A FINANCIALLY stricken, rundown, rabbit-infested farm was Susan Campbell’s introduction to life in the country.
The Toorak-raised landscape architect could be forgiven for wishing to return to the city, but instead she accepted those challenges and her successful fightback is reflected in today’s honours.
She has received an Order of Australia Medal for service to conservation and the environment.
It’s a long way from 1966 when she and her husband Sandy bought a property at Byawatha, near Wangaratta.
“It was rundown and rabbit-ridden, but it was the only one we could afford and it was somewhere we thought we could make a difference,” Mrs Campbell said.
“It wasn’t making much of a profit, there was half a sheep to an acre, and it was looked down upon by the neighbours.
“It had a sign on the gate saying ‘all shooters, please come in’ when we bought it because of the rabbits.”
Mrs Campbell’s efforts to rid the farm of rabbits and revegetate the land were reflective of her determination to foster environmental works.
It’s a passion which has seen her chair Conservation Volunteers Australia and a Victorian Farmers Federation farm trees and Landcare committee and receive the Rural Press Landcare Primary Producer Award.
She has also been part of Greening Australia, the Victorian Farm Tree and Landcare Association, North East Catchment and Land Protection Board and on committees for the National Rabbit Project and Australian Wool Innovation’s rabbit advisory committee.
Mrs Campbell said she was particularly proud of her work with Conservation Volunteers Australia, which has seen her involved in the Green Corps and Green Army environmental projects involving welfare recipients.
She has also been to China to assist with a panda habitat project and is bound for Gallipoli to volunteer with ushering on Anzac Day this year.
Mrs Campbell’s personal passion for the environment was also reflected in her career as a landscape architect, which included a 16-year stint at the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. She oversaw more than 2 million trees being planted in locales such as Willow Park in Wodonga.
“When I look back and think what it looked like, it’s like a dream come true,” Mrs Campbell said of the transformation in tree numbers across the North East.