Crazy’ response to fire alarm

Jen Philpott has spent the past fortnight making pouches for koala joeys orphaned in the Australian wildfires and received a heart-warming response from Cambridge locals who wished to do the same.

Wildfires have devastated large areas of Australia since late October, destroying hundreds of homes, killing four people and burning over 1500 square kilometres of bushland.

Wildlife charities have estimated at least 350 koalas have died, but the chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation believes the figure is over 1000.

It has prompted people around the world to donate to organisations helping the animals in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Some have even taken to making mittens for burnt koala paws and knitting pouches for orphaned baby koalas.

One Cambridge woman has knitted and crocheted pouches for the motherless joeys and is encouraging others to do the same.

“I just thought, I can do that,” said Jen Philpott, a Cambridge mother-of-three. She saw the request for knitted pouches online and shared the idea to the Cambridge Grapevine Facebook page.

She said the response had been “crazy”.

She received dozens of requests for more information and has shared the three basic patterns for the joey pouches with anyone who asked. The demand reached a point where she has now organised a collection point at Fresh Choice Leamington, to pick up patterns and drop off pouches, and is preparing to send one big shipment of the pouches to Australia.

“The patterns are super easy but must be in natural fibre, no acrylic, 8-ply preferred.”

People as far as Hamilton and Auckland are sending in knitted pouches, as well as sewers providing an inner lining for the knits. The response had been amazing, Jen said.

“Knitting or sewing even one pouch is really helping in a practical way.

“I’m not a fire fighter, so I can’t help in that way. But this combines my love of animals with knitting, so it’s a perfect way for me to do something.

“You do wonder how useful will they be by the time they get there, considering the Australian post can take forever sometimes, but it’s only the start of summer, the fires are going to continue, there’s going to be a lot of damage happening, they are always needing them.”

The big parcel will be delivered to Australia on December 13. Residents who want to contribute a knitted pouch or help sew liners for them can pick up patterns from Fresh Choice Leamington, and drop off their finished work there. Or Jen can collect them direct. To find out more, email Jen on

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