Summer bush fires, Port Macquarie, the koala hospital..

Summer can be a fearful time in Australia. This year has seen prolonged drought in many parts of the country, and, with drought comes bushfires..

In 2003 Canberra experienced the worst bush fire in the city’s history.  In one afternoon, 400 homes and 4 lives were lost. A time seared in the memory of all who lived through it.

This eerie smoke filled photo was taken at 3.00 pm in the afternoon in our street, as we all filled cars and prepared to leave our homes.(soon afterwards we were saved by a change in wind direction)

This month there have many  protracted fires in Queensland and northern NSW, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected.

It is heart-breaking to see people confronted with homes burnt to the ground, and animals, and birds, unable to escape the burning flames.

Amongst the towns and regions most affected, is one known fondly by my family, the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie Maps

My parents lived in Port Macquarie, and my brother and his family still live there.

Port Macquarie ..Lighthouse Beach photo by

We had many happy summer holidays there while our families were growing up.

My parents owned a small house and a very big garden  (some might say a jungle) running down to a creek, and surrounded by beautiful mature Eucalyptus trees.

My Father at the bottom of the garden!

As soon as we arrived for our holiday, Dad would take the girls down to the trees to say hello to the fairies….. when branches rubbed together in the wind.

….this tradition lasted a long time and is a lovely lifetime memory for us all.

(And a big thanks to my brother who kept that lovely garden under control until Mum and Dad died in 2000.)

One of the big attractions for young families visiting in Port Macquarie was Peppermint Park, with all kinds of rides, a big water slide and lots of shady trees  (for parents like me to sit under and enjoy some summer reading)

The water slide at Peppermint Park

The day this photo was taken a koala fell out of one of the big Eucalyptus trees overhead, right into the water slide. He slide to the bottom and ran (koala fashion) back to his tree, no harm done…but much excitement amongst the onlookers!

My parents lived just opposite the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and  we often walked over to see the koalas. This hospital was established in 1973, and is not only for sick and injured koalas but for research into koala’s health and diseases.

Today, with fires raging,  this hospital is inundated with fire-affected koalas, many in intensive care units being fed formula and having their burns regularly dressed.

Some of the koalas, on the way to recovery, are adjusting to mittens and gloves, which help them to move around while their paws are healing. The photos I have seen of the koalas when they first arrive are heart-breaking, but many recover surprisingly quickly.. as seen with this very healthy looking koala below.

International Fund for Animal Welfare

The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has also been using pillowcases, and flannelette sheets for pouches for young kangaroos and wallabies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare

The hospital has been overwhelmed with  donations of money, food, towels and pharmaceutical supplies. The money will enable wildlife organisations to distribute drinking stations for koalas and other wildlife in the fire ravaged areas.

Northern Star

This year the fires have begun earlier than usual, and are more widespread, and much more difficult to contain. Although each state has a firefighting service, we could not do without the volunteer fighters; all firefighters  are affectionately known as ”the firies”.

The town of Port Macquarie, thanking ”the firies”  on a smoke filled day.

When the fires are burning, volunteers are needed on all fronts, local people and charity groups are invaluable in providing food and accommodation to the firefighters, and this is often for indefinite periods of time. The people who are left homeless are suspended in an unreal world, often without much money or shelter, to continue a normal life. The kindness of friends and neighbours and other members of the community is paramount.

Daily Telegraph> Northern Beaches

So, many thanks and salute to those who fight fires, and those who help on a voluntary basis, not to mention the reciprocal help and support given by firefighters from California, Canada and New Zealand…..doesn’t that just give you hope for the world?

However, much as Australians understand that bush fires are a fact of life, the amount of bush fires burning across the country this year suggests we are in uncharted territory. It is not sustainable to assume we can always rely on volunteers, and hope that the fires won’t be as bad next year; long term planning is needed …. hopefully both state and federal governments will soon begin serious discussion on future policies and budgets for our changing world.

I have used this David Attenborough quote before, but it’s worth a repeat:

It seems to me that the natural world is a great source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. 

It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. 

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may you be warm in winter and cool in summer.

PS: Two koalas from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital appear in the National Geographic DVD, and these two superstars are called Crescent Head Jimmy, and Oxley Twinkles.

I can’t help thinking my first photo of the cute koala in yellow mittens might be Oxley Twinkles!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.




















