KOALA Legends

In 2004 a new award, the KOALA Legend was introduced to recognise authors and illustrators who have made a significant contribution to KOALA and children's choice awards through their support for the awards and/or their writing.

KOALA Legend 2018 - Belinda Murrell

Read the wonderful introductions and announcement of this year’s Legend award from Birrong Girls’ High School students.


KOALA Legend 2017 - Deb Abela

The 2017 KOALA Legend was announced and presented by students from St. Andrew's Cathedral School and Blackheath Public School. 

Here is Bronte Critchley's part of the speech:

Whenever we hear her name we think of...

D How dedicated she is to her writing,

E How her books could be classics and everlasting.

B For the fantastic books she has written over the years, our favourite is Grimsdon!

OOriginal. Her books display so much originality!

R For really diverse in genres she writes in. She writes amazing books from history to dystopian to picture         books.

AAbsolutely brilliant. No explanation needed!

H She is a hero, a superhero writer in disguise!

Next her last name...

A She is admired and adored by all readers of all ages.

B For bestselling author, she has been shortlisted for 25 awards including YABBA, KOALA and REAL awards.

E She is every bit adventurous, (whisper) even if only in her books.

L LEGEND! We think she deserves this award, many of the reasons were in this speech! And finally...

A AFRICA! One of the most interesting things we found about her was her trip to Africa where she was harassed by monkeys and thrown in gaol TWICE for being thought to be a spy! 


KOALA Legend 2016 - Alyson Simpson

The 2016 KOALA Legend was announced by past president and legend, Val Noake, at the 30th Birthday Awards held at Blackheath Public School.

Alyson is the longest servicing KOALA Council member ever, having been on the council for more than 18 years. For most of that time she has been the Treasurer – a notoriously difficult position to fill on any committee. As well as Treasurer she was Membership Secretary. In 2011, she did escape the Treasurer/Membership role but the following year with major changes to the Council she stepped up again and took it on.

At this time of change Alyson was the glue that held the KOALA Council together. With many old hands leaving and new people joining the group Alyson’s commitment to and passion for KOALA saved it and helped steer it into the future.

Alyson is also famous for her Awards Day PowerPoint presentations. Every year she tracked down all the shortlisted author & illustrator photos and images of book jackets and she added fabulous new features to enhance our Awards Day.

On behalf of all the KOALA Council presidents and committee members with whom she has worked over the years, I would like to say a very sincere thank you to Alyson. She was always so supportive and positive and easy to work with and most importantly, passionate about KOALA.  Her contribution to the success and longevity of KOALA should not be underestimated.

Alyson Simpson is a true blue KOALA Legend.


KOALA Legend 2014 - Libby Gleeson


Peter Pontifix and Calum Boland from Newington College Wyvern House announced the 2014 KOALA Legend.

Good morning teachers, students, distinguished guests and most importantly, the authors who have written some of our favourite books. We have the honour of presenting the 2014 KOALA Legend Award.

Our KOALA Legend grew up in a family where books and reading were hugely important. This Legend trained as a teacher and taught for two years in a small school in the town of Picton, just outside Sydney. If this career in teaching had continued, our legend could have been our teacher. But a love of writing and telling stories through the eyes of children was a stronger pull.

Her name of course is Libby Gleeson.

Libby Gleeson is no stranger to children’s book awards having previously won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Children’s Fiction in 2013 for her book Red, the Australian Children’s Peace Prize, numerous Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, the Victorian and South Australian Literature Award and the Young Australian Readers Award, to name a few.

Libby Gleeson has produced many wonderful picture books such as Banjo and Ruby Red, Amy & Louis and Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House, all excellent stories told through the eyes of children.

She has introduced us to Sydney’s past in The Rum Rebellion part of the My Story series, and allowed us all into the life of the character Hannah in her four part book series about a girl and her experiences of family life and school.  For older readers, her books include the award winning novel, Red and Mahtab's Story.  She has also written non-fiction books and many short stories. 

