On the 7th September every year, National Threatened Species Day honors the 1936 death of the last known Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine), to raise awareness of all our native species currently staring down extinction.

Day of the Species is a national community art project devised to start conversations around Australia’s appalling record for biodiversity loss. Originally planned to coincide with National Threatened Species Day and the 20th anniversary of the EPBC Act, the project has evolved into an ongoing, interactive exhibition with sights on traveling the country.

At the close of 2020, EVERY SINGLE ONE of our 1,805 national threatened species, listed in the federal government’s laws for Nature, known as the EPBC Act, has been hand-crafted onto pieces of upcycled cardboard packaging. Over 200 art and nature lovers from across the country and a couple from the UK (Aussie expats) have rendered nature’s most vulnerable into tiny 2D existence (3 x 7cm ) using textas, paints, coloured pencils and even collage.

In early February 2020, with unprecedented fires still burning in parts of Australia, I decided to put a bit more effort into what I was calling the Day of the Species project that I started out of frustration the day after the 2019 federal election.

On 19th May, 2019 I cut a 3 x 7 cm rectangle from the back of tea bag box and timed myself to draw the endangered spotted-tail quoll onto the back of it. Twenty minutes to do a very rough, very average, weird little drawing.

2020 was the 20 year anniversary of the EPBC Act. In February of that year I did a call out on social media asking for help to draw all the flora and fauna on the threatened species list – 1,799 at the time. The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria really helped me kick start the public response but over the long Covid lockdown months the project attracted a broad range of participants – professional artists, designers, students, botanical illustrators, academics, architects, fiction writers, therapists, ecologists, park rangers, climate activists and a lone dentist.

Day of the Species was set to launch in September 2020 in Melbourne. A world-wide pandemic stepped in to make sure that didn’t happen. Not deterred, I decided to do a trial run of the project and turned my sister’s granny flat on the central coast of NSW into a gallery space. With strict CoVid regulations in place, forty or so people got to witness the extraordinary sight of all our threatened species in the one surreal ecosystem of a small, modified room. You can see some of the process, artworks and exhibition highlights on my IG account @dayofthespecies.

As of January 2022 there are 1,839 threatened flora and fauna – all have bar the latest nine have been illustrated. I’ve made a 15 minute film about the project and a shorter version that can be found here.

Australia has outdated, ineffectual nature laws that aren’t protecting our species and don’t adequately address climate change. We are long overdue for a complete overhaul of the system. You can read a rundown of why the EPBC Act is broken on my blog post The Long List of Neglect.

We need to upgrade our weak nature laws to save our species.


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