FROM a very young age, Monica Morse was taught that you should be part of the community that you live in.
It's a lesson that has stayed with her throughout her entire life, and it's that mentality that has helped to earn her an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for service to local government and to the community of Bathurst.
"It's so exciting. I couldn't believe it when I was told," she said.
Mrs Morse was born in Hampshire, England and has lived in multiple countries before settling in Bathurst in 1984.
She studied a Bachelor of Communication at Mitchell College, now known as Charles Sturt University, and never found herself lured away from Bathurst.
Mrs Morse would be best known for her role as a Bathurst Regional councillor, a position she has held since being elected in 2008, but she also has a long list of community groups she has been involved with to aid in the betterment of Bathurst.
She is the convenor of the Bathurst War Memorial Carillon Working Group and president of the Friends of the Bathurst War Memorial Carillon, a board member of Arts Out West, a patron of the Bathurst Harness Racing Club and is the former chair of the Bathurst Chamber Orchestra.
She has also had involvement with 2MCE, Meals on Wheels, Bathurst Salvation Army, Bathurst Relay for Life, the Cathedral of Saint Michael and St John, and is the council delegate to a long list of groups.
Her involvement with council began with a job as a special projects officer, which opened her eyes to local government and set her on a path to becoming a councillor.
"I did a heap of really exciting things and because I did that I knew a lot about what council does," she said.
"It's not just rates, roads and rubbish, it does a lot for the community."
Five years after being elected as a councillor, in late 2012, Mrs Morse stood for the position of mayor and was successful, holding the position for a year.
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One of the challenges Mrs Morse has faced is being, for a long time, the only female councillor, and not just in Bathurst.
"For five years, I was the only woman in Bathurst, Blayney and Orange, and that is very hard going," she said.
It has made her passionate about finding more women to run as candidates for council and, with her confirming she will not be running again in 2020, it has become more important than ever that more women step up.
The OAM award has come as Mrs Morse is closing the book on her career in local government, but she says the award is not her's alone.
"The fact that my efforts have been acknowledged for council, it doesn't happen without the council staff," she said.
"The council staff make the councillors look good, the staff are the ones doing a lot of the work.
"The fact I've been given an award reflects the efforts of our council directors and our general manager."
On Australia Day, Mrs Morse looks forward to sharing the news of her OAM with her family, as it has been kept a closely guarded secret from everyone except her husband, Michael.
Combined, the couple have five children from previous marriages, and seven grandchildren.
Mrs Morse plans to have the whole family around to celebrate the news of her award, and it's an achievement she hopes they will be proud of.