Here, Julie, 61, tells the story in her own words.
A￼s the very first rays of sunlight peeked through the gaps in my curtains, I felt a familiar tender nuzzle from little Rosie. She’s snuck into our bed again, the cheeky girl, I thought.
‘It’s your turn,’ I muttered to my sleeping partner, Neville, 52. No response. That man could sleep through anything.
As light filled the room, Rosie became more impatient and I caved. ‘Okay, you little greedy guts. I’m up,’ I said as she excitedly jumped down from the bed. I’d always imagined these days were long past me. After all, it’d been decades since I’d cared for my own babies, Melinda, 43, and Damien, 40. But at 61 years old, I was making up bottles of milk, putting on endless loads of laundry and trying to toilet train my 10-month-old wombat baby!
People think I’m a bit mad but, as I tell everyone, it’s not that different to looking after newborn humans. I’ve adored wombats since I was a little girl growing up on my parent’s dairy farm in Walwa, Victoria. I’ll never forget the day my dad, Bill, brought home the most beautiful baby wombat. I fell in love and wouldn’t leave her side. After that, I always dreamed of being able to care for wombats.
Finally realising my dream five years ago, I started my own wildlife shelter from my home in Corryong, Victoria. I’ve since been the proud foster mum to 12 wonderful wombats. In total I’ve spent $12,000 caring for them all, buying special wombat milk, bringing toys home and taking them to the vet. But it’s worth it to see them so happy and healthy.
Rosie came into my life after her mum was hit by a car and left for dead. Luckily someone checked her mum’s pouch and they brought Rosie to my shelter.
My girl has been with us for eight months and has become a real part of the family. ‘Give mummy kisses,’ I say to her and she’ll pop up her head to give me a smooch.That’s the thing about wombats, they’re such loving creatures. ‘She has to be the most spoilt wombat in the world,’ my friends will tell me. And they’re right.
After I come home from my part-time cleaning job, Neville and I sit down to watch telly and Rosie will jump up onto my lap. ‘Time for bed,’ I’ll say to Neville and off we go to the bedroom, with Rosie following closely behind. ‘No, you have to go in your cot, naughty girl,’ I’ll tell her, then I put her in her cot to sleep. But I’ll often wake up in the middle of the night to find her spooning me after she’s found her way into our bed.
I know one day she’ll be all grown up and I’ll have to say goodbye, but for now we’re enjoying every second of nursing Rosie back to good health. When she’s big enough, we’ll release her into the bush near our house. Just like when my human babies turned into adults, there comes a time when you need to let them go. But just like I told my kids, I’ll never stop loving them and my door – and my heart – is always open.
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