24 Replies to “Summer bush fires, Port Macquarie, the koala hospital..”

  1. Glad you are not affected by the fires this time, I hope they are all soon brought under control and that State and Federal governments think long and hard about what to do in the future.

  2. It is raining/sleeting here today, and I do so wish I could send you some moisture. We’ve been seeing some coverage on your fires here, and families being displaced and timber being lost always hits hard. I have only seen koalas in person once at the San Diego zoo, and my family could hardly get me to move I was so mesmerized. I will keep your beautiful country in my prayer and hope these fires come to an end quickly. Stay safe.

    1. Many thanks Judy I really appreciate your kind words, prayers and concerns. The koalas are very cute looking, but slow moving, and very vulnerable in times of fire.

  3. It has been a terrible time recently Gerrie. The Gospers Mountain Fire, 100 km from us has burnt nearly 190,000 hectares of bush and for nearly a week we didn’t see the sun because of smoke. We had a thunderstorm last night which brought some precious rain but which also started more fires in the district. Thank goodness for those brave firefighters.

    1. That sounds dreadful Jane, inland towns are very vulnerable. I remember the long period of smoke haze during the Canberra fires, the place looked and smelt like a war zone. Paul’s nephew is a fire fighter in the region around New England, and has a wife and three young children at home, I admire such dedication.

  4. This post brought tears to my eyes for all—animals, humans, plants—who have been devastated by the terrible fires. I was very glad to read your area wasn’t affected. I completely agree that steps must taken to address what is now the new normal. We have the same situation here in the western United States. The fires burn earlier, longer, and they wreak more devastation. If I could send some our abundant rain your way, I certainly would. Take care, take care!

    1. Thanks Laurie. Yes, if only we could share your water, and if I could put a bit of warmth and sunshine into a bottle I could send it to you in return.

  5. I’ve been following the news from Australia with great sadness and equally a fear for the future. Extreme weather events are on the rise all over the world. It is beyond time that governments look seriously at what needs to change.
    Keep safe Gerrie.

    1. Thanks Jessica….there are even fire risks up in the Atherton Tablelands now, my cousin is having to consider fires more than cyclones!

    1. I’ve never handled one, but I’ve heard, if they are really provoked they can bite, but this is rare, they do have sharp claws and can scratch.

  6. I also have been following the bushfire news from Australia with horror. I am so glad you are not personally affected this time but how sad that Port Macquarie is so badly damaged. I cannot understand how some people can deny that climate change is not happening when all around the world more places are suffering from drought and then fire and others have much more rain than ever and are in an almost constant fear of flooding!
    I hope you and your family continue in safety during this stressful and frightening time.

    1. Yes we have been watching out for bush fires in many states in Australia, and then looking at the overseas news….. flooding in the UK! A pity we can’t share the water!

  7. What a frightening time for people and animals in the path of those devastating bush fires. Thank goodness you haven’t been personally affected, Gerrie. The koalas look so cute, especially the one in your first photo.
    I hope your cousin in Atherton will be safe. We are living in terrible times with some of those in charge of this planet’s well-being, denying the effects of climate change. Stay safe.

  8. That koala with burnt paws is truly heartbreaking. The fires in Australia are very disturbing, as are those in California, along with the extreme weather that is becoming so common all over the world. Let’s hope that governments start acting responsibly while there is still time.

  9. I’m late reading this Gerrie, but a thoughtful post. It is rather scary that so many fires are burning in so many states this spring. It doesn’t bode well for a hot dry summer. Our daughter and family were close to the Sydney suburb fire and had a bag packed in case they had to evacuate. A friend lives in Port Macquarie and although safe, she has sent some frightening photos. Best wishes to your family. An God bless all the “firies”.

    1. Thanks Ruth and, yes this year the fires have been dreadful I hope your daughter and family are now safe from bushfires. My brother and family in Port Macquarie are safe but still have a thick smoky haze over the town.

  10. Oh, watching those fires on the news is utterly heartbreaking. Your pictures chill me too the bone, all those poor people and animals. Seeing those poor koalas is so sad, they seem to lose more habitat each year. So glad to hear you are all OK. Hears to lots of

    1. The injured koalas looks awful and yes their habitat has decreased drastically this year. Fortunately there have been world wide Go-fund projects to raise money for the PM Koala hospital & they have raised quite a bit of money so many koalas will be helped in various ways.

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