Skydiving world record breaker Julia McConnel has spent her life jumping out of planes all over the world but insists her hometown of Moruya on the NSW South Coast is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy her sport.
Ms McConnel is one of six South East residents recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list, awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to parachuting.
“I was surprised for being nominated. So when I was actually awarded, it was just a lot of disbelief and shock,” she said.
After her first experience of tandem skydiving at 19, Ms McConnel was hooked, soon dedicating her life to the sport and lifestyle.
Among her achievements are several world records, including the 100 Way Canopy Formation where 100 skydivers jumped out of a plane and linked their parachutes into a diamond formation in Florida, 2007.
“That 100-way world record was one of the biggest highlights. Thinking about it now is making my heart beat,” the 44-year-old said.
Alongside her significant record-breaking achievements is her contribution to increasing safety within the sport through work with the Australian Parachute Federation.
Meanwhile Bega Valley Shire Council general manager Leanne Barnes OAM said she was “absolutely blown away” by her recognition in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours List for her work after the Black Summer bushfires.
Ms Barnes received a Public Service Medal for “outstanding public service to local government in New South Wales”.
“In the Black Summer bushfires, Bega sort of stepped up and took a leadership role,” she said.
“We went through unprecedented times — no-one has been through times like that — but we just said ‘hey, we’ve got to get on with it’.”
Ms Barnes is set to wrap up her role as general manager in July after 19 years with the council and said it was humbling to receive a reward for her work within the community.
Ms Barnes and Ms Connel are among a record number of women to receive an award this year.
The late Matthew Deveson was also awarded an OAM for his service to the Narooma community on the NSW South Coast through his work with the local business chamber.
Mr Deveson was a founding member of the Narooma and District Chamber of Commerce and Tourism from 2007 and the Narooma Oyster Festival from 2008.
President of the Narooma Chamber Dr JOpen in Tabenny Munro worked alongside Mr Deveson before he lost his battle with cancer in May this year.
“And the contribution that he made was absolutely remarkable, so his Order of Australia Medal is just such a worthy acknowledgement.”
Among the other South East residents recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birhday awards was Batemans Bay Chief Inspector Gregory Flood. He received an Australian Police Medal for his work during the 2018 Tathra Bushfires and his leadership in the Black Summer bushfires.
John Williams from Cooma was recognised for his service to the merino wool industry, and Jennifer Thompson for her contribution to the Batemans Bay community.
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