Order of Australia Medal awarded to Hopetoun local

Order of Australia Medal recipient Merle Bennett. Photo: Supplied.

Order of Australia Medal recipient Merle Bennett. Photo: Supplied.

A Hopetoun local and passionate conservationist has received an Order of Australia Medal in the 2019 Queen's Birthday Honour list.

Merle Bennett was recognised "for service to conservation and the environment".

Mrs Bennett has lived in the Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe areas since 1965.

Her husband was a geologist and the couple moved to the area in search of nickel.

Mrs Bennett was awarded the medal for her role in creating the herbarium in Ravensthorpe in the mid to late 90s.

She said the WA Herbarium was looking for regional areas that could help develop their potential and approached the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Festival committee.

"We had no resources and no background to start from. Anything we collected was new to the herbarium," Mrs Bennett said,

"It started off with about eight who were interested in collecting and it dropped down a bit. But it's now escalated back up to a good team who are working well."

Mrs Bennett said the herbarium had helped preserve biodiversity in the Ravensthorpe districts.

"We record specimens. We know what is rare and what is common, so we can focus on the endangered areas," she said.

"We have discovered some new species and we have been involved in reclassifying some that have been named incorrectly."

Mrs Bennett said the herbarium was now an integral part of the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Festival, which displayed and identified between 600 and 700 plants.

Ten days away from her 90th birthday, Mrs Bennett said she had stepped back from the herbarium, but had still maintained an interest.

She said she had a suspicion on who had nominated her for the medal, but didn't know for sure.

"It was very humbling and rather embarrassing because I think there were so many other people who deserved it more than I did. But it's great that biodiversity and environmentalism are being recognised."