A NSW Government website

Koalas of long ago

Archaeological evidence shows Aboriginal peoples have occupied northern Australia for at least 65,000 years, and many Aboriginal peoples and cultural groups believe they have been in Australia since the start of creation.

It is likely that Aboriginal people lived alongside the giant koala (Phascolarctos stirtoni), which died out about 50,000 years ago. This species was about one-third larger than koalas today.

Fossil evidence of more ancient relatives of the koala are found throughout eastern Australia.

The Riversleigh Rainforest koala (Nimiokoala greystanesi) was smaller than the koalas of today and lived in Riversleigh in central Queensland up to 23 million years ago. Several species of litokoalas occupied the same area around 10 to 15 million years ago. Other extinct relatives of the modern koala include invictokoala, madakoala, koobor, perikoala and priscakoala.


An illustration of an ancient koala


Visit the Australian Museum website to learn more about Australia’s early koala species. Image: Dr Anne Musser.

Aboriginal content on these pages has been compiled and reviewed by the Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council and Flying Fish Blue.

The term ‘First Nations’ recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the sovereign people of this land. It recognises various language groups as separate and unique sovereign nations.