas. All factual information about Koalas – K Facts – was taken from the websites and books of reputable organisations and authors. And it is a good read! What I call a ‘kidults’ book. Entertainment and eduction for children; information and motivation for adults.You can order a copy from this website.)
a) you want the KPS to issue tax deductible receipts for pledges that people make in order for the book to be published.
In the same interview in Focus Magazine G Henshaw said in response to How is the book being funded and what will it hope to raise?
“The money for the print and production of the book is being raised by locals – business and individuals… because the production costs of the book will have been covered by donations, tax deductible as the Koala Hospital is a registered charity… “ [that’s why the Hospital had to issue the receipts as discussed at initial meetings, to which the Hospital later changed its agreement and told me that the volunteers didn’t want to ask for pledges as they don’t like asking for money … OMG! they are a charity, that is what charities do, ask for money and assistance on behalf of vulnerable koalas]… the article went on to say: “So it should be a very sustainable way of fund raising [over $50,000 per annum], as well as increasing awareness around the world of the plight of the threatened koala population in Australia.”
b) if money is raised for the book to be published, the pledges will have paid for your services and the cost of the book but the KPS will only be able to raise money from the sales of the book
Now I guess this is the real difference between a charity run by volunteers with heart and a social enterprise with a business model and a heart. Of course the Koala Hospital had to sell the books… but 5,000 would have been delivered free of charge. So a great contributor to their fund raising. The Hospital has over 200,000 visitors a year and they have a kiosk run by volunteers selling stuff. That was the whole premise of early discussions to provide “… an accurate informative book about koalas… raising awareness of the plight of koalas… and to raise much needed funds for the Hospital.” No money was to be paid to me, the originator and author, in the first print run of 5,000. If successful I would add a royalty of $1 per book in subsequent print runs. I wasn’t thinking I could retire from this book, but at least I could add my voice. I am a co-author of other The Good Thing About… books which have been published by Penguin in UK and sold overseas. This is the first time I have used The Good Thing About… for conservation in Australia. And self-published. I didn’t realise it would be this politikal.
c) The KPS [Koala Preservation Society] does not want to be involved in a project whereby the public is misled into thinking their pledges* will assist koala preservation when in fact it does no more than pay for your services and the services of other professionals and the publisher and leaves the KPS languishing in the hope of making some sales from it.
Now this is getting into dangerous territory for KPS according to my legal advise with terms like public is being misled… The whole premise of Living with Koalas is to run it as a social enterprise. A business , funded by trade and sponsorship which does not rely on volunteers and indecisions, or grants doled out at the whim of a politician. Time is running our for koalas. Not just in the Port Macquarie area. To date, other than a part payment to the illustrator (local Ben Creighton, who has charged a fraction of his normal commercial rate – thanks Ben) and an invoice from the printer yet to be paid, no-one has been paid from LWK and the pledges and support received for the book* will go a small way to paying for some of the book production. We are hoping the popularity and conservation messages of the book will result in enough sales to fund our SKOOLS for a KOALA education initiative to be rolled out early in 2018. We also plan to pay school educators, web developers, artists, actors and other professionals concerned about koalas but are not retirees or volunteers and have to earn an income to support themselves and their family.
*Nb in regard to pledges for The Good Thing About .. Koalas book, the companies and individuals showing their support, listed in the back of the book, were under no misconception that any money pledged was for the work of The Koala Hospital which has been wrongly claimed (more of that later, with supporting affidavits.)
[NB: This is from the Koala Hospital website [as of 23.12.17]:” The work of the Koala Hospital is supervised and carried out by paid staff including the Clinical Director, Administration Manager, Supervisors and Leaf Collectors along with about 200 volunteers”. So Hospital employees are doing better out of koalas than anyone from LIVING with KOALAS to-date. If koalas become extinct the Koala Hospital employees and volunteers will all have to find a new job or turn the hospital into a museum.
At this stage I will reiterate a statement that I have always make publicly at any meeting since making the decision not to wait any longer for a working agreement from the Hospital and to self-publish. “I am a great supporter of the work of the Koala Hospital but clearly, with koala numbers at a record low in the area (around 2,000 and decreasing rapidly), koalas need more help.”
The Port Macquarie-Hasting Council say, “While still in early phase of decline, this decreasing koala population trend is similar to populations that have become locally extinct …. This trend suggests that without intervention in the next 5 years, the local population will become extremely rare in 25 years and functionally extinct in 50.”
Landcare, Port Macquarie, tree plantingHospital, I do recommend local Landcare organisations as they are making a positive difference to the chance of survival of the wild koala population by planting koala food trees in areas where koalas need them most. We will be making donations, out of profits, in the future to this great organisation
Arggghhh the time spent writing this reply is a waste of precious time and energy and is a tedious example of human self-interest and Koala politiKs. I should be giving whatever time I can spare to generating some positive action for koala preservation and conservation but this misconception of the Koala Hospital needs to addressed as it is damaging and upsetting to staff and supporters of the LIVING with KOALAS initiative. I will come back to some more of the POLITIKS and strange local behaviour of people claiming they are representing the Hospital and post it on this page in the coming days.
In the words of a John Williamson song Goodbye Blinky Bill (royalties go to the Koala Hospital):
‘Cause Blinky Bill is dying, cross him off the list
Knock on doors, ring the bell, save the eucalypts
I don’t think I could stand the shame, knowing that I could
Have saved the world from losing something beautiful and good
One doctor on the job is hardly enough
One little hospital, wake up Australia
It’s our corner of the world, time to pull our weight
What would we tell our children about our little mate”
LIVING with KOALAS is adding a voice. Not trying to impersonate another voice. Sadly we are not in harmony with some choir members. Koalas need all the help they can get.
G Henshaw December 25th 2018 – merry Krismas
further stuff of Koala politiKs
“The KPS has been advised that you have been advising schools to support the growth of tube stock to 2 metre trees. The KPS does not support your position because planting of 2 metre trees will not result in long term survival of the trees that have been planted. The KPS recommends the planting of tube stock as it results in much more rapid and healthier tree grows.”
Couple of obvious points. Firstly, why didn’t KPS contact me directly and I could have told them they are only partially informed. And secondly when does the KPS have the monopoly on wisdom when it comes to tree planting as I have been taking advice form local commercial tree growers. whose main business is plant growing not koala rescue and treatment.
As to specifics: we have two parts to our sKools for a Koala programme – one is seedling to tube stock the other tube stock to trees. Schoolchildren grow tiny seedlings to healthy tube stock when we arrange to plant them where koalas need them most. The second part is when schools continue nurturing the tube stock and grow them to over 600mm high up to 2 metres in a 25 litre growing bag. These trees are to be planted within school grounds or supplied to sub division developers and land owners who, as advised from experienced and qualified commercial tree growers, prefer to have more mature trees,
In fact I should point the KPS to their own advice as given to the Port Macquarie-Hastings council. This is an extract from the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council “Coastal Plan of Management” version Draft October 2017 discussing compensatory planting :
“All koala food trees to replanted at a minimum size of 600mm high / 25L pot size (just what LWK is proposing]
I think the KPS has missed the point of the Skools nurturing programme – education and awareness. Koalas are fast becoming extinct and the planting of koala food trees could help reverse that sad fact… as as well as providing the planet and other wildlife with the many benefits of planting native trees.
Happy New Year. Still a few points to answer… but I am off to Bluedale Nursery to see how our seeds are going to deliver early February when the new school terms starts.
jan 3rd 2018