Queensland newest 'big icon' to arrive on the Sunshine Coast
TAKE care and watch for native wildlife on the Bruce Highway these school holidays - specifically a giant koala weighing in at 700kg and towering over 4m above traffic.
The mammoth marsupial is heading to Maroochydore as part of its journey to Townsville, where it will be the mascot for the 25th annual Townsville Cultural Festival.
The furry mascot will stop at communities including Maroochydore, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay and Bowen ahead of the festival, held from 16-18 August, to promote its theme of Unity in Diversity.
Festival director and sculptor Dr Farvardin Daliri said the cross-cultural appeal of koalas made the native animal a fitting choice to front the festival in its silver jubilee year.
"A koala is an Australian animal universally recognised and adored by everyone who comes to Australia - no matter when they come or why they come - whether they are kids or adults, newly arrived refugees or descendants of Aboriginal people from the Dreamtime," Dr Daliri said.
"Koalas provide a common ground everybody can relate to; a meeting point of all cultures; from Indigenous to mainstream; to migrants and tourists."
Dr Daliri began sculpting large-scale art works for the festival many years ago. His pieces are significant to the festival and include depictions of Johnathan Thurston, Slim Dusty, Ned Kelly, Mother Earth and Aboriginal Elder King Bundawaal.
The sculptures are paraded through Townsville to launch each festival, but this is the first year one will hit the road and tour beyond the north Queensland city.
The koala comprises a welded steel frame covered in fabricated steel mesh and a layer of artificial turf and paint and was crafted by Dr Daliri over several months.
It will depart Brisbane tomorrow from Multicultural Development Australia's Woolloongabba office following a traditional indigenous smoking ceremony.
A variety of formal receptions, community activities and cultural ceremonies are planned at each of the koala mascot's tour stops throughout regional Queensland.
"The theme of the Townsville Cultural Festival is 'Unity in Diversity' and we have worked on promoting this single idea for the past 25 years," Dr Daliri said.
"We believe it is time to share the story of this journey by undertaking our own journey through regional Queensland to show our 25-year commitment to peace and harmony."
The giant koala will be displayed outside the festival's Townsville headquarters until the festival launches with a carnival parade on August 10.
For more information on the festival and koala mascot tour stops, visit www.culturalfest.org.