Libby Gleeson is a true inspiration and it is a real pleasure to be able to have her at the KOALA Awards today and to be able to induct her as a KOALA Legend.

Find out more about the awesome Libby Gleeson on her website


KOALA Legend 2013 - Felice Arena

The KOALA Legend for 2013 was announced by Yanni and Methila from Year 8 at The King's School:

The KOALA Legend for 2013 is an author beloved of children around the country. In the last 12 years or so this Legend has displayed a talent for writing books that are funny, fast paced, and appealing to young readers.

His name is Felice Arena, and here is a little about his writing.

In The Boyz Rule Series, with Phil Kettle and illustrator Gus Gordon (amongst others), Felice has written about all those things boys love to do - like playing backyard cricket and catching yabbies. The Boyz Rule Series was nominated for KOALA every year between 2005 and 2009, gaining a place in the KOALA Hall of Fame in 2009.

In the eight Specky Magee books, written with Garry Lyon, Felice excites his readers with footy stories and lots of family and friendship escapades that kids recognise as authentic. Several Specky Magee titles have been nominated for KOALA multiple times, including The Best of Oz this year.

But Felice must surely be part-android himself judging by the speed with which he writes his latest series, Andy Roid, which features a semi robotic boy who finds the ability to be a superhero really gets in the way of living a normal high school life. Ten titles have been published in the last two years. Andy Roid and the Field Trip Terror was nominated for KOALA this year.

And these aren’t even all his books!

Australian children read Felice’s books, sometimes when no other book appeals to them. They grow as readers with Felice’s books, and they choose his books for awards like this.

It is wonderful to have Felice Arena here from Melbourne for the third time. He has a reputation for excellent school visits (including to this very school just last year), he spreads the word on KOALA by re-tweeting our news, and as a writer, well, he is simply a Legend.

[Felice (pronounced feh-LEE-chay) is the Italian word for happy.]

KOALA Legend 2012 - Val Noake


Val Noake is a Past President of the KOALA Council and has probably done just about every job imaginable in support of the NSW children's choice awards, and earlier was involved with the West Australia Young Readers Award.

Val received The Lady Cutler Award for distinguished services to children's literature in NSW in 2005.

The Children's and Young Adult Librarian at Sutherland Shire for ten years, Val has also worked as a primary school teacher, teacher librarian, is a former manager of the Nestle Write Around Australia project for the State Library of NSW, and was a project manager for the Primary English Teaching Association.

This combined wisdom, knowledge and passion has been shared generously in the service of children's literature and particularly in the service of the KOALA Awards for many years. Her support for other members of the KOALA Council has been significant and is ongoing.

Val Noake is truly a KOALA Legend!

Our newest LEGEND was announced by Abe and Amelie from Newtown Public School at Awards Day 2011:

This year's Legend has a long connection with KOALA first being shortlisted in 1989. His support of KOALA has included the generous donation of an original artwork and making the long trip from his home in Melbourne to attend awards day in Sydney on several occasions. Over the 25 years of KOALA he has had 10 books shortlisted and has been in the shortlist 15 times. Some years with 2 books. Shortlisted favourites have included Let's Get a Pup and Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten. In 2001 he won the Picture Book Category with the well loved favourite Max.

If you haven't guessed already, the 2011 KOALA Legend is Bob Graham.

We are proud to say that the following authors and illustratators are also Legends:


Duncan Ball

Paul Jennings


Anna Fienberg

Terry Denton


Richard Tulloch

Morris Gleitzman


Kim Gamble


Pamela Allen


Robin Klein

Andy Griffiths

Koala Books (Gordon Jackson, Cathie Tasker and Debbie Brown)


Emily Rodda

Miranda Harrowell AM


Bob Graham

Emily Rodda (2010)

Emily Rodda was first shortlisted in 1988 (the 2nd year of KOALA) with Pigs might fly. This book along with Rowan of Rin were added to the KOALA Hall of Fame in 2001. Since 1988 Emily Rodda has had 13 books shortlisted. Deltora Quest series 1 and 3 have won the Younger readers category and in the last three years the Key to Rondo, Wizard of Rondo and this year the Battle for Rondo have won their category. Emily Rodda is a great supporter of KOALA attending lots of Awards Days.

