Hello Koalas’ launch

Perfectly purple: Teale, Nicholas and Breana Purdie with Princess Lasiandra sponsored by Community Champions for Wauchope and painted by Melbourne artist Ben Walsh. The design was inspired by the annual Wauchope Lasiandra Festival
Perfectly purple: Teale, Nicholas and Breana Purdie with Princess Lasiandra sponsored by Community Champions for Wauchope and painted by Melbourne artist Ben Walsh. The design was inspired by the annual Wauchope Lasiandra Festival


NSW Premier Mike Baird made a brief appearance in Port Macquarie on Monday for the unveiling of the 50 colourful critters that will form the Hello Koalas Public Sculpture Trail.

The Premier was greeted with a spectacular spring day at Emerald Downs Golf Course after being delayed by Sydney's fog.

He was impressed with Birpai elder Uncle Bill O'Brien's Welcome to Country and enthusiastic in his praise of the Hello Koalas project instigator Margret Meagher and her colleague Linda Hall of Arts and Health Australia.

"It is rare to see the vision of a community project come to fruition," Mr Baird said.

He said public art is a critical part of any city and the artists had made the koalas so visually appealing they will generate conversation not just here but across the nation and the world.

At that point Stoney the real koala from Billabong Zoo was brought into the crowd and the Premier remarked "it's very hard to compete with a koala when it comes out".

Ms Hall said 12,000 hours of brush strokes and mosaic tiling had gone into the production of the koala statues.

Executive director Arts and Health Australia Mrs Meagher said the coming together of the 100 sponsors, event partners and artists at the launch was the culmination of three years' work.

She said she was indebted to the state government for its support of the "Dementia Koala", painted by artist

Kerry Smith-Taughkin, and for its support of the efforts by Arts and Health Australia to make the Hastings the first dementia friendly community in Australia.

Mrs Meagher said in the process of putting together the concept of the Hello Koalas Public Sculpture Trail she had seen many other community art projects but had not seen one better.

"One artist said she had spent 900 hours painting her koala," she said.

"Every one has been lovingly painted and many of the artists have experienced a sense of loss when they handed them over."

Each of the koalas will be placed on a plinth and located either at the site of their sponsor's premises or at a mutually agreed location.

Arts and Health Australia was established to enhance and improve health and wellbeing within the community through engagement in creative activities and this project certainly does that.

The creatively designed koalas will start to appear throughout the Hastings this month.