Bird flu no laughing matter for Kooka and Gumnut

We’re pretty sure you know who wrote and illustrated Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, but did you know that the same author also designed posters for baby clinics?

Well, this drawing of a kookaburra and a gumnut baby each with a mask over their mouth was crafted by none other than May Gibbs, and was found in a 1935 government research file that included press cuttings on the influenza epidemic of 1919.

The folios of correspondence, reports, newspaper cuttings and photographs were used in the preparation of a series of official pamphlets called ‘service publications’, published by the health department between 1912 and 1935. The file was maintained by Dr JHL Cumpston, the department’s first Director-General, who would never have imagined the relevance of the drawing today given the recent outbreak of bird flu in Turkey.

Incidentally, Gibbs' posters for baby clinics showed a stork with a kookaburra. The image became synonymous with health and baby care.

© The Spastic Centre of New South Wales and The Northcott Society 2006.
© The Spastic Centre of New South Wales and The Northcott Society 2006. (NAA: CP567/1, Box 4)
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017