What is Koala Smart?
Koala Smart is an idea which has evolved into a multi-faceted tool to educate, inspire and motivate people of all ages to find a way to think about and support change which will protect koalas and koala habitat for generations to come.
Koala Smart was founded by the Tacking Point Lions Club. Koala Smart is now a separate charitable entity aimed to inspire, motivate and educate primary and secondary school children, along with the local community, to actively participate and embrace change to slow the decline in koala populations within the local region. Koala Smart has partnered with Koala Conservation Australia to drive home the message that action now will result in more positive future for koalas. Significant research and data collected in recent years predict that, if current urban growth practices continue, koalas could become functionally extinct in the next 35 years. The koala’s plight has only become more urgent following devastating bushfires on the mid-north coast during the summer of 2019/2020 which killed hundreds of koalas and decimated vast tracts of koala habitat. It is believed that a significant step in preventing this catastrophe is education – at all levels of the community.
Koala Smart is an educational program for Primary and Secondary schools which encourages teachers and students to utilise a variety of disciplines to approach a current environmental problem and try to develop initiatives that can be applied in their own communities. It is also supported by the NSW Koala Strategy and their officers, who will help take classroom concepts into the real world.
Koala Smart 2019 attracted 25 schools in the Port Macquarie Hastings and Kempsey Shire Council areas. The results ranged from creative expressions and community education programmes to practical modifications for homes and technological applications.
The Koala Smart Team
Koala Smart is only made possible by the expertise and dedication of our team.
ChairpersonJanice is the Chair and Co-Founder of Koala Smart and has served the community in a variety of roles over the past 30 years. Janice was a nationally recognised and awarded broadcaster, working in commercial radio before joining the ABC as a morning presenter, as well as serving as a Councilor on Bathurst City and Bathurst Regional Council.
Her work with various community-based organisations, including the National Trust and more recently Lions Club International has helped increase community awareness and engagement across important local issues. Janice says she is driven by a need to help people connect to achieve a common goal and firmly believes in the ability for children to take an active role in their community.
Clinical Director - Port Macquarie Koala HospitalCheyne is the Clinical Director of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and a trained Wildlife Biologist. She has been with the Koala Hospital for over 20 years. Cheyne has worked with animals her entire life in everything from agricultural livestock to heavy horses (draught) and wildlife especially reptiles and of course koalas!
Established in 1973, the Koala Hospital is an activity of the Koala Conservation Australia Incorporated - a Not-for-Profit Organisation which is recognised world-wide as a peak body which participates in forums for debate on significant policy issues and plays a significant leadership role in research, providing advice and information to Universities and Governments regulating change.
Cheyne has been involved in Australian animal welfare for most of her life and is a passionate and vocal advocate for koala conservation.
Curriculum DesignerBev Laing is one of Australia’s leading curriculum designers, particularly on curriculum-linking learning areas to topics around food, gardens, STEM and the environment.
Bev co-authored the education resources for the Logie award-winning NITV/SBS co-production, Little J and Big Cuz, provided food curriculum for Phenomenom! with host Alice Zaslavsky, and has designed the curriculum for Monash University’s Internet of Things Kitchen Garden STEM education project.
In 2019, Bev co-wrote the ten-week Nature Stewards course for Outdoors Victoria, which is running in four Councils across Victoria. Nature Stewards won the Outstanding Education Materials Award at the Alliance of Natural Resource Outreach and Service Programs (ANROSP) Conference 2020. ANROSP is the peak body for the US Master Naturalist Programs and promotes environmental education world-wide.
Prior to these projects, Bev was Programs Manager at Environment Education Victoria, and for six years, was the Curriculum Specialist for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, designing all of their materials for Australian Curriculum integration and leading teacher PD across Australia.
Bev has written over 20 books of teacher materials, on food, gardens, writing and the environment. Bev is permaculture trained, and holds a Masters degree with distinction from the University of Oxford, UK.
Government Koala StrategyMike is a senior team leader with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. He leads the delivery of the NSW Koala Strategy.
Working with community groups, councils, wildlife rehabilitators, researchers and policy makers, he helps design and implement on-ground projects to secure koalas in the wild. He is passionate about finding practical solutions to complex and challenging environmental problems. He has a background in ecology and conservation, and has previously worked for a range of non-profit and research organisations in Australia, Brazil and the Caribbean.
Koala EcologistRebecca has over 25 years’ experience working for government and universities, primarily undertaking wildlife research. She has authored more than 30 scientific publications.
She has worked in a variety of landscapes across Australia, including the arid zone, the Box Gum woodlands of temperate southern Australian and the tropical savannas of the Top End. Her key areas of interest have been avifauna and mammals. Rebecca grew up in the Hastings area and returned to her home area in 2014 to become the Ecologist for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, a role which, among many other things, promoted koala conservation outcomes through development assessment, strategic planning and on-ground and scientific projects.
She is passionate about maintaining and restoring koala habitat to ensure sustainable koala populations for future generations to enjoy.