Miranda Harrowell AM (2010)

Miranda was a foundation member of KOALA. She has taken on various roles on the committee and was the president for more than 10 years. She has been a tireless worker in promoting KOALA, Australian children's authors and illustrators and the importance of kids having a say in what are judged to be the best books for young readers.

Robin Klein (2009)

In 1987 when KOALA started Robin Klein was the most popular author on the shortlist. She had 10 titles on the shortlists, some of them were on both the Infants/Primary list and on the Secondary list. Hating Alison Ashley won the first KOALA in the secondary category. 

The next year she had 12 titles on the shortlists. Only Paul Jennings has equalled this record number of books on the shortlists.

In 1992 People might hear you won the secondary category of KOALA and in 2001 Games, Boss of the Pool and Came Back to show you I could fly were admitted to the KOALA Hall of Fame

Andy Griffiths (2009)

Between 1999-and 2003 Andy Griffiths won the older readers category of KOALA every year with his Just series of books. He won again in 2005 with The Bad Book and then in 2007 he won the younger readers category with The Cat on the Mat is Flat and the older readers category with Zombie Bums from Uranus. Last year he won with Just Shocking!  Andy has won more KOALAs than any other author.

Andy has attended KOALA Awards Day many times and always tells great stories.

Koala Books (2009)

Gordon Jackson, Managing Director, Cathie Tasker, Publishing and Marketing Manager and Debbie Brown, Design and Website Manager have been great supporters of KOALA for more than 12 years. They have designed and printed all our fliers and promotional material during this time and generously donated a box of books valued at $300 every Awards Day. We are very appreciative of their long-term support. 

Duncan Ball (2004)

In the history of KOALA, Duncan Ball has attended Awards Day more often than any other author. In the 18 years KOALA has been running he has attended 16 Awards Days. He is a great supporter of children’s choice awards in NSW and interstate and gives his time willingly to assist He has had 18 books shortlisted and he has won KOALA three times with his Selby stories and he has one book Selby’s Secret in the KOALA Hall of Fame. Duncan Ball is a KOALA legend!

Quote from student from Chatswood Public School:

"Ëver since I began reading the Selby series, I was instantly amazed. I really grew to like the books and itched for more. These books were funny, entertaining, fun and I just couldn't put them down. Congratulations Mr Ball and thank you for writing the Selby series, I really enjoyed it!!"

Allan Stomann, illustrator of the Selby books and author Duncan Ball at KOALA Awards Day 2003.Paul Jennings (2004)

In the history of KOALA, Paul Jennings is the most popular author ever.

Twenty-seven of his books have been shortlisted. Between 1990 and 1996 he won KOALA seven times with books in the ‘Un’ series and with Duck for Cover. He also has 6 books in the KOALA Hall of Fame, that’s 2 more than any other author. His most popular book in the Hall of Fame is the Cabbage Patch Fib which has been shortlisted 10 times. Paul Jennings is a KOALA legend!

Anna Fienberg (2005)

In the history of KOALA, Anna Fienberg has been shortlisted 18 times. Her most popular books are the stories abouut Tashi. Sometimes three Tashis books have been shortlisted in the same year. In 2003 The Big, Big, Big, Big Book of Tashi won a Kids Own Australian Literature Award in the Younger Readers Category.

Anna regularly attends Awards Day and at the Get Real conference in 2004 she willingly joined a panel session to promote KOALA.

Anna Fienberg is a Legend.

