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Byron Shire
December 1, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: ‘What’s that, Skip?’

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A few days ago it was it’s National Kangaroo Day. Maybe it’s a good time to reflect on our relationship with Country, on our relationship with kangaroos.

I love Kangaroos. Like most people my age I grew up eating my dinner off a Skippy plate. Seeing Sonny and Skip was a real incentive to finish my dinner. I wanted a kangaroo friend too. I wanted to say ‘What’s that, Skip?’ And Skip would tell me ‘There was a murder down at the gorge’ or ‘There’s bushranger treasure down by the creek bed’. Or maybe even alert me to a paedophile at the school gate. Skip was a hero. She cared about human safety. She was on the side of good. She was an ally.

I later found out that Skippy was not one, but nine kangaroos, and that when Skippy did amazing stuff like open doors – it was a kangaroo paw nailed to a stick and operated by one of the crew. A friend who had a role in one of the episodes told me that he arrived on set to find (one of) the stars of the show in a sugar bag. This was her dressing room. Apparently this made the kangaroos docile. 

When I knew this; that kangaroos were kept on set in sacks, I felt weird about the show I once loved. That’s cruel. I had that Rolf Harris feeling all over again. The stuff I loved in my childhood just doesn’t stack up once you know what happened behind the scenes. 

More broadly, our romantic Australian notion of kangaroos doesn’t match the reality either.

We have a strange relationship with this iconic animal. In many parts of our country this extraordinary macropod is seen as a pest. It’s hard to understand just how a native species can become a ‘pest’. I guess it’s when they are perceived to be a threat to grazing land, agriculture and cars. Out west, many bodies of dead kangaroos lie on the roadside, victims of everyday motoring atrocities. Once, driving past at 100km/h, I glimpsed the little face of a joey. I turned back and felt the grief of pulling a baby animal from its dead mother. 

The fires that ripped through our country from September 2019 to March 2020 destroyed millions of acres of bushland. The estimate of native animals killed is about three billion. Many of those were kangaroos. Kangaroo numbers were already in decline. Many species are now endangered, especially here in NSW. The real pest in this country is us; we need to find a more sustainable way to live with our native animals.

The reason the kangaroo and the emu were chosen for our national emblem is that they can’t move backwards. Ironically we cull our national emblem while our federal government moves backwards on climate. We have been called out on the world stage as having the worst climate plan of any developed nation. Perhaps what needs culling to protect our country, to protect our native species, is the ideology that puts profits before the planet. 

So, as I write this, it’s National Kangaroo Day. Maybe it’s a good time to reflect on our relationship with Country, on our relationship with kangaroos. How much do you know about them? Did you know they’re the largest marsupial on Earth; that they’re left handed; they can use their tail as a fifth leg; and that once they’re grown they don’t like to be kept in sacks? And they don’t like being hit by trucks. Or being fenced away from the grasslands where they graze.

That joey I rescued survived. He was a red kangaroo. He was cared for by a wildlife carer. And now he’s free, back on his Country. Well, that’s the fairytale I hope for. The reality is that he has probably perished from unprecedented bushfire, or speeding trucks, or shotguns defending grass. There was a moment when I almost had my own Skippy, but wild animals don’t belong to us. They belong to Country. So let’s learn from kangaroos and stop moving backwards. 

‘What’s that, Skip? Our Prime Minister is a climate criminal? Let’s get help’.


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13 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Mandy, I agree with your sentiments, but there has been a large increase in Kangaroo numbers mainly because we have established permanent watering points in country that they would normally only have been able to access water after storms when small water holes may hold water for a short time. It was a sort of natural population limiter which we have upset. I remember at a CSIRO field day years ago seeing two identical maps of a very large area around Louth in western NSW. On one map there was only two permanent watering points over an enormous area. On the other there were literally hundreds of watering troughs etc, built to water cattle.
    So the kangaroos can breed unlimited. Until a drought limits feed and many die of starvation.
    Various companies have experimented with cattle troughs that only cattle can access.

  2. ‘What’s that, Skip? Our Prime Minister is a climate criminal? Let’s get help’.
    Too right, Skippy. He and the rest of his party (and mates) are also animal criminals. Heartless greedy self-serving lot. They send our fellow creatures on those Ships of Death, to countries like China, Vietnam and the Arab countries where animals are tortured and made to suffer. The Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans ignorantly believe the more an animal suffers the better it is for you to eat. They promote grey hound and horse racing even though the creatures bleed internally, break their backs and limbs. The are guilty of deforestation and the gradual disappearance of our koalas, wombats, birds and thousand of other creatures. They have ag-gag laws so that you can’t report animals being tortured in abattoirs or farms. There is a very long list. This is a terrible cruel country for animals because of these people.

