Transcript of Colleen Wood's speech

Sam was a symbol of hope, a survivor.

She allowed the world an insight into the impact fire has on animals, especially our native wildlife.

It was an honour to care for Sam and the other 100-plus wildlife admitted to the shelter because of the 2009 fires. I am still caring for ten koalas at the shelter from the February fires.

I have dealt with many bushfire victims in the past decade, with each year the numbers becoming increasingly higher than the last. With the drying out of the environment, and the change of climate, fire is now unfortunately a given expectation year after year.

I fear for the future of koalas with all they are having to cope with. Not only do they require suitable habitat, we also need to ensure genetic variability to enable koalas to combat disease and have some chance to evolve and cope with the rapidly changing environment they live in.

I am more determined than ever to begin raise the $700,000 needed to establish a purpose built Rehabilitation Centre with a burns hospital. For both the care and research to further understand these magnificent iconic creatures.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank some key people who have supported me from the day Sam arrived at the shelter.

Thank you to TressCox Lawyers especially Peita Elkhorne and Nic Pullen for their ongoing pro bono services, the wildlife rescuers, vet John Butler and his staff, DSE, CFA, and most importantly all of the volunteers at SAWS.

Without the support of my volunteers and their contacts, and the donations of people and businesses who donated directly to SAWS, we would not have been able to successfully treat and rehabilitate so many koalas.

Thank you to Liza Dale-Hallett and Museum Victoria for consulting the shelter staff during the planning and preparation of Sam and her display.

Sam’s permanent presence at the Museum will provide an opportunity for all Australians and International visitors to visit her and reflect on the catastrophic 2009 fires, which we should never forget.