Terry Denton (2005)

In 1988 when the first KOALA shortlist was released Felix and Alexander by Terry Denton was one of the shortlisted books. Since then, Terry has written or illustrated at least one book on the shortlist on 10 serparate occasions.

In 1995 Duck for Cover, written by Paul Jennings and Ted Greenwood and Illustrated by Terry won KOALA. Spooner or Later by the same talented team is honoured in the KOALA Hall of Fame.

In 1996 he won a KOALA with Gasp! a book that he both wrote and illustrated about a wild, insane fish that gets up to mischief when he is home alone. Terry is the illustrator of the Just series by Andy Griffiths and they won KOKALA every year from 1999 to 2003.

Terry has attended Awards Day on a number of occasions and has generously sent an original illustration for us to give away.

We think Terry's books are superb and everyone should read them. One of my favourites is Storymaze: the Ultimate Wave. It is a funny science fiction comic novel about three aliens named Mike, Claudia and Nico who are from planet Ithaca. They spend all day surfing until one day they discover that there is no surf! Another alien called Icon from the planet Duryllim becomes their friend. He is searching for the ultimate wave but then disaster strikes because Icon is kidnapped!

If you haven't read this story make sure it is the next one you borrow from your library!

We'd like to thank Terry for travelling from Melbourne today to be at these awards. We think he is a KOALA Legend and we'd like to present him with this prestigious award. 

David and Zaira

St John's Primary School, Auburn

Richard Tulloch (2006)

Richard Tulloch is one of Australia's most prolific and popular writers for young audiences. Internationally Richard's stories, which include a phenomenal 150 episodes of the 'Bananas in Pyjamas', have reached an audience of hundreds of millions around the world. Richard's titles the 'Toybox', 'Being Bad for the Babysitter', 'Cocky Colin' and the 'Barry the Burglar' series have been nominated by the children of NSW for many years. We are lucky to have Richard as a long standing supporter of the KOALA Awards. Richard Tulloch is a KOALA Legend.

Morris Gleitzman (2006)

Morris was admitted to the ranks of Legend at the 20th Birthday Awards Celebration witnessed with applause but some 300 children from the greater Sydney region. Morris revealed later that 'becoming a KOALA Legend is one of my proudest achievements. I’ll treasure it.'

Morris's 'Misery guts', 'Two weeks with the queen', 'Worry wart' and 'Blabber mouth' are all listed in the KOALA Hall of Fame. In 1997 'Water wings' won the KOALA Award for the Older Readers Category. Morris Gleitzman truly is a KOALA Legend.

Kim Gamble (2007)

Kim Gamble is the illustrator of fourteen books that have been shortlisted for KOALA. First shortlisted in 1993 for The Magnificent Nose and other Marvels - the beginning of a great partnership with author Anna Fienberg. Horrendo's Curse, The Hottest Boy who ever lived, and some of the stories about Minton have all been shortlisted but his most popular books are the stories about Tashi written by Anna and her mother Barbara. Sometimes three Tashi books have been shortlisted in the same year. In 2003 The Big, Big, Big Book of Tashi won a Kids Own Australian Literature Award in the Younger Readers Category.

Kim regularly attends Awards Day and on several occasions we have watched him draw a fabulous picture which has then been given to a lucky school. Kim has willingly provided illustrations for our latest bookmark, our 21st birthday library bag and for the birthday invitations.

We should also acknowledge the wonderful illustrations Kim does for the NSW School Magazine.

Kim Gamble is truly a KOALA Legend.

Pamela Allen (2008)

Pamela Allen's picture books are popular with kids of all ages. She was first shortlisted for KOALA in 1987, our very first year, with Who sank the boat? Since then she has been shortlisted 13 times. Her most popular books are Belinda and Mr McGee and the biting flea which are both in the KOALA Hall of Fame. Although she lives in New Zealand Pamela has attended many KOALA Awards Day, flying over to Sydney especially to join in AWards Day. She is a true KOALA Legend.