The pioneering Blue Mountains environmentalist, educator and author, Margaret Baker, has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2022 Australia Day Awards.
Mrs Baker, who lives in Winmalee, receives the honour for services to conservation and the environment. She has been a volunteer conservationist since the 1970s and is a long-time member of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, having served as president and vice-president. She was named a life member of the society in 2018.
"I am incredibly honoured and sincerely humbled to receive this award," she said. "When I started teaching adults in the Blue Mountains in 1983 I had no thought that a career sharing things I love in a place of special personal significance would expand out to nearly four decades and influence so many people in both paid and volunteer positions in so many organisations."
She is also an active member of Blue Mountains Random Meanderers, a special group of women trained in native plant identification and vegetation community surveys, providing biodiversity data to several environmental bodies. It was the Meanderers who nominated her for the OAM - and members of the group were trained by Mrs Baker at TAFE.
"The award is a validation of the importance of the volunteer work that I have been involved in with a number of groups on aspects of our region's natural environment and its biodiversity," she said. "I am especially delighted to have been nominated by an amazing and supportive group of women, the Blue Mountains Random Meanderers, with whom I spend weekly bushland forays in the interest of expanding scientific knowledge about our native plants and their communities."
She has also been involved with the Australian Plants Society, the Blue Mountains Bird Observers and the Bushcare Network, organisations that have benefitted from Mrs Baker's articles and illustrated talks.
In 2020, Mrs Baker was named as the inaugural Environmental Citizen of the Year by Blue Mountains City Council. She is also a widely published author and editor of texts on environmental themes, including several books.
Mrs Baker grew up in Newcastle and spent the bulk of her career as a teacher of environmental and ecological subjects (including at Katoomba TAFE). She counts among her most notable achievements this role in education, describing it as "a great privilege to have spent more than 40 years fostering knowledge and respect of the environment and its sustainable management," adding that she hopes to continue her vital work.