Eileen Pittaway says it is sheer "bloody mindedness" that has driven her efforts to improve the plight of refugees worldwide.
The Leura resident has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for work that has taken her to some of the most dangerous and poverty stricken places on the planet, most recently in her role as director of the Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) at the University of NSW.
That position and a myriad of others over a career spanning decades has been approached with zeal despite the seemingly insurmountable problems faced by refugees in "hell hole" camps in Africa as well as those striving to settle and thrive in Australia.
"Some things have definitely changed for the better but there are some days when you think, 'What the hell are we doing?'," said Eileen.
The utter desolation often encountered in her travels was heartbreakingly illustrated recently by an encounter with a young boy in a Ugandan camp, whose basic command of English meant he was tasked with begging the foreign visitor for help on behalf of his distraught mother.
"A 10-year-old boy translating and explaining to me how his little, tiny sister had been raped, and his mum crying and asking what could we do. This is the life experience in these camps. It's really hard."
Despite the difficulties, Eileen has not wasted the opportunity to push for change through her rare ability to speak to thousands of refugees - particularly women - within camps around the world while also gaining access to high level United Nations meetings.
"It's true to say that I've been so bloody minded about constantly going to the UN, constantly saying, 'Excuse me, refugee women and girls are being . . . systematically raped and sexually abused in conflict in refugee camps and it's got to stop'," she said. "So I think having done that - we've changed laws, we've changed policy, it's on the top of the agenda, there's money going into it, there's programs in place - I think that's what I'm most proud of, just being bloody minded."
That determined approach has also been deployed within Australia through Eileen and the CRR's work to assist refugee families - many who have spent years in the dysfunctional camps - settling into new lives in Australia.
Eileen said with so many newly arrived refugees speaking little English and having no experience of Western life, providing assistance through counselling and education was a vital service.
The overwhelming majority of asylum seekers Eileen has encountered are genuinely committed to contributing to their new home.
"We've got kids who come here at 15 not speaking English and get university places three years later. There's a real drive to succeed and to do well because they've come from such hell holes," she said.
Having been born in England, Eileen said being made a Member of the Order made her feel like she was now truly part of Australia, though years of representing her adopted country around the world had surely already confirmed that.
"It's a huge honour but I see it as, I'm getting it, but for all of my staff, for all of the people I work with, for all of the women - That's what it's for. I feel as if I'm getting it on their behalf."