Koala hospital a top priority for shelter

Staff at a wildlife shelter nestled in Rawson are fundraising to develop Victoria’s first koala hospital and burns unit.

Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter founder Colleen Wood hopes to build the hospital on her property, to coexist with the shelter that cares for hundreds of animals each year.

Ms Wood said the specialist hospital would enable further research into animal care and include a designated space for burns treatments.

“We need to be training and implementing that training to other wildlife carers,” she said.

“The majority of impacted animals are koalas and they can be can be rehabilitated to get back out into the wild, so it’s really important for us to be concentrating on improving their outcomes.”

Plans have already been drawn up for stage one of the facility, which is estimated to cost about $44,000, but funding the project has proven difficult.

Project treasurer Vicki Hams said the committee had been forced to fundraise the entire cost of the hospital as its location on private property limited government grant eligibility.

“We go for every grant that raises its head but it’s really hard,” Ms Hams said.

“It’s a small group of volunteers, hitting the same people over and over for money.”

A gofundme.com account has been operating since March and has received about $3000, but a “saturation of gofundme campaigns” has made it difficult for the project to gain donations.

“It’s slow going. At this stage the goal is to get the room up and running, and then we can work towards the hospital,” Ms Wood said.

“That’s the real aim, to set it up as its own entity as best we can on its own property… to have everything transferrable so it can be packed up and moved, so it can continue on and operate when I’m not there.”

Ms Hams said shelter staff wanted to get stage one of the hospital operating as soon as possible because of Gippsland’s high bushfire incident rate.

“The shelter was run off its feet following Black Saturday,” Ms Hams said.

“If something like it comes again, there will be somewhere to house these koalas, along with a treatment room with a burns focus.”

Ms Wood said she would like to see the room operating by the start of the next fire season.

To donate to the project, visit www.gofundme.com/koalaburnshospital