Our Team

Margret MeagherMargret Meagher, Project Director

Hello Koalas is possibly the most enjoyable project I have worked on, which is saying something in a career that spans over 45 years in the arts and marketing communications.

Career hIghlights have included being the director of The Blaxland Gallery in Sydney and Melbourne department stores for 8 years and in that time exhibiting the first survey of Aboriginal art in Australia; curating the Coles Myer Art Collection; helping to set up Sotheby’s in Australia; being the founding editor of three national arts magazines including the ABC Classic FM’s limelight magazine; achieving the role of creative director of a Sydney advertising agency across television, radio and print; establishing Arts and Health Australia and convening an annual international arts and health conference since 2009; being appointed to the NSW Ministerial Advisory Committee on Ageing and successfully advocating for the arts and creativity in positive ageing strategies.

Personal highlights include being beaten at tennis by Yvonne Goolagong when I was 13 and she was 9; finally obtaining a golf handicap; raising a family of 4 talented, caring children with 6 curious and delightful grandchildren (and still counting) and living the dream on a small farm close to Wauchope with John Allison, while also enjoying the peace and tranquility of Port Macquarie’s North Shore by the Hastings River.

Hello Koalas began life as an arts and health project with the aim of encouraging community engagement and participation in the arts and creative expression. When we first came to Port Macquarie in 2003 from Sydney, the area struck me as ideal for an integrated public sculpture program. When my arts and health colleague in the UK, Elaine Burke introduced me to Larkin with Toads in mid 2011, I knew straight away that this was a project that would translate well to my new home, with the iconic koala, so beloved in the area, at its heart. Two years of research and product development followed and in December 2012, with Port Macquarie Hastings Council on board as Principal Sponsor, we launched the project as a signature cultural event for the region, with cultural tourism as the key objective. Twelve months later our first koala sculptures rolled off the production line. In September 2014, the Hello Koalas Public Sculpture Trail was officially unveiled by the Hon Mike Baird MP, Premier of NSW at a special preview of all 50 sculptures at Emerald Downs Golf Course in Port Macquarie. All the artists who painted the sculptures were in attendance, along with sponsors, project partners and media. In all 200 people gathered for this milestone event, including the Mayor of Councillors representing principal sponsor Port Macquarie Hastings Council and representatives of the principal event partner, Port Macquarie’s Koala Hospital.

The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail is the result of extensive support from over 120 sponsors, project partners and many people and organisations. In particular, I would like to thank Linda Hall, Founding Project Manager of Hello Koalas, who shared our collective vision with amazing commitment and expert capability. In January 2015, Linda moved to a new full time position with National Parks and Wildlife Service but remains an enthusiastic ambassador for the Hello Koalas Sculpture Project.

Linda HallLinda Hall, Founding Project Manager

Linda began her career in the education sector. She worked as a high school teacher in Canberra, Darwin, Port Macquarie and the UK.

Prior to taking up the position of Project Manager for the Hello Koalas Public Art Sculpture Project in February 2013, Linda spent 23 years working in the local tourism industry in the Port Macquarie Hastings region. Over her last 6 years at PMHC, Linda’s senior management roles included Manager Tourism & Events and Manager Tourism & Economic Development. During that time she initiated and implemented many successful projects – recognised in 2012 by Council winning the inaugural NSW Tourism Award for Local Government and a number of other NSW and Australian Tourism Awards occurred in events and marketing. Previously Linda was Manager Visitor Services, which gave her understanding of the needs of the visitor as well as the industry.

The appointment of a Project Manager with a strong tourism and education background has been critical to the development of the Hello Koalas Sculpture project and its demonstrated success since its launch in September 2014. Linda brought to Hello Koalas, extensive project management experience, marketing prowess and budget skills.

At PMHC, Linda worked closely with the Board of the Greater Port Macquarie Tourism Association, on joint marketing initiatives, for the benefit of over 200 industry members and partners. She also secured and managed State Government tourism funding for various projects and campaigns valued at over $1 million over the last 6 years.

In February 2013, Linda joined the Hello Koalas Sculpture Project and in 2013 and 2014 served as a Judge on the NSW Tourism Awards and on the Greater Port Macquarie Tourism Association Board.

In January 2015, Linda accepted a full time position with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage as the North Coast Zone Team Leader, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Customer Experience Division.

The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail would not have been possible without Linda’s dedication and hard work over her two years as Founding Project Manager and we thank her for being such an integral part of the Project.

While Linda has now moved to a new and exciting position, which is a testament to her professional skills and tourism experience, we know she will continue her enthusiastic support for the Trail, which includes National Parks and Wildlife Service as a sponsor. Crusader Koala, painted by Dale Leach, is located at Sea Acres Rainforest Centre in Port Macquarie and forms part of Sea Acres’ schools program. 

Why does Linda love Hello Koalas?
This project is fun, creative and quirky. But its potential is so much more. Hello Koalas is inclusive! It directly connects to so many community groups and business organisations from a diverse range of industry sectors, and also provides an avenue to achieve a number of important objectives. These include: the desire to grow and nurture a healthy, connected and inclusive community; self expression and focus on the creative industries and the potential of public art in our region; the value of the arts in relation to health and well being, and then the more obvious social and economic impacts that Trail is having on our region from a tourism perspective since its launch in September 2014.

Elaine BurkeElaine Burke, International Advisor

Elaine Burke is an independent arts consultant, specialising in ambitious creative projects that support people, communities and places to thrive and flourish.

Her background is healthcare, and she developed arts and health services within the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, which achieved both national and international recognition for their innovation in the sector.

Elaine now works as a freelance specialist consultant across a variety of arts programmes – health, cultural tourism, public art, community and arts development. She brokers projects and relationships between the arts sector and non-arts people and organisations.

