Cuteness alert! The new adventures of Derek the Wombat

SINCE Derek the wombat hit international stardom, he’s been frantically busy. He’s an adolescent now and being a savvy business-wombat he has a new line of tea towels and t-shirts out.

If that’s not enough to keep this Flinders Island local run off his paws, he’s the proud big brother of orphan-siblings April and May.wombat

Derek rose to fame when captured on video frolicking across his local beach. It was a day like any other for the eight-month-old wombat joey but those sandy tracks led him to worldwide celebrity when his high-paced canter went viral.

Since then, Derek has become Flinders Island’s global poster boy. He’s had to ask his new sisters to manage promotional wares, and requested a cameraman fly in to cover his official greeting with Justin Johnstone from Melbourne, the winner of Tourism Tasmania’s Chief Wombat Cuddler Competition.

Arguably one of Australia’s most hotly contested positions for 2016, Derek knew he’d want to capture their inaugural meeting.

“He’s only a bit over a year old but he’s like a teenage boy now,” describes competition winner Justin Johnstone. “So he’s still very cute but he’s a bit of a tear-away — a bit of a rebel. And he likes to chew things…”

Derek is the first to admit that behind every successful rescue wombat is a good carer. For Derek, it’s his foster Mum, Kate Mooney (#loveyoumywombatlady).

Coined the ‘Wombat Lady of Flinders Island’, Kate has nursed more than 100 wombats back to health over the past two decades for release back into the wild. Kate scooped up Derek after his mother was sadly hit by a car in December.

Ever since, Derek’s been behaving like an only child, despite Kate’s numerous other ‘children’ on her 40-hectare property.

“Derek was only 720 grams when I got him, and he’d now weigh about three-and-a-half kilos,” explains Kate Mooney. “He was an only child for the first six months that I had him, so I guess he became rather spoilt.”

Although he no longer has bottles and will eventually head out the pet door to join the ‘bigger kids’ and never come back, according to Kate he, “…just loves people.”

Why the interest in Derek specifically? “Wombats, in general, get to people. They tend to melt,” smiles Kate. “But Derek isn’t like the others. He’s adventurous and daring. Most don’t like to be out of the pouch but he’s been a curious and cheeky little bloke since I found him. That makes him pretty special.”

But cuddling goes both ways. What did Derek think of Tourism Tasmania’s Chief Wombat Cuddler competition winner? According to his Mum, the two got on splendidly.

“Derek took a real shine to him. At one point down at the shed Justin had seven wombats descend upon him, including Derek, who eagerly pushed to the front for attention. Justin has a real way with the animals.”

Insightful words from the Mother Theresa of Flinders Island’s wombat world, who manages to juggle a background in agriculture with being a full-time carer for her ‘wombat flock.’

So what’s special about Flinders, other than it being the birthplace of Derek?

This is one of Australia’s best kept island secrets, located in Bass Strait off Tasmania’s north east corner. It’s a little like Tasmania’s famous Bay of Fires neighbourhood – but on steroids. The rock lichen is flaming orange, sands are blindingly white, and clear-watered coves are often yours alone, bar wandering tracks from the multitude of wildlife on the island.

A hike to the peak of Mount Stzelecki (756 m) rewards with views across the 75 kilometre long island and even over to ‘mainland’ Tasmania.

This photographer’s mecca has a few hidden secrets including The Docks (don’t expect a big sign post, ask a local) and stunning Trouser’s Point Beach. Rumour has it this name celebrates the escape of one trouserless John Burgess from the wreck nearby of Sarah Anne Blanche back in 1871.

According to Kate, what makes Flinders Island special is “the beauty of the place and the spectacular scenery. It’s just magical with its white sands, turquoise waters and diverse coastline. It’s also the solitude.

We have a saying here – if you see someone’s footprints in the sand, just go to another beach. What’s more, encounters with wildlife in their natural habitats are an almost inevitable highlight of travels around the island.”

While Justin diligently entered The Chief Wombat Cuddler Competition and also spent the day at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Hobart, for an introduction to wildlife rescue and husbandry before meeting Derek, there’s a good chance anyone visiting Flinders Island island might encounter one of his furry kinsfolk.

Just don’t expect to get away without April flogging you a Derek tee and demanding to be paid upfront in wombat nibbles.


There’s a serious side to this cuddly story. Wildlife is prolific in Tasmania, particularly on the roads at dawn and dusk. You can help out Derek and his mates by driving carefully during these hours, especially out of the city centres.

Travel to Flinders Island

Travellers can fly to Flinders Island from Victoria or Tasmania with Sharp Airlines or Flinders Island Aviation. Furneaux Freight also offers access via ferry from Victoria and Tasmania (weekly from Tasmania and on demand from Victoria).

Derek also accepts chopper guests to his back paddock.

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A practically perfect Mary Poppins festival!

GET swept up in the magic of Mary Poppins on Saturday July 2 when Queensland’s most supercalafragalistic festival comes alive in the streets of Maryborough!

The iconic Portside precinct will be transformed to the whimsical place of Cherry Tree Lane to celebrate the achievements of Maryborough-born author of Mary Poppins, Pamela L Travers.

Magic will be in the air as heritage streetscapes are transformed into scenes from the novels and the Poppins characters come to life, including Admiral Boom, who fires his time cannon throughout the day.

Nanny races, chimney sweep challenges, sidewalk art, street theatre and circus workshops are part of a packed program that includes a grand costume parade and live music.

Interactive craft experiences for the will be at the festival in abundance! Children’s workshops filled with hands-on creative sessions involving puppets, circus troupes, arty umbrellas and vintage styling makeovers are just some of the activities on offer this year.

The call is also out for keen Poppins pundits to dress up and take part in the hilarious Chimney Sweep Challenge for the young and young at heart.

Maryborough’s riverside parks and heritage streetscapes are the perfect setting for this unique and quirky festival. With just a spoonful of imagination they will transform into pages from the novels, creating a fantasy experience for all!

For further information visit, BYO spoon and sugar!

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Discover the outback sky at Uluru Astronomy Weekend

ASTRONOMY enthusiasts of all ages can discover the spectacular Australian outback sky at Ayers Rock Resort’s upcoming Uluru Astronomy Weekend on 26-28 August 2016.

Science journalist and ABC radio broadcaster Robyn Williams, as well as leading astronomers, will host the popular annual event is run in partnership with the Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics.

The enlightening stargazing weekend will include fun family activities, an outdoor cinema experience, discussions on astro-statistics, astro-photography, Aboriginal astronomy and navigation of the outback sky, how the universe began, Einstein’s theory on space and much more.

For a full astronomical experience, guests can join one or more of the optional Signature Events* including an Astro Trivia Lunch and the Stellar Starlit Dinner. This dining experience under the stars includes a bush tucker-inspired buffet accompanied by Australian wines and beers, Aboriginal dance performance and guided tour of the night sky by Robyn Williams and guest astronomers.

“Australia’s Red Centre is arguably one of the best places in the world to explore the galaxies in the night sky, with its low humidity and minimal light pollution. This weekend will inspire both those familiar with astronomy and those new to studying the cosmos,” said Voyages CEO Andrew Williams.

Guests visiting Ayers Rock Resort for the Astronomy Weekend can also experience Field of Light Uluru – the global light art phenomenon by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro which is at Ayers Rock Resort until 31 March 2017.

* Charges apply for Signature Events – refer to

For further information go to:

For bookings contact or 1300 134 044

About Ayers Rock Resort

Ayers Rock Resort provides a variety of accommodation from the premium Sails in the Desert Hotel, Award-winning Desert Gardens Hotel, self-contained Emu Walk Apartments, the authentic Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge and Ayers Rock Campground. Ayers Rock Resort is managed by Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia.

About Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia

Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indigenous Land Corporation and manages tourism and resorts on its behalf. Voyages offers unique experiences and cultural immersion in spectacular locations around Australia including Ayers Rock Resort in the Northern Territory, Home Valley Station in The Kimberley in Western Australia and the Mossman Gorge Centre, in Tropical North Queensland.

Profits from all business activities are re-invested in the Indigenous and resort experiences and through the various training and development programs in place around Australia.


PHOTO: Peter J Ward, courtesy of Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia

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