The principal aim of this study was to provide a close examination of nineteenth-century archival records that relate to Victorian Aboriginal people’s associations with koalas, in order to gain a greater understanding of the utilitarian and symbolic significance of koalas for Aboriginal communities, as recorded by colonists during the early period of colonization. The etymology of “koala” is discussed, before an examination is made of the animal’s spiritual importance, associated cultural traditions, and simultaneous utilitarian role. At the time of European colonization in 1788, koalas were probably found in coastal and lowland forests and woodlands across southern, central and north-eastern Victoria.
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