Most recently, Elaine developed the national award-winning cultural tourism project in Hull and East Yorkshire – ‘Larkin with Toads’. She is excited that the wonderful Larkin Toads have inspired the Hello Koalas project in Port Macquarie, and it thrilled to be working with the project as it develops.

Why does Elaine love Hello Koalas?
Elaine adores koalas! She loves Hello Koalas, and can’t wait to see the colourful sculptures when they appear in the Australian landscape!

Ben WalshBen Walsh, Artist

Ben V Walsh is an artist and the creator of the 3D Hello Koalas model. He works in diverse media including traditional art practice (painting and sculpture), digital and new media. Ben likes to work cross platform combining digital 3D and new media with traditional art, using the knowledge and experience he has picked up working in the computer games industry in conjunction with his traditional art practice of painting and sculpture. The visual excitement of fusing these two mediums is what interests and gives Ben inspiration.

Why does Ben love Hello Koalas?
The Hello Koala project has given Ben an opportunity to combine his strong felt belief in the protection of native animals and his skill set in 3D modeling. As a visual artist the greatest impact Ben feels he can make is through the use of his creativity. Being an animal lover Ben feels strongly regarding the protection of not only the Koala but also the entire native animal kingdom and their habitat. In other words “to give the voiceless a voice”.

Dave LeeDave Lee, Film-maker

Dave Lee has been a writer and film-maker for over 20 years. He has worked for most of the major UK broadcasters and is currently completing the third of his award-winning short films based on the poems of Philip Larkin featuring acting legend Sir Tom Courtenay.

As well as writing for the screen, Dave also regularly contributes to various newspapers, magazines and websites and is also a food writer and restaurant critic.

Why does Dave love Hello Koalas?
Working on Larkin25 was an amazing experience, and the chance to help show Port Macquarie how transformative this type of project can be is very exciting. I love the Hello Koalas project because it will bring people of completely different backgrounds together!

Mitch MckayMitch McKay, Cultural Heritage Advisor

Mitch has been a resident of Port Macquarie for more than 30 years and is principal of Port Macquarie Hastings Heritage a local heritage consultancy practice.

The practice is involved in researching and interpreting history and culture, preparing heritage reports and assessments and providing a heritage advisory service to local government. Through his work he strives to achieve a balance between preservation and change.

Why does Mitch love Hello Koalas?
The Hello Koalas project is innovative and quirky. The thought of koalas having lost most of their natural environment, due to the pressures of development, now going wild, reclaiming their territory and appearing on a street corner or in other unexpected locations near you appeals to my sense of humour – as I’m sure it will to locals and visitors alike.

Gabbie CarrollGabriella Carroll, Arts and Health Australia Consultant

Gabriella Carroll is passionate about people embracing diversity through knowledge, understanding and respect, which she promotes as key influences on individual and community wellbeing. She is a qualified and experienced social worker, clinician, educator and manager and has honed her expertise in a diverse range of settings over the past 35 years. These include Health and Community based services, in particular Mental Health, Rehabilitation and Aged Care.

In Local Government her experience is in Managing Community and Cultural Development for Port Macquarie Hastings Council in regional NSW and Child Protection for Children with Disabilities in the UK. Throughout her practice she has advocated for access and equity and promoted the importance of being connected to culture.

Gabriella has contributed to Arts and Health Australia’s work since 2009 when she joined the organization as a consultant. Gabriella was appointed Conference Chair of the yearly international arts and health conference, The Art of Good Health and Wellbeing.

Gabriella has worked with Arts and Health Australia on creative ageing programs and is currently the community cultural development co-ordinator of the Hello Koalas project.

Nathan Branch, Video Production

NathanNathan has been making short films for ten years and enjoys the challenge of creating something new. It all began in 2001 when he discovered video production, allowing him to combine his creativity, love of bodyboarding and the ocean into a dream job. Lucky guy. In 2003 Branch Productions was officially launched and bodyboarding video resumes were amongst the first jobs completed, followed by wedding films and corporate media a couple of years down the track.

Why does Nathan love Hello Koalas?
I think that the Hello Koalas project is going to boost the local economy. It’s something new and different. It will be a good excuse for people to choose Port Macquarie as their next holiday destination.

Lindsay Moller Photography

Hello Koalas launch

Following a successful photographic and journalism career in Sydney for nearly two decades, Lindsay Moller and his young family moved to Port Macquarie in early 2014.  Soon after, Lindsay joined the Hello Koalas Team and has professionally photographed and documented all the Hello Koalas sculptures and associated events, including the high profile launch by the Premier of NSW, The Hon Mike Baird MP, on 9 September 2014 at Emerald Downs Golf Course in Port Macquarie.

Lindsay’s high quality images have been used in developing the Hello Koalas memorabilia range, which includes postcards, magnets and badges. A comprehensive full colour Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail book will be published in mid 2015, featuring Lindsay’s photographs.

Chris Hall, Conservation and Maintenance Manager

An experienced builder and highly skilled tradesman, Chris joined the Hello Koalas team to manage the final preparations and installation of the fifty koala sculptures on the Sculpture Trail in September 2014. Chris is now responsible for the overall conservation of the sculptures to ensure that all sculptures, and the beautiful artwork that adorns them, are kept in pristine condition and the integrity of the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail is preserved for all people to enjoy them for many years to come. Chris has also been responsible for devising an innovative security system for the added protection of the sculptures on the Trail.

Hayley Arscott, Administration

Hayley rejoins Arts and Health Australia after 6 years raising her two young sons with husband James. Hayley is responsible for administration of Hello Koalas sponsorship, sales and memorabilia. It is great to have Hayley back behind the tiller.