A young woman's bright idea to thank hard-working firefighters has become a reality after a new koala sculpture was unveiled in Port Macquarie.
Frankie the Firefighter is the brainchild of 12-year-old Jessica Miles who wanted to thank all firefighters for their service during the 2019 bushfire crisis.
NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres was in Port Macquarie on Monday, August 17 to officially launch the koala as part of the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail.
Mr Ayres was joined by Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council mayor Peta Pinson, Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail project director Margret Meagher and Greater Port Macquarie Tourism Association president Janette Hyde.
Jessica was thrilled her idea had come to fruition.
The Emerald Downs resident said firefighters worked tirelessly to prevent blazes from destroying properties.
"I thought it would be a good idea to show recognition for all the firefighters," she said.
Jessica said the bushfires made her feel scared.
"We came home from school one day and there was a fire one kilometre from our house," she said.
"There were choppers flying around our house and smoke everywhere."
Mr Ayres said he would like to see the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail recognised on an international scale to promote tourism while also highlighting the plight of the koala.
"Our koalas are such an important part of the ecosystem that's made up here in NSW," he said.
"I love this idea of Hello Koalas and I think we can take it on the international stage."
Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail is very important to the Port Macquarie-Hastings.
"It tells some amazing stories about our community," she said.
She said Frankie the Firefighter was symbolic of a major crisis within the community, which saw people come together as a united and resilient group.
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Kingsley Searle from the NSW Rural Fire Service North Shore unit played an integral role in assisting with the koala's design.
Mr Searle said the brigade has a strong interest in helping to preserve koalas, due to the large amount of feeding trees on the North Shore.
He said he was proud all firefighters had been recognised.
Frankie Firefighter was created by local artist Kim with the help of her husband Wayne Staples.
Kim has made other koalas for the trail but said Frankie the Firefighter was her best koala yet.
Mr Staples was a firefighter for Fire and Rescue NSW for 36 years and helped his wife piece the creation together.
Their aim was for the design to recognise firefighters from all services who were involved in the bushfire crisis.