Blue koala comes with a message

ARTIST and sculptor Kerry Smith-Taughkin has designed a “Dementia Koala” to take its place on the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail to be launched in September.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Dementia Friendly Steering Committee adopted a series of measures late last year to make our area the first dementia friendly community in NSW.

Now, with the support of committee chair Leslie Williams, and executive director Arts and Health Australia Margret Meagher, funding has been secured from NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and the state government for sponsorship of the Dementia Koala.

Smith-Taughkin, from Melbourne, has participated in community workshops on honouring the elderly and has friends whose parents suffer with the condition.

“One of the common visuals people use to describe it [dementia] is as pieces of a puzzle missing,” Smith-Taughkin said.

“ Blue is evidently a soothing, healing colour and the young blue eyes and clouds represent the suspended state of consciousness where Childhood memories seem to outlast current memories.  

“I wanted to create a dementia koala that was easy for people to approach.”

She said the key is a visual invitation for people to pick it up and put it in the keyhole before all the pieces are gone. Hopefully more people will find a better way of engaging with sufferers, she said.

“I am so excited that “Dementia - Looking for the key” has been chosen and hope it leaves people with a more positive outlook about the future of dealing with dementia.” 

The state electorate area of Port Macquarie ranks second out of 93 electorates for the highest prevalence of dementia.

Early last month a series of workshops sought input from people and their carers, who are living with dementia every day, on how we can become more dementia friendly. 

Local member Leslie Williams is co-convener of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Dementia and has said tackling dementia is one of her highest priorities.

“I am proud that, as a community, we are creating a model for developing dementia friendly communities in NSW and the sculpture project is helping us to achieve this,” Mrs Williams said.

Arts and Health Australia, which initiated the Hello Koalas project, is dedicated to advocating the use of the arts and creativity to enhance health and well being.

“Everyone loves the koala. The Hello Koalas Sculpture Project is a perfect match of artistic practice, cultural tourism, scientific research and an Australian icon that’s a true local identity,” Mrs Meagher said.

The project is the first of its kind to be long term with multiple layers of community involvement.

One special element of the project is an art, poetry and dementia program, to foster collaboration between school children and those with dementia, to come up with designs inspired by Australian poetry for life size koala sculptures.

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