    • I don’t know about “the more the animal suffers the better” etc. regarding the Chinese et al.
      Where is this from? If the flesh eaters are to be swayed it won’t be with hyperbole. Please explain.

    • But why doesn’t she challenge a Tory rather than go after a seat held by a progressive ? Eg Kevin hogan, Barnaby’s mate. A supporter of climate change denial and nuclear power generation?

  3. I’m afraid Richard Swinton you are so very wrong…Kangaroo numbers have NOT increased since our unprecedented bushfires/floods then drought…all compliments of our Govt’s inaction (a thing called climate change) over decades. I was on the NSW State Kangaroo Review Committee (representing Nature Conservation Council) for over 15 yrs & I can tell you macropods are in a worse ecological state now than ever before. When macropods are forced to go down to a man made water hole or dam they are most often shot in a heartbeat. Many of their once natural watering holes are now gone. Gladys the Koala killer permitted a virtual open season on kangaroos over the past 2 yrs during horrendous climatic conditions. , so her friends the farmers didn’t even have to record evidence of any NON head shots /how many animals killed/kangaroo species etc that were shot on their land. The vile commercial kangaroo industry is self regulated , NO NPWS rangers work at night & I have seen the results of both illegal shooting & LEGAL shooting which is brutal & sickening. Think about the joeys , it is legally required & endorsed by our Govt that the bashing of joeys against a tree or a wheel brace/decapitation/ stomping under foot is ALL legal under the “Humane”Kangaroo Code of Practice , what a lie that is & it is anything BUT humane. Another thing Kangaroos do not breed in drought & approx 70% of at foot joeys die within the first few months of drought. Richard you have been brainwashed by the farmers & our Govt’s propaganda. I have been involved with this issue for 40 yrs so I am happy to argue the statistics with you. Here’s one…in the 1970’s the commercial kill quota was only in the low hundred thousands now its over 2-3 million per year, as the MARKET dictates the kill. The real pest here as Mandy so aptly stated is “us”……if you genuinely care about our wildlife the best thing you can do is STOP eating meat. Kangaroos have lived in total harmony with this nation for millions of years, something our species will NEVER achieve.Good on you Mandy you are spot on, informed , compassionate & showing some critical thinking. This nation has too many cattle & sheep and not enough activists that truly care about this much maligned but magnificent species. SKIPPY HAS BEEN FRAMED…..

  4. Richard Swinton,
    as far as i did observe over the past four & a half decades, travelling the outback (far west from nsw & qld coast), the ratio of live to dead (so-called road kill) kangaroos has made a turn of 180 degrees.
    what in the 1970s used to be an abundance of red & grey kangaroo mobs grazing has become the singular sad survivor of a species that is being hunted down by any means.
    going a bit further back in history – if you insist – it was actually the farming industry that viciously aimed to remove kangaroos from the land they call home.
    please, get the facts straight.

  5. S/E Qld: Yes, I’m guilty, I am a Roo Killer. I hit a 60Kg one in my medium size sedan, between RAAF Amberley & Rosewood, fortunately it hit the grill & was not airborne at impact, it wrote my car off. He/she was quite a specimen, muscle definition similar to Chris Hemsworth. Then there are many of my fellow motorcyclists not with us today because they hit a roo in & around Qld. If you have ever visited the Centre For Mental Health Qld at Gailes/Goodna you will see multitudes of them lying on the golf course fairways like backpackers at main beach Byron. On one of my mbike rides I did Goondiwindi, to pat the statue of Gunsynd. West of Captains Table I opened up the throttle until I noticed many roo carcasses roadside. Thats why near all (except those in Ascot & Indooripilly) Qld 4×4’s have headlights like Byron lighthouse and military grade bull bars, but NOT military grade windscreens. Moral of my post, widened views come about by widened experiences. Good health. Thx

  6. Horses: Yes I’m a horse NUT!, ANY discipline. The Race that stops a nation on Tuesday. Yes I have gone well off script but this must be mentioned. Since birth I have LOVED Byron for that hard to describe spiritual vibe but economically the region has struggled to provide employment. Having owned a couple of businesses in years gone by, I’ve thought “How do you sell BYRON BAY”? Well these guys have aced it. Perusing my Sat just gone raceform, at Ascot Perth a race is sponsored by none other than Byron Bay Brewery. Well done guys, that is far reaching Marketing. NRCAE/SCU Dean of the Business School, John Buss of the mid 80’s era would be beside himself.

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