Environment and community are two of Fran Corner’s greatest passions.
For the past 30 years, following her retirement from teaching, Ms Corner has combined those two passions, dedicating her time to environmental and community groups on the Tilligerry Peninsula.
“If you don’t have committees in the community what do you have? Nothing,” Ms Corner said.
“The world isn’t as good as it could be, but we can make it better. I think being part of community groups is a way of doing that.”
Ms Corner, who has lived in Tanilba Bay for 44 years, became one of the foundation members of the Tilligerry Habitat when she joined a group of people in the early 1990s who, like her, wanted to restore the vegetation at an old sand mine site.
The Tilligerry Habitat Association was established in 1993.
Up until last year when she stepped down as president and away from the Habitat, Ms Corner and countless other volunteers had dedicated thousands of hours in regenerating the former sand mine site into the thriving bushland and tourist spot that it is today.
About the same time that she joined the Habitat, Ms Corner became a member of the Tanilba Bay Parks, Reserves and Hall Committee then in 1996 she joined Tilligerry Landcare Group.
For the past 30 years Ms Corner has also been the coordinator for the peninsula’s Clean Up Australia events.
In 2010 Ms Corner was named the Port Stephens Citizen of the Year.
Two years later, in 2012, she became chair of the Tilligerry Community Association which organises the annual Tilligerry Festival. It is a position she still holds.
It is for her service to the community of Port Stephens that Ms Corner was recognised in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours list, receiving a Medal of the Order (OAM).
“It was quite a surprise,” Ms Corner said on learning she had been nominated.
“It’s a great privilege and a great honour to be recognised.
“I really hope it’s going to let me do more about the issues that I’m passionate about. I hope it will expand what I do to a degree or give recognition to the people I’ve worked with over the years doing similar things.”
Environment has always been a passion for Ms Corner who was one of the final principals of the now dilapidated Williamtown Public School.
Before retiring in the early 2000s, Ms Corner would ask her students to plant trees on the school grounds.
“Teachers need to be passionate about something otherwise the kids run all over you,” she said.
“I was always interested in environment and that also gave the kids something to be interested in.
“If you got them to plant a tree it grounded them in something more than the world is black and the environment is going to be destroyed. They can at least say ‘well, I planted a tree’.
“We planted trees all over Williamtown school. It was a lovely school. Now look at it. It’s a terrible waste.”
The Tilligerry Landcare Group is working on planting 2266 koala suitable trees on the peninsula by July.