Port Stephens Koalas president Carmel Northwood is MP Kate Washington's Local Woman of the Year

REFLECTION: Port Stephens Koalas president Carmel Northwood thinks back on her time as a carer and rescuer, which has led to her recognition as Port Stephens Local Woman of the  Year. Picture: Sam Norris
REFLECTION: Port Stephens Koalas president Carmel Northwood thinks back on her time as a carer and rescuer, which has led to her recognition as Port Stephens Local Woman of the Year. Picture: Sam Norris

Any volunteer work worth doing comes with significant sacrifice.

Port Stephens Koalas president Carmel Northwood knows it, as much as the rest of her team and even her husband Brian.

The receipt of the Port Stephens Local Woman of the Year Award on Friday recognised Mrs Northwood’s tireless efforts.

Even if the award presentation meant the couple was delayed from a rare weekend getaway.

“My husband’s become used to ‘koala interruptus’,” Mrs Northwood said.

“Receiving the award doesn’t just give recognition, it enables me to highlight the work everyone does and most of all, it highlights the plight of the koalas.”

Mrs Northwood joined Port Stephens Koalas as a carer and rescuer in 2010.

Under her leadership, plans for a koala hospital for Port Stephens have progressed and there's been an increased awareness of the issues faced by our local koala population.

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said there could be no more deserving a recipient than Mrs Northwood, a real “quiet, caring achiever”.

“Carmel is a tireless advocate for our local koalas [when] many people don’t realise how close to extinction these precious animals are,” Ms Washington said.

“Carmel, and her team at Port Stephens Koalas, put in the hard yards to nurse koalas back to health. And it can be heartbreaking when the outcomes are poor.”

Ms Washington pointed to surveys that suggested koala numbers in Port Stephens had fallen from 1200 to as low as 200 in the past five years.

“We are so fortunate to have Carmel and her caring team, doing all that they so that koalas will be seen in the wild by our children's children,” Ms Washington said. 

Mrs Northwood along with koala care and rescue coordinator Simon Aurino recently recruited more volunteers.

“We got 16 new people from our shout out in the Examiner [in Feburary) and we inducted them last Saturday [February 25],” Mrs Northwood said.

“It really helped us bring more support carers and leaf collectors on board.”

Mrs Northwood represents Port Stephens Koalas at meetings of the NSW Wildlife Council and the Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management at Port Stephens Council.

She is also an educator, presenting to the public in a number of forums, such as a talk and demonstration at local schools and festivals.

One carer stated: “You can either give up, or dig your heels in and go hard, which is what Carmel’s done in her own quiet way”.

Mrs Northwood is now in the running for NSW Woman of the Year which will be announced at Barangaroo on Wednesday.