For one of Ballarat’s biggest animal sanctuaries, there are 280 hungry mouths to feed at any one time.
At Wala Animal Sanctuary in Smythes Creek, volunteers head to more than five call outs from the public and other animal services per day.
Cases can range from injured native wildlife to abandoned domestic pets and even wayward livestock.
Wala Animal Sanctuary owner Karen Pohlner runs the sanctuary which opened in 2000 out of her home with partner Vince Lutjohn.
She said she’d always felt the need to be an advocate for the animals.
“I had always been the child that brought home the stray animal or picked up the bird off the side of the road,” she said. “As far as operating the sanctuary, it started organically.”
“I just started collecting animals… and went through whole process of getting a license to be a wildlife carer through another shelter in Melbourne.”
Ms Pohlner will speak at a buffet dinner at the Ballarat Vegan Festival on January 20, with performances on the night by Paige Duggan and Wayne Parker.
The festival will run from January 13-21, with an art exhibition, workshops and a community picnic scheduled during the week.
Ms Pohlner now looks after more than 2000 different wild animals each year. She said her talk at the festival would focus on the struggles of following a passion without remuneration.
“It sort of just snowballed, because people start to get your number and know what you do,” she said.
“Over the course of many years, I’ve developed a relationship with the vets around town and the wildlife park.
“Even on Christmas Day, the police were ringing me about a kangaroo.
“It’s nice that people see an animal, and instead of driving past, they realise there’s someone they can call. It’s about giving the general public back their compassion.
“The problem is I’m a volunteer, I don’t do this as a job. It’s a lot of food, a lot of medication and a lot of vet bills.
“But I’m doing it so a joey doesn’t die unnecessarily and gets a second chance.
“At the end of the day, that’s my legacy.”
Now in its third year, the Ballarat Vegan Festival will kick off with an opening gala and art exhibition launch at Backspace Gallery on January 13 at 2pm. Local rockabilly band The Mary Gardens will perform at the event.
The exhibition will be open throughout the week-long event, showcasing artwork from around the Ballarat region with a central theme of compassion for animals.
An acoustic concert at Backspace Gallery on January 16 will feature singer-songwriter Peggy Hills, with a talk her sister, animal justice advocate Anna Hills.