Few people realise Europeans’ first encounter with koalas occurred in the Illawarra.
Indigenous Australians had known about koalas for thousands of years, but Wollongong historian Michael Organ discovered British naturalist Robert Brown and navigator Matthew Flinders were the first white men to find a koala in 1803 at Hat Hill, now called Mount Kembla. They took the koala to Britain for scientific study.
This revelation and the history of koalas in the Illawarra are the subject of a documentary by local filmmakers Jodie McGill and Georgina, of Briar Productions. Their six-minute doco, In Search of the Illawarra Koala, was released at the 111th anniversary of the Mount Kembla mining disaster, at Mount Kembla Public School on July 28.
Ms McGill, the film’s producer, and Georgina, the camera operator and director, had a stall at the school and almost sold out of copies of the DVD. ‘‘[In the film] you’ll have a Dharawal presence in there,’’ Ms McGill said.
‘‘We wanted a strong acknowledgement that koalas have a place in the traditional stories and customs of the Dharawal people.’’
The DVD also features Ferdinand Bauer’s drawing of the first koala collected at Mount Kembla, ‘‘some exciting news about koalas in the Illawarra’’ and a challenge to residents and leaders to bring koalas back to the forefront, by Australian Koala Foundation CEO Deborah Tabart and Mr Organ.
Briar Productions shot footage for a 23-minute documentary but need funding to complete post production.
‘‘We’d definitely like to talk to anyone who would like to fund it wholly or partially.’’
The $5 DVDs are available from Briar Productions.