Slim Dusty Centre joins fight to save a another Aussie icon
TWO great Aussie icons have come together, and they are celebrating in June.
The Slim Dusty Centre in Kempsey has welcomed Hello Koalas' Nulla, to its impressive display of memorabilia around the man known as Australia's King of Country music.
As fans will know, Nulla Nulla Creek is where Slim (then David Gordon Kirkpatrick) grew up dreaming of one day becoming a country music singer.
Nulla, by Kempsey Aboriginal artist Elwyn Toby, is one of the 67 one-metre-high individually designed and painted koalas that make up Port Macquarie's Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail - with another to be revealed at June's Hello Koalas Festival.
They raise awareness of the crisis threatening our iconic koalas, the need for conservation, and highlight the spectacular destinations, scenery and towns throughout the Port Macquarie-Hastings region.
Hello Koalas project director Margret Meagher and Slim Dusty Centre tours co-ordinator Vicki Williams believe Slim would be very happy to do his bit for the koala.
"Slim's contribution to Australia and Australian music is outstanding," Vicki said.
"Ten months of every year for nearly 60 years Slim and his wife Joy travelled the country taking music to the outback and places where people might never otherwise have had entertainment like that.
"He was always 'of the people', never really wanted to rise to be famous, he just loved music, the people, and the country."
Slim once said, "I have to be fair dinkum with my audience; I can't see any other way of doing it ... You have to believe in what you are singing about."
Visitors to the centre come from throughout Australia each day, Vicki said, often with personal stories to tell.
"Some become very emotional in describing their thoughts and memories of Slim and the encounters they had with him during his travels," she said.
"Sometimes the tears are just running down their face."
While many, she said, recalled a quiet beer with Slim, one woman brought her husband's ashes to the museum because he had "always wanted to go and never made it".
Vicki said often, just being welcomed at the door by the sound of Slim singing 'G'Day G'Day' "puts a smile on faces and starts the SDC experience in a really positive way."
Meanwhile, Hello Koalas project director Margret Meagher said that while Port Macquarie-Hastings has one of the largest koala populations on the east coast, like everywhere else "it is in decline and raising awareness is a very important step in halting this".
The World Wildlife Fund has recently called for koalas to be listed as endangered, estimating numbers in NSW at a maximum of 28,000, but potentially much lower.
From June 6-9 the Hello Koalas Festival celebrates all things koala, starting with the Caring for Our Koalas and Our Environment Symposium on the Thursday, before the long weekend of fun.
The conference covers koala conservation, latest research, environmental solutions and the draw of nature-based tourism.
Highlights on the festival program are a Rock n Roll Dance Party on Friday, Cars for Koalas Show and Shine at Westport Park on Saturday, along with the Foreshore Markets and artmaking workshops, and Family Day at Douglas Vale Historic Homestead and Vineyard on the Sunday.
For those who love choral music, Hastings Choristers are also inviting you to take part in a weekend of workshops on The Peacemakers, a powerful work by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, culminating in a concert with orchestra on the Sunday.
Then, on June 13, it's Slim Dusty's birthday, and SDC has a program of music and celebration planned for "Slim Day".
The Slim Dusty museum features objects and images from the Kirkpatrick family's own extensive archive, as well as contributions from fans and friends.
The centre is open 9.30am-4pm daily except around Christmas, New Year and Australia Day. Check public holiday times. Phone (02)65626533 or go to slimdustycentre.com.au.
The Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail is free to explore all year round. Phone 0416641482 or go to hellokoalas.com.