Standing on the slopes of her beloved Farrer Ridge, Wendy Rainbird loves what she sees.
On a clear spring day, she is surrounded by waving grass, wildflowers and eucalypts – some scorched by the fierce 2003 bushfire.
"I do have a passion for beautiful places and beautiful natural places," she says.
She has channelled her passion for the environment into working tirelessly for more than two decades to help preserve and improve this part of Canberra, as Farrer Ridge ParkCare co-ordinator.
The Farrