We Found The Lady Who Dresses Tasmania’s Giant Penguin
In the small town of Penguin in Northern Tasmania lives a three-metre tall concrete penguin that's been dressed up in bespoke clothes for the past 20 years. We found the mastermind behind the fits: it’s time to meet Shirly Good.
In Northern Tasmania, you’ll find the town of Penguin — one that undeniably lives up to its name.
The town is adorned with penguins everywhere, from the penguin shaped pastry on the top of the pies at the local bakery, to the posts marking the zebra (or is it penguin?) crossing.
But at the centre of the town, is the magnum opus: a giant, three-metre tall penguin statue.
It’s no secret that Australians simply love big things from The Big Banana, The Big Prawn, and The Big Merino being just a few examples.
While the Big Penguin falls within the canon of beloved big things, it boasts a unique element that undoubtedly sets it apart from its competitors: an eclectic and iconic wardrobe.
All year round, the Big Penguin is dressed to the nines in seasonally appropriate fits. Whether it’s a Santa suit for Christmas or a bunny outfit for Easter, this penguin really has it all. But who is the mastermind behind the fits?
Meet unsung Australian icon Shirly Good.
Shirly has been living in the Penguin municipality her whole life, and at the age of 70, she’s a fixture of the town. Many years ago, the local council asked her to create a Santa costume for the penguin, and well, the rest was history. Two decades later, Good has knocked up over 15 outfits for the big fella.
“I go down the street and you’d think it’ll only take five minutes — but it takes me half an hour to go down and come back. People I don’t know even speak to me, but they know me. It’s such a beautiful little community that we live in,” says Good.
The town of Penguin takes its name from Australia’s little fairy penguins, and the statue in the centre of the town was erected in 1975 to commemorate the centenary of the town.
The giant penguin is made out of concrete and fibreglass, and is one of the most photographed landmarks in Tasmania.
“It’s getting more and more popular with tourism here in Penguin,” Good tells me.
“Everybody likes to have a photo. My husband helps me put [the outfits] on, and we’ve been putting it on and people are wanting to take photos of us dressing him, or even a photo of me once it’s dressed,” laughs Good. I say, ‘you don’t need me in it’, but they want it.”
As we chat about the outfits she’s created over the decades, Shirly tells me that her favourite outfit is the ‘penguin in pink’ garment she dresses the penguin in during October for raising awareness about breast cancer.
“It’s a sentimental one because I’ve had breast cancer myself and everybody’s been touched by cancer.”
The penguin outfits have been evolving over the past 20 years: while Shirly used to require 22 metres of material and 45 hours sewing time, Shirly has the design down to a fine art — whittling down her fabric to just eight metres and her sewing time to five hours.
A love for the giant penguin runs deep for residents and tourists alike, and rumour has it that — sorry ladies (!) — big penguin is taken. Local lore says that the giant penguin is married to the smaller penguin statue that lives at the information centre on the other side of the street.
At the heart of regional towns all over Australia are local icons that make the town what it is, and for the small town of Penguin, that icon is Shirly Good.