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 their habitat
  • Educating the community about koalas and issues that affect them
  • Advocating on their behalf
  • Assisting relevant research

Key achievements

In the 30 years since Friends of the Koala was first established with a focus on enhancing and protecting koala habitat we’ve become the acknowledged lead organization fighting for koalas in the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales. Amongst many other activities, we maintain a 24/7 Rescue Hotline, operate a regional Koala Care Centre in East Lismore, and rescue, treat and care for koalas then release them back into the wild when they’ve recovered. We also organise a merciful death for those that can’t be saved, propagate and distribute koala food trees for planting by landowners, work with local government to develop and implement Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management and enhance koala habitat, and provide advice to landowners on extending koala habitat.

With a volunteer base of about 130 people, by 2016 we had distributed around 134,000 koala food trees across the Northern Rivers, brought into care nearly 4,500 koalas (releasing over 1,000 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 – Julie Reid
Secretary – Aliison Kelly
Treasurer – Manuela Matheson
Care Coordinator – Susannah Keogh

Other Committee Members

Mark Ambrose
Lola Whitney
Yasmin Cabôt
Linda Ambrose

Our Partners

These organisations are invaluable for both Friends of the Koala and our little critters. Without them our work would be that much more difficult.

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