Bitter battle for kangaroos changes Hervey Bay man's life
WHEN Hervey Bay's Colin Candy and his family found a dead kangaroo by the side of the road in the outback Queensland town of Mitchell, he never imagined how the discovery would change his life.
His daughter raised the joey they found inside the pouch of the dead mother and they all grew to love the red roo, which they named after the town where he was found.
Initially the family had acquired a permit to raise Mitchell, but when the permit expired, they did not seek a new one.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife officers raided their home in early 2001 and took Mitchell away, sparking a 12-year court battle as Colin tried to assert his right to own native animals.
Red roos, he argued to the courts, were not a protected species.
People kill the animals to sell for the meat, so why couldn't he own one and keep it in his backyard if he chose to?
It is a principle that has led Colin through several court cases, countless appeals and now all the way to the High Court of Australia, where he will represent himself.
Soon after Mitchell was taken from their home, the Candy family were told he had died.
Colin now believes this was untrue.
He says Mitchell is still alive and he has evidence he is now at Australia Zoo.
Colin said he and his family were shattered when Mitchell was taken from them.
"We had him for 11 months and he was one of the family," Colin said.
After losing Mitchell, the family soon had another roo.
A man found a dead swamp wallaby by the side of the River Heads Rd.
He had heard about the family's loss of Mitchell through the media and he called the family to let them know there had been a joey in the pouch.
Colin and his daughter went to the side of the road and retrieved the joey, which they named Marcy.
They applied for another permit to care for the animal and were approved.
Rangers checked up on the family periodically. Again the permit lapsed, but this time the family applied for another one.
But on November 30, 2001, rangers again raided the family's home.
Marcy was taken away; again Colin fought to get her back. The next year, the Candys were told Marcy had died.
Colin saw the autopsy reports and said he believed the roo in the photos was Marcy.
As Colin continued to fight legal battles regarding the actions of the State Government, a third kangaroo named Jody came into their care.
This joey was brought to them by a commercial shooter who had killed the joey's mother and then rescued the joey, which went against guidelines requiring that the joey also be killed.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, Colin is now in possession of a series of emails between members of the Environmental Protection Agency, making it clear there was intent to perform a raid and seize Jody too.
But this time nature intervened before the State Government could.
Jody grew ill and was found to have a paralysis tick. She died under the care of a veterinarian.
Since then Colin has continued the practice of asking commercial shooters to recover joeys for him.
Most refused, but one agreed to do it.
He now has five kangaroos, four of them from shooters. Colin admits to it freely and says he has nothing to hide.
There is no doubt the 12-year saga has had a damaging and tragic effect on his life.
He was once close to his eldest daughter. The two are now estranged and he has not spoken to her in years.
His marriage dissolved in 2005, which he says was in large part due to the emotional and financial pressure of the raids by the State Government and the legal battles he waged in retaliation.
He remembers incidents when he was out of the home and his family would hear a knock at the door and hide under the bed with the kangaroo, terrified of another raid.
Because of the financial strain of travelling between Hervey Bay and Brisbane to attend court, Colin had to sell his home.
He now rents a home in Torquay and says the person who owns it knows the kangaroos are there.
"There's nothing secret about it," he said.
The emotional strain of the last 12 years has been hard on Colin.
He says he has struggled with depression and admits he even attempted suicide at one point.
"I drank a fair bit," he said. "I'm trying to cut back on that now."
He regrets the loss of his relationship with his daughter and says the last 12 years of his life have been made a misery.
"I've never seen my grand-daughter," he said.
The court cases have left Colin on the edge of bankruptcy. He knows if he loses the next case he may be left with no other option.
But he doesn't yet feel it is time to give up.
"Where do you draw the line?" he says.
With no money left for expensive lawyers, Colin intends to represent himself when the case goes to the High Court and fears it may be a distinct disadvantage when it comes to putting forward his argument.
He is seeking compensation for mental anguish, the loss of his home and the loss of the kangaroos.
After years of failed court cases, he has no way of knowing if this appeal will be any different.
But he remains optimistic.
If he wins, he dreams of being able to buy his own property again, where the kangaroos would be able to come in and out of the house as they wished, which isn't possible at his rental home.
As well as compensation, Colin says he is also fighting for the rights of others who take native animals into their homes as orphans and wish to keep them as pets.
He thinks people should be able to keep the animals without a permit and there should be an acknowledgement that the animal has become domesticated in those circumstances. That is something he continues to fight for.
And while he does, Colin will continue to enjoy the company of his kangaroos.