Koalas documentary exposes shaky future for our favourite tree-dwellers

Why is this iconic Aussie species facing extinction? A new documentary aims to charm, dismay and inspire activism.
The Koalas. Image: Documentary Australia

Can Australians save an iconic threatened species like the koala? If not, what does that say about us? This is the central question put forward by a new feature documentary, The Koalas, directed by Gregory Miller and produced by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe, whose previous collaborations include multiscreen video installation work, The Earth and the Elements and documentary Cultivating Murder.

The Koalas, which is having a special preview screening on 22 May at the Golden Age Cinema, aims to ‘shed light on a disturbing truth’: that ‘the very entities entrusted with safeguarding our natural treasures are contributing to the demise of these emblematic creatures.’

‘Why is the koala facing extinction when governments are announcing new strategies to protect them? Scientists identify the main culprit behind the alarming drop in koala populations is habitat loss. How is the destruction of habitat being allowed to escalate at unprecedented rates? Are environment laws so weak that they can’t protect threatened species?’

Watch the trailer for The Koalas below.

Over 90 minutes, The Koalas takes the viewer into the lives of individual koalas, led by charismatic characters: Wonnie, Bexley, Tom, Baz, Coral and joeys Hope and Pala. As these stories unfold, the audience will ‘witness the unique characteristics of koalas, their bond with their young, and the wildlife carers they come into contact with.’

Firestorms, floods, and general population growth are just a handful of the things threatening koala habitats right now. This film follows the fate of koalas that have survived so far, but whose future is uncertain. Weaving real stories with real characters – the wildlife carers, scientists, and ecologists working in the field – the film questions whether Australia has what it takes to save this iconic species before it’s too late.

Read: The top ten: best Australian films of 2023

Supporting the film, Australian author and environmentalist Tim Winton AO said, ‘You’ll be charmed. You’ll be dismayed. And then I bet you’ll be as angry as hell at what’s being done to koalas in your name and in your own lifetime. But I hope you’ll act on that rage and be a part of the change that desperately needs to happen.’

‘The fate of the koalas is tied very much up with ours,’ said activist Bob Brown AO. ‘And here’s a magnificent movie which charts the life of koalas, even as the human threat to them grows.’

The Koalas is directed by Gregory Miller and produced by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe, with funding from
WIRES, National Parks Association of NSW, Sutherland Shire Environment Centre, WWF Australia, as well as a mix of fundraising and philanthropy. A campaign for further funding for outreach is currently underway here with Documentary Australia.

The Koalas is in cinemas from mid June, 2024.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports