Jirrahlinga’s on the move after 40 years

Senior keeper Kristi Smith with smiling new arrival "Baby":178042

By Mandy Oakham

It may have started with an empty paddock, a concrete block and a sleeping bag but more than 40 years later the name Jirrahlinga has become synonymous with animal welfare all over the Bellarine Peninsula and beyond.
And despite recent publicity, the founders of the animal sanctuary are adamant that they are not closing down, just relocating to a bigger and better location which will only enhance the facilities.
Local residents were alarmed when they saw the land on which the sanctuary operates listed on real estate sites.
Founder of the sanctuary Tehree Gordon said that a change of location had been considered for a number of years because of the increasing population and access pressures on the Taits Road location.
“This move has been on our agenda for nearly five years now and we are hoping this move will result in a much improved facility and improved care for all of our animals,” Tehree said.
“It is time to move on but we are definitely not closing down and we totally focussed on ensuring our dedicated staff and volunteers will enjoy the transition and the opportunity to move forward with the animals they relate to.”
Tehree said that a special open night was being organised as a special thank you to “all the amazing supporters” of Jirrahlinga.
The animal sanctuary located on five acres of land on the northern edge of Barwon Heads has welcomed thousands of people through its doors providing visitors with the chance to get up close and personal with koalas , kangaroos, emus, wallabies, dingoes, kookaburras, echidnas, wombats and the odd python as well.
Jirrahlinga also supports an animal rescue service, as well as operating three specialist hospitals including separate bird and koala hospitals. The sanctuary has an outstanding track record in rehabilitating many koalas and hand-reared orphans back into their natural habitat.
Personal assistant Kellie Grant said it was impossible to sum up the achievements and contributions made by Tehree.
“She truly is the most amazing giving person and people will just never know how much she has given over the years as she is a very private person,” Kellie said.
And while its name may mean “a home for a kangaroo” Jirrahlinga has become refuge and home for thousands of animals and human animals alike.
While its much awarded and recognised founder Tehree has been recognised in awards for animal welfare what is not as widely known just how much our local wildlife warrior has done for the humans looking for solace and refuge.
The recipient of many awards including Senior Australian of the Year and the Shining World Compassion Award, Tehree, along with husband Hamish, have acted as foster parents for troubled kids for more than 30 years.
Staff at the sanctuary also work alongside the state justice department and the Victorian police including overseeing a program set up at Barwon prison where prisoners are trained up in animal care.
Other organisations who are enmeshed in the work at the sanctuary include St Vincents, St Laurence and Karingal disability services.
Tehree was also responsible for establishing” Helping Hands” which works with people who find themselves unable to look after their pets due to illness or domestic violence.
She has also worked alongside with the Tasmanian fox eradication scheme, established a dingo conservation scheme and has worked with Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal people of Bendigo.