Conservation work earns Dunbogan environmentalist Sue Baker OAM in Queen’s birthday honours

Conservation work earns Dunbogan environmentalist Sue Baker OAM in Queen’s birthday honours

For more than two decades, Sue Baker has dedicated her life to rehabilitating degraded bushland across the New South Wales Mid North Coast — and it has earnt her one of the country’s highest honours.

Sue Baker, 71, has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her conservation work
She founded the Dunbogan Bush Care Group, which has rehabilitated 10 kilometres of coastline
A former geography teacher, she is also writing textbooks to educate children about the environment
Ms Baker moved to the small coastal town of Dunbogan in 1999 and immediately noticed parts of the region were overwhelmed by weeds and bushland was severely degraded.

“I always said that the first thing I was going to do when I got here was set up a Landcare group and get rid of the mess of weeds along the break wall,” she said.

Ms Baker founded the Dunbogan Bush Care Group in February that year, and the group started regenerating the peninsula.

“We’ve put in several thousand plants here,” she said.

“It once had no plants whatsoever and it’s a thrill to look at it now. We’ve almost got a closed [rainforest] canopy.

“It’s been beautiful to see the birds and wildlife return.”

Ms Baker and the group didn’t stop there; they expanded their conservation work about 10 kilometres south to Crowdy Bay National Park.

“It’s become a huge habitat corridor,” she said.

“It’s amazing to look at how far we’ve got and what we’ve achieved.”

At 71 years of age, Ms Baker has no plans to stop anytime soon.

“I say to my volunteers, we’re going to be down here in our wheelchairs when we can no longer hobble about,” she said.

Order of Australia
Ms Baker has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her work, which extended beyond her time with the Dunbogan Bush Care group.

“I’m very excited. The way I see it is the recognition of everyone’s work,” she said.

“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Ms Baker has also been a Bush Regeneration Officer with NSW National Parks since 2000 and is a founding member of Conservation Volunteers Australia.

“I never would’ve envisioned a life like this … I had no real clue, just an interest in geography,” she said.

For 19 years, Ms Baker was a geography teacher.

“Through teaching, I became aware of how degraded many of the world’s environments were and I was teaching children about it, but I thought ‘Well, hang on, I’m not doing anything’,” she said.

“So, that’s when I started getting active, back in the 1980s.”

In addition to her Diploma of Education, Ms Baker has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Environmental Science and a Certificate in Horticulture.

She has also co-authored seven geography textbooks, with more on the way.

“I’m writing a series of textbooks to educate children on the environment,” she said.

“I think the next generation has a strong interest in the environment … It’s important to keep this work going.”

Minister for Environment James Griffin said Ms Baker’s tireless work deserved recognition.

“Her dedication reminds us that we can each make a significant difference to our local environment through the individual choices we make,” he said.