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Hello Koalas!

You won’t see these guys sleeping in the trees or being bad mannered with the tourists, but you will definitely be able to see them because a one metre high, fibreglass brightly coloured koala is very hard to miss … and when you meet one you’ll be expected to say ‘Hello Koala’.

Surrounded by the koalas, NSW Premier, Mike Baird, launched the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail that will see 50 of the coloured marsupials installed in prominent, interesting and surprising locations within the Port Macquarie Hastings Council boundaries. The locations include wineries, beaches, forests, zoos and cultural centres.

Mr Baird said public art was a critical part of any city and the artists had made the koalas so visually appealing that they would generate conversation across the nation and the world.

An initiative of Arts and Health Australia, with the Port Macquarie Hastings Council as the major sponsor, the project aims to complement the existing signature and lifestyle events in the council area, and recognise the innovative power that fun, creative and sometimes quirky activities and events can have in fostering the socio-economic fabric of the local community.

It’s been inspired by the Larkin with Toads sculpture project in Hull, UK that featured 40 large scale painted toads. More than 120,000 people were attracted to the Toads Sculpture Trail over a 10 week period.

One of the major aims of the project is to improve the health and wellbeing not only of locals but of the tens of thousands of tourists expected to visit to view the koalas.

Hello Koalas Project Manager and Arts and Health Australia Executive Manager, Margret Meagher, says the project supports the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’: Connect – Keep Learning – Be Curious – Stay Active – Give through encouraging people to explore the Hello Koalas sculpture trail by being out and about, taking time for leisure, breathing in fresh air and delighting in the beautiful surrounds.

The NSW Government has shown its support by sponsoring the “Dementia Koala”, painted by artist Kerry Smith-Taughkin. The gesture also applauds the efforts by Arts and Health Australia to make the Hastings the first dementia friendly community in Australia.

Iconic country singer and patron of the Koala Hospital, John Williamson, has painted a koala sculpture that will be located at the hospital, while local artist Francessca O’Donnell, has used a mosaic design on her koala. It will be on display next to the Glasshouse and highlights the strong local performing arts community.

There has also been international interest in the project with Australian artist, Sophie Corcoran to welcome a koala sculpture in Paris where she will paint a design of Parisian scenes before sending it home to the Cassegrain Winery in Port Macquarie.

For now the koalas have been returned to their warehouse where they are being placed on their plinths and are being given a final makeover before they make their debut in a few weeks’ time.

Visit the Hello Koalas Facebook page for regular updates or read all the Hello Koalas project news here


Photo credit: Regional Arts NSW