Our co-founder’s wisdom, wit and love for wildlife live on in a weekly heritage podcast

Kathleen McArthur

27 September 2022

For two decades from the 1970s to the 1990s, Wildlife Queensland co-founder Kathleen McArthur’s writing and recollections ran as a series of Lunch Hour Theatre Scripts in Caloundra. Recently, the State Library of Queensland and Sunshine Coast Heritage Council have reinvigorated the author and environmentalist’s works as a whimsical historical podcast, complete with commentary and songs that give all Australians a glimpse into the past.

An episode of the innovative 22-episode podcast series will be released weekly, drawing from more than 200 scripts that celebrate the fine mind and humour of a woman well-known and loved by the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, particularly the Sunshine Coast & Hinterland Inc. branch, and also posthumously named Sunshine Coast’s Citizen of the Century in 2002.

The podcast has a nostalgic, heritage feel, variously touching on subjects such as daily life in the 1920s and local and regional conservation issues, and harkening back to the days when Australians gathered around the ‘wireless’ to listen to the latest serialised instalment of radio shows such as Dad and Dave and The Sullivans.

Kathleen was descended from the pioneering Durack pastoral family, and the first two episodes draw on text from her book Bread and Dripping Days to relay her recollections of growing up in her family home during World War I, eating bread and dripping, mending clothes and engaging in general childhood tomfoolery.

Kathleen McArthur drawings

Botanical artwork by Kathleen McArthur.

Kathleen McArthur drawings

Botanical artwork by Kathleen McArthur.

Later, during World War II, Kathleen made her home at ‘Midyim’ in Caloundra, where she created both the region’s first native garden and her impressive collection of botanical artwork and writings. She ran regular wildflower events in the early 1960s and 70s, celebrating a love of botany and inspiring Sunshine Coast residents to revegetate native flora — the foundation of today’s annual Sunshine Coast Wildflower Festival. The rest is conservation history … the political indifference Kathleen witnessed towards the environment, and the effect of development on the flora she loved and illustrated, became a driving motivation for her conservation work.

Kathleen and her friend, fellow co-founder of the Society Judith Wright, were instrumental in ensuring the gazetting of Cooloola National Park in 1974 and the marine park of the Pumicestone Passage in 1986, regularly speaking out for the protection of native flora and fauna and writing and publishing widely on the subject. It is inspiring to know that Kathleen’s vigour, vim and love for the environment will continue to echo through time, resonating in these scripts voiced by actors Joy Marshall, Errol Morrison, Martin Harding and Patricia Coles.

The free podcast, produced by James Russell Music and proudly funded and supported by the Queensland Government and the State Library of Queensland through the Strategic Priorities grants program, can be downloaded from the Sunshine Coast Council Libraries website, or via Spotify, Apple or Google (search for the podcast by typing in ‘Kathleen McArthur’).

To continue Kathleen’s important work, become a member of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland today and make your voice heard.

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