About Friends of the Koala Inc. (FOK)

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Our mission

Friends of the Koala is committed to conserving koalas and preserving and enhancing their habitat, particularly in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. In doing this, we aim to make a key contribution to Australia’s biodiversity.

Our core business

  • Rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing koalas
  • Protecting and enhancing koala habitat
  • Educating the community about koalas and issues that affect them
  • Advocating on behalf of koalas
  • Assisting relevant research

Our people

Operations and Communication Manager – Claire Agnew

Claire joined Friends of the Koala in March 2018. Her role is to oversee the day to day operations of Friends of the Koala as well as coordinating the organisations communication activities. Claire has worked in the nonprofit sector for six years with Taronga Conservation Society Australia and most recently the Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia. After completing a BA in Environment majoring in Biology, Claire went on to complete a Master of Wildlife Management at Macquarie University. Claire has also had three years’ experience as a volunteer herself with the Taronga Conservation Society, so she relates well with all our volunteers.

Outside of work, Claire enjoys travelling, following her passion for wildlife. Claire can be contacted between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm Monday, Tuesday and Friday on 02 6621 4664 or at manager@friendsofthekoala.org


Veterinary Nurse – Marley Christian

Marley joined Friends of the Koala in 2015 as a volunteer. Since then she has completed a Cert IV in Veterinary Nursing and gained valuable hands on experience caring and rescuing koalas. In May 2019, Marley became our first employed Vet Nurse and is responsible for ensuring the triage and immediate treatment of sick and injured koalas that come into care. Marley works closely with our Shift Supervisors and utilises equipment now available in our Triage, Treatment & Pathology Clinic to ensure the koalas receive early and consistent clinical supervision. Marley works part time and can be contacted between 9 am and 2 pm Monday to Friday on 02 6621 4664 or at info@friendsofthekoala.org 

Key achievements

In the 30 years since Friends of the Koala was first established, with the aim to enhance and protect koala habitat, we’ve become the lead organisation fighting for koalas in the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales.

Amongst many other activities, we maintain a 24/7 Rescue Hotline; rescue, rehabilitate and release sick and injured koalas and operate both a Triage, Treatment and Pathology Clinic and Education and Administration Centre in East Lismore. We also organise a merciful death for koalas that can’t be saved, propagate and sell koala food trees, work with local government to develop and implement Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management and provide advice to landowners on extending koala habitat.

With a volunteer base of about 100 people, by 2017 we had distributed around 152,068 koala food trees across the Northern Rivers since we started this work in 1990, brought into care over 5,000 koalas (releasing over 1,230 back into the wild), educated people about caring for and living with koalas, written countless submissions on matters related to koala well-being, participated in numerous research projects and worked with a wide range of diverse partners to ensure the koala’s survival in our region.

Some major FOK milestones


  • Formed as an organisation to enhance and protect koala habitat


  • Licensed to rescue, rehabilitate and release koalas under the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974


  • Incorporated as Friends of the Koala Inc.


  • Entry in the Federal Register of Environmental Organisations


  • Koala Care and Research Centre, East Lismore opened
  • Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor’s Special Award


  • Lismore City Council’s Australia Day Achievement Award (Environment Category)
  • 1st Green Corps Project 2004- Koala Conservation and Corridor Connection and Bundjalung Walking Track


  • Outdoor enclosures established at the Koala Care Centre
  • Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation’s Koala and Wildlife Hospital agreed to treat our koalas
  • WildLife Link donated our Rescue Van and trailer


  • Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia’s Community Wildlife Conservation Award


  • 1st Environmental Trust Lead Environmental Community Groups grant


  • 21-year lease on Koala Care & Research site granted by Lismore Council


  • 1st partnership in an ARC Linkage project – Development of an anti-Chlamydial vaccine for the koala


  • NSW Volunteer of the Year Award, Northern Rivers Region Team of the Year Award


  • Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s Outstanding Member Group 2012


  • Lismore City Council’s Australia Day Achievement Award (Sustainable Environment)
  • Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s Marie Byles Award for the most outstanding new environmental campaign


  • Byron Shire Council’s 2014 World Environment Day Award (Conservation & Land Management)
  • 3 additional outdoor runs extended Koala Care Centre capacity


  • 1st Environmental Trust Lead Environmental Communication Grant


  • Environmental Trust Restoration & Rehabilitation grant over 3 years – Enhancing Lismore wildlife refuges and corridors for threatened species


  • 2017 Environmental Trust Environmental Education grant over 3 years – Koala Watch: Community led koala recovery – Northern Rivers.
  • June – WINNER of the Golden Leaf Award of Excellence for a Wildlife Group
  • September – official opening of Burribi Education & Administration Centre

Our Current Management Committee Members

Committee Position Holders

President – Ros Irwin
Vice President – Kerri Francis
Secretary – Aliison Kelly
Treasurer – Leeanne Coonan
Care Coordinator – Susannah Keogh

Other Committee Members

Mark Ambrose
Lola Whitney
Marley Christian
Julie Haydon
Trevor Acfield
Linda Ambrose

Our Partners

Thanks to our partners we have been able to do what we do, better! Without them our work would be that much more difficult.



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