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 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.

fok-partner-01-kr-01-tllf-wildlifelink fok-partner-01-kr-02-keen-vet fok-partner-01-kr-03-currumbin fok-partner-01-kr-04-australia-zoo fok-partner-01-kr-05-koala-health-hub fok-partner-02-gov-sf-01-nsw-enviro-trust fok-partner-02-gov-sf-02-dept-of-env-energy fok-partner-02-gov-sf-04-national-parks fok-partner-03-gov-l-02-byron-shire fok-partner-03-gov-l-04-lismore-council fok-partner-03-gov-l-05-richmond-valley-council fok-partner-03-gov-l-06-rous-county-council fok-partner-04-env-02-nr-wildlife-carers fok-partner-04-env-03-wires fok-partner-04-env-04-tvwc fok-partner-04-env-05-edo fok-partner-04-env-06-biolink Caddies Coffee and Tea, Lismore NSW GD Studio graphic design and websites Lismore NSW - Graphiti Design Studio - Web Development Lismore NSW Dodi Tettamenti

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


  • Commenced rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing koalas under the guidance of the Lismore District Office of the National Parks & Wildlife Service


  • Incorporated as Friends of the Koala Inc.


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


  • 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
  • September – Opened our Burribi Education and Administration Centre and hired our first paid employee


  • 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


  • October – Opened our Triage, Treatment and Triage Clinic


  • May – Employed our Vet Nurse Marley Christian


  • April – Employed our Vet Jackie Reed
  • July – Approval granted for FOK to operate a specialist Koala Hospital

Our Current Management Committee Members

Executive Management Committee Members

President – Susannah Keogh – president@friendsofthekoala.org

Vice President – Aliison Kelly vicepresident@friendsofthekoala.org

Treasurer – Lindy Brown – treasurer@friendsofthekoala.org

Secretary – Mark Ambrose – secretary@friendsofthekoala.org

General Committee Members

Sue James
Rhonda James
Ina Egermann
Konrad Elford
Linda Swankie
Paul White
Luke Kane

Other Non-Committee Coordinators

Environmental Project Coordinator – Julie Reid BApp Sc (Cons Tech), GradDipEd (Science), Cert III CLM, TAE Cert IV

Julie has worked in the natural resource management industry for 21 years with a focus on coordination of natural area restoration projects. She is currently working with 31 landowners & public land managers on five funded projects to restore wildlife habitat and create corridors. She lives on a property in Jiggi protected by a conservation agreement.

Taulangau Wildlife Refuge.


Leafing Coordinator – Fiona Dawson

Fiona is an ecologist with a koala-focussed background including koala surveys for Biolink and NPWS, bush regeneration, planting, vegetation restoration and monitoring plans, survey plots and reports particularly within koala habitat. Her second degree (Environmental Science) was completed in 2016. Fiona has long-term voluntary experience and Honorary Life Membership with Friends of the Koala and loves her current role of Leafing Coordinator with responsibility for the daily harvesting of food for koalas in care comprising all facets from rostering to training of volunteers in koala food tree
identification. Other hobbies squeezed in around full time work include bass & classical guitar. Fiona is on the left in this photo.

Research Coordinator – Linda Swankie

Linda moved to Australia from the UK in 2016 and, having always been passionate about wildlife and conservation and keen to get into wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, immediately began volunteering at FOK. After many years working as a secretary, where she was known as ‘Linda save the whale save the world’, Linda decided to retrain and earned a BSc (Hons) in Ecology and an MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation.

Although Linda spent over 15 years working as a professional ecologist in the UK, her main interest has always been in research, and in particular landscape ecology, which is of major relevance to koalas with impacts of habitat fragmentation. She has been involved in research in the UK, Spain, Chile and the USA and is now keen to develop and carry out research on koalas in the Northern Rivers and help FOK achieve one of its strategic objectives, while also benefiting the koalas themselves.

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 to Thursday on 02 6621 4664 or at manager@friendsofthekoala.org


IFAW sponsored Veterinarian – Jackie Reed

Jackie joined Friends of the Koala in April 2020 after spending 9 months on an island in the Maldives working at a sea turtle hospital. Before this, Jackie was contracted by Victoria Government to do koala health assessments and fertility control in densely populated areas. She was employed for 6 years by Zoos Victoria as a locum veterinarian at both Werribee Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, and also worked as a vet at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. Prior to this she had worked as a wildlife vet at RSPCA ACT.

Jackie works full time and can be contacted at vet@friendsofthekoala.org


IFAW sponsored 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 vetnurse@friendsofthekoala.org


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