A quintessential Canberran: Dianne Firth receives Queen's Birthday honour
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A quintessential Canberran: Dianne Firth receives Queen's Birthday honour

When Dianne Firth first moved to Canberra four decades ago, she couldn't have imagined just how much the city would mean for her career and family.

A recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia in Monday's Queen's Birthday honours, the Canberra University adjunct associate professor's personal and professional history reads like a map of the capital, combining her expertise in landscape design, education, the arts and history.

Queen's Birthday honours recipient Dianne Firth.

Queen's Birthday honours recipient Dianne Firth.Credit:Karleen Minney

In the dark about who nominated her, Dr Firth said she was "deeply honoured and a bit exposed" by the recognition.

An artist and author, the mother of three is a recognised expert on Canberra's landscape and Lake Burley Griffin, a fellow of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, deputy chair of the ACT Heritage Council, a member of the Land Development Agency's design review panel, a former member of Canberra's place names committee and a former chair of the National Capital Authority's expert reference group.

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A champion of Lake Burley Griffin: Dianne Firth in the 1990s

A champion of Lake Burley Griffin: Dianne Firth in the 1990s

She has written a range of publications on the city and been recognised for her oral history on the gardens of Old Parliament House and design work for the childcare centre at new Parliament House.

"I've tried to give back to the community during my life here," she said. "This city is such a special city and I feel very proud about it and I've tried to give back to make it even better.

"For my whole working life, I've worked in landscape architecture and education, and it's just something that you do. I've had a good education and good opportunities and I've always tried to share those things with others."

After decades of working with students around the country and visiting her children in Berlin, Sydney and Melbourne, Dr Firth said her real passion for Canberra comes in part from travel.

"Other places I've been around the world help me see what we've done here, it's a city by design. It's people that have contributed to what we have in Canberra."

"Living here, having children here, we picnicked by the lake and sailed in a little boat and canoes. If you are making landscapes and you realise the history of a place you use, that's very exciting and something you can share with other people," she said.

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The gong is "just the icing on the cake," she said. "It says 'Dianne, keep on doing what you're doing."

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Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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