A new pathway in Anna Bay has been named after the late Port Stephens councillor Shirley O'Brien in recognition of her community contributions.
The Shirley O'Brien Path, which runs along Gan Gan Road from Nelson Bay Road to James Patterson Street, was officially opened on Thursday in honour of the passionate community leader who died in October 2019.
"Shirley's passing left a huge hole in the local community," Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said at a ceremony to open the path on July 15.
"She served her community as a councillor, was a founding member of the Birubi Surf Life Saving Club and was actively involved in helping to make Anna Bay a better place.
"This new pathway has helped to better connect the community of Anna Bay, making it safer for our local residents to access the shops and services. It's a wonderful tribute to Shirley and the way she connected our community."
Affectionately known as 'Aunty Shirl', Mrs O'Brien died after a short illness at her Williamtown home aged 75. More than 200 people attended her funeral at Anna Bay Lawn Cemetery.
Mrs O'Brien was elected as a central ward councillor in 2008. She served a full four-year term till 2012.
She was also heavily involved in social organisations such as the Maori Culture Club and the Anna Bay Fishing Club.
Close family friend Tiani Bishop, who attended the opening ceremony on Thursday alongside Mrs O'Brien's husband, PEter, said that New Zealand-born Mrs O'Brien had maintained a close connection with her Maori heritage.
"Aunty Shirl helped form the Maori culture group in 2000 in Williamtown, where she would teach the children Maori culture song and dance, fondly known as the haka boogie," Ms Bishop said.
After losing her son to a tragic skateboarding accident, Mrs O'Brien became passionate about safety and was a driving force behind the construction of the Anna Bay skate park at Robinson Reserve.
"She became a fierce advocate for riders to have a safe place to skate away from the roads and to wear helmets and she would educate children at schools," Ms Bishop said.
Councillor Chris Doohan raised a notice of motion in June 2020 to have the new pathway named after Mrs O'Brien.
"Shirley was a wonderful lady who was incredibly community-minded," he said.
"Aunty Shirl... was a strong advocate for this pathway to better connect the villages near Nelson Bay Road to the town centre.
"She would be absolutely delighted, with that cheeky grin on her face, if she could see this pathway today. Aunty Shirl was very passionate about this project, as she saw it as the connection link for all people with all abilities and all ages in the expanding Anna Bay village.
"Naming this footpath on behalf of Shirley O'Brien is an honour and pleasure. I hope many generations to come will walk the Shirley O'Brien Path and appreciate all she has done for our community."
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