At Dadswells Bridge in the Grampians, The Giant Koala Tourist Complex is a Victorian equivalent of Queensland’s Big Pineapple. The complex includes a petting zoo where kids can pat native and farm animals including Koalas. Dadswells Bridge is situated between Stawell and Horsham.
The Gian Koala has an onsite café and a souvenir shop, open from 8am to 7pm daily. The animal display is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm and the small entry includes a bag of animal feed.
The Gian Koala stands 14metres tall and is made of Bronze set on a steel frame. The rough hairy exterior is made with fibreglass bronze mixture. Sculptor Ben Van Zetton was commissioned to design and construct it in 1988. The structure weighs 12 Ton.
In 2009, the Gian Koala was renamed ‘Sam’, in memory of Sam the Koala, who recovered from Black Saturday bush fires and became a symbol of hope amid the devastation. Images of the burnt koala drinking water from the hands of Mirboo North CFA volunteer David Tree were broadcast and became sensational around the world. Sam recovered from third-degree burns and lung damage in the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter at Rawson but had to be put down due to complications caused by chlamydia.
Early history of Dadswells Bridge
Europeans came to the area in the footsteps of Major Mitchell, who named Mt William in 1841. Early squatters included Robert Briggs, whose enormous station at Ledcourt included the area of Dadswells Bridge. Nearby Briggs Bluff is named in his honour.
Dadswells Bridge is named after Thomas William Dadswell who was born in Sussex on 25th November 1828. He worked as an engineer on projects in England and Europe. While in Berlin he met Helena Scheer, the daughter of an architect. The couple sailed from Liverpool on 25th June 1857 and arrived in Melbourne on 3rd October 1857. Their nine children were all born in Victoria and by 1861, the family had all settled in Victoria.
Thomas was involved in Timber milling, road making, bridge and hotel construction. He was postmaster from 1869 until 1880 and the school was located within the hotel he owned. He also provided accommodation and stables for travellers using horse drawn carriages.
The first bridge which spanned Mt William Creek at Ledcourt is believed to be designed and the construction supervised by Thomas Dadswell for the contractor, James McClounan. It was a pile bridge of three spans, with the centre span being semi-suspension constructed in 1867.
Helena Dadswell died on 28th March 1873 aged 42. She was worried at Stawell. Thomas lived to 80 and died on 5th October 1908.
Address: 5829 Western Hwy, Dadswells Bridge, VIC
Cafe: 8am to 7pm
Animal Display: 8.30am to 4.30pm