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REBULD OUR TOWNS: Meet the grandmother of four saving our Koalas

Marley Christian gave up her old life to devote her time to our koalas.
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It’s hard to imagine there’s a kinder woman than grandmother-of-four Marley Christian, who gave up her old life to devote her time to our koalas.

At 57, Marley, who is also a mum-of-three, made the decision six years ago to move north from Foster to Lismore to follow her dream of becoming a veterinary nurse.

“I worked for years with special needs kids, and at the same time, I nursed both my parents with cancer. They died within two years of each other, and I fell apart and depression took over – it was crippling,” Marley tells Woman’s Day.

“My daughter Melanie who lives in Lismore – a place I never really liked – begged me to come for a two-week holiday. Under great duress I went, and I’ve been here ever since!”

Marley tells Woman’s Day she’s never looked back after agreeing to dedicate her life to the welfare of Koalas.

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Keen to get involved in the community, Marley took to the Yellow Pages looking for wildlife parks to sign up as a volunteer, and came across an organisation known as Friends of the Koala.

After just one day at the facility she knew she’d found her life’s calling.

“It was uncanny – I had an immediate connection with the koalas.

“I studied at TAFE while working as a volunteer, and once I graduated, I was employed by Friends of the Koala as their first full-time vet nurse,” says Marley, explaining that her salary is paid under a sponsorship from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

It was on November 23 last year, during the region’s worst ever fires when lives were lost and dozens of homes destroyed.

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“If I thought our team of volunteers and vets and nurses were angels before, I now declare them real-life saints!” says Marley of their response to the bushfires.

It was on November 23 last year, during the region’s worst ever fires when lives were lost and dozens of homes destroyed, that a call came in to Friends of the Koala from a local farmer, which changed Marley’s life forever.

“The poor man was so distraught and the little fighter sustained hideous injuries – it broke our hearts,” recalls Marley, choking back tears.

“She’s just a bub, and the kind man who saved her thankfully gave her water, which helped save her life.

She had burns right through her feet and we rushed her to the wonderful team at the Intensive Care Unit at Currumbin Wildlife Hospital across the border in Queensland.

“We’ve named her Ember, and she hasn’t stopped melting hearts – including Chris Hemsworth when he visited recently. I thought he was going to smuggle her out!

Sealed it with a kiss!

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“She’s back with us fighting fit and getting stronger, and in the coming weeks, she will go to our Kindy Plantation area where she will gain more confidence before being put back in the wild.

We have an extraordinary connection. She’s a real character, and not a day passes when her cheekiness doesn’t make me smile!” Since the bushfires, the volunteer pool has swelled to more than 100 people, and over the past months, there have been as many as 41 koalas in their care.

Friends of the Koala president Ros Irwin, is buoyed by the generous help.

“The numbers of koalas in care was unprecedented during the bushfires and put considerable pressure on our volunteers, and our vet staff,” says Ros.

“Our team dedicated long hours caring for koalas, building temporary enclosures, harvesting extra leaf and entering fire grounds when they could – they’re simply remarkable.

“Marley’s been busy preparing little Ember ready for her next big step into Kindy, while making sure another new orphan is settling into her new digs.

“Dimples is living with me until she’s ready to be more independent. I may have helped hundreds of koalas over the years, but ultimately, they saved my life and brought me out of a very dark place,” she says.

“My grandchildren are so proud of the work I do. I will continue to work tirelessly to save the koalas – and yes, they need us, but we should never forget, we actually need them more.”


•Dig deep to help Friends of the Koala, which relies heavily on public donations. friendsofthekoala.org

•Visit the gorgeous art deco town of Casino. Best known as the beef capital of NSW, military buffs won’t want to miss the Northern Rivers Military Museum.


• Sample the famous 500g T-bone at the number one steak joint in Casino, The Barn Steakhouse. 143 Johnston St, Casino, (02) 6662 5982, clydesdalemotel.com.au

• Drop in to Dave’s Bakehouse and sample the area’s best sausage rolls and pies! 73-75 Summerland Way, Kyogle, (02) 6632 2990

WATCH: An adorable Koala raised by humans gives the camera a big hug:

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