Felicity Carter met the news she had received a mention in the year's Queen's Birthday honours with a mixture of surprise, disbelief, humility and honour.
A passionate and dedicated community worker, Felicity has been awarded a prestigious OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for her selfless service to the Great Lakes region.
"There are so many (other) deserving people in this community, I feel doubly honoured to be recognised for just doing something I love and feel so strongly about," she said.
"My passion has always been to try to re-dress some of the imbalances that exist in our society, especially concerning children."
Her passion can be traced back to her school days when she taught a young illiterate next door neighbour how to read.
"I believe every child should have the opportunity to read," she said.
However, her volunteering journey began in earnest 17 years ago after settling permanently on her parents' 200ha Coomba Park cattle property.
Raised and educated primarily in Sydney, Felicity also spent time her early years in Parkes - in the State's Central West - before her dentist dad took the family off to Britain,
After completing her secondary school education she studied agriculture science, specialising in animal husbandry at Sydney University before forging a diverse range of careers in clinical research, human resources and business consulting.
Relocating to the Great Lakes back in 2004 gave Felicity the opportunity to concentrate on her passion; literacy with the establishment of ASHOW, (after school heroes on Wallis) program for primary students.
I am deeply honoured to be recognised on behalf of this group of exceptional people.Felicity Carter
"I was part of a mentoring program in both high schools and was struck by the similarity of difficulties facing teenagers -low literacy and numeracy - as well as lack of confidence and connectedness.
"I wondered why we were waiting till kids were 15, so in 2007, ASHOW for primary students, was created.
"To support ASHOW, it was an easy step to tutoring some of the same students at our local primary school.
"What can be better than seeing a child overcome a previously insurmountable obstacle and gain new confidence and enthusiasm for learning?"
At the same time Felicity began working with talented Aboriginal children who, while in primary school were what she described as good "primary school citizens" , but as soon as they hit high school the wheels fell-off.
Felicity described working with and getting to know Worimi Elders, Janice Paulson, Lynette Davis, Pam Paulson, Steve Brereton, Noeline Lever, Margie Donnelly and educator, Lee Townsend as one of life's greatest joys.
"Working together with these inspirational Elders to create programs supporting education and culture has had a powerful impact on me and changed my life for the better.
"Equally, collaborating on these projects with strong women like Patsy Browne, Margaret Gardner, Elaine Charker and Kylie Honor, also volunteers, makes working across communities so much more effective.
Her passion for literacy, and as a member of the Forster Neighbourhood Centre committee, earned Felicity an invitation from (then) Great Lakes Library manager, Chris Jones (now MidCoast Libraries) to work on an adult literacy project.
With a group of committed volunteers the one-on-one tutoring program was initially introduced to the wider community before being drafted into the Aboriginal community.
It gained immediate traction, she said.
"I felt this one-on-one tutoring by volunteers could be replicated with Aboriginal students and so began a hugely fruitful consultation process with Worimi Elders who agreed and insisted that there was a solid cultural component to our tutoring program not only for the kids, but to ensure tutors gained cultural sensitivity training.
And so, Better Learning, Better Communities (BLBC) was created.
"The value and richness of building-in Aboriginal cultural awareness to BLBC has ensured that not only are Aboriginal children gaining the benefit of a closer connection with Elders, but so is our wider Mid Coast community.
"The opportunity to work with these Elders on collaborative events like Wallis Lake Cultural cruises, the annual Big Sing by the Sea, Baraya-djukal, Garuwa-ga, and most recently a combined singing group Baraya Wakulda (meaning "Singing Together") has enriched my life forever.
"Being able to deliver BLBC at Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service has benefited students and tutors immeasurably.
"I love that the kids walk over to TAMS by themselves to come to BLBC, but personally, as president of Forster Neighbourhood Centre and a board member of Great Lakes Womens Shelter, I can help to keep communication channels open and facilitate co-ordination between us - my greatest motivator, connecting people and services for the greatest benefit of all.
"I am deeply honoured to be recognised on behalf of this group of exceptional people."
- Big Sing Inc, board member, since 2019, supporter and adviser, since 2017.
- Forster Neighbourhood Centre Inc, committee member, since 2013, president, since 2018.
- In partnership with Worimi Elders, founded Baraya-djukal, Garuwa-ga (Big Sing by the Sea) in 2017.
- Founder and volunteer tutor for Aboriginal program Better Learning, Better Communities, since 2016.
- In partnership with Worimi Elders, founded weekly singing group, Baraya Wakulda (Singing Together) since 2018.
- Great Lakes Womens Shelter Inc. committee member, since 2015.
- Coomba Park Community, Founder and co-ordinator for Coomba Park after school program After School Heroes on Wallis (ASHOW), since 2007.
- Volunteer tutor, Pacific Palms Primary School since 2008.