News & Media

Stella's Story

By: Emily Durbridge

Category: People

  5.24 PM 3 October, 2013

Location: General

Views: 2240

A Gippsland volunteer passed the attached article on to the Region office and thought that others out there would be interested in it.

The article was published in The Star on 24 September 2013 and was written by Tina Bowden.

Inverloch resident Stella van Tongeren has been a lover of the written word for as long as she can remember.

As a child, her favourite pastime was to visit the library as often as possible to read and escape a life of hardship and poverty.

Later in life, after retiring to Inverloch, she joined Bass Coast Writers Group, making new friends, and this is where her passion for reading manifested into a serious skill for writing.

Stella went on to win numerous first place prizes in many short story competitions and added to her stock of stories are a number of her published works.

Her imagination draws largely on her own life experience, having now lived a long and fruitful life, and having experienced the whole gamut of human emotions, plus she has a Degree in Psychology and Sociology.

Her worldly wisdom, profound insight into human behaviour, and deep understanding of all that life can bring is reflected in her writings, the least of which is this award-winning poem, Sam the Koala, written in the wake of the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

In her twilight years now, other than writing, she knits pullovers for the penguins of Phillip Island, about 500 to date, part of her community/charity work.

Her family are immensely proud of her achievements. This modest mother, grandmother and great grandmother is a shining example of the greatest of strength of character and an inspiration to all who know her.

The Ballad of the Bush Koala
She fled before the roaring flames.
Her home was wrapped in fire.
Her breath was short, her tortured feet
Could not afford to tire.

She lumbered on through hellish heat.
To stay alive, she must;
While all around was blazing scrub,
And ash, and red hot dust.

And then, she saw the fighting men
With tanks of precious water.
But could she make it through the heat
Before exhaustion caught her?

She saw a kindly looking man
Resting by his truck.
A precious drink was in his hand
She scarce could thank her luck.

She watched with envy as he drank.
He too, was hot and dry.
Exhaustion gave her courage and
She gave a plaintive cry.

He looked down with bloodshot his eyes.
But would he stop to think?
And then to her great puzzlement,
He shared with her his drink.
He gazed around the ravaged scene.
The trees were black as night.
How could he ever let her loose
With nothing green in sight?

"Where could she go?" he asked himself.
Her home was surely gone.
Bush tucker would be history
For months from this day on.

He gently took her in his arms
And put her in his truck.
She nestled down quite happily
She knew she was in luck.

He called his friends the Red Cross vets.
They bandaged up her paws.
Put ointment on her nasty burns
And placed her safe indoors.

The keepers were a friendly lot,
They loved her at first sight.
'Sam' the named their little guest.
Her future now looked bright.

For weeks the bushfires raged and burned.
But she saw none of this.
She won the eharts of everyone.
Her sheltered life was bliss.

When victims came and viewed their loss.
And wondered how they'd cope.
The tale of that koala would
Renew their every hope.

The landscape would come green again.
The bush would bloom with rain.
The gum trees would regenerate.
Homes could be built again.

When bush folk come together now,
And talk about the fires.
The tale of their koala
Is one that never tires.

Though Sam has gone to Heaven now
Her legend still remains.
Her name will live forever
In the folklore of the plains.


Last Updated: 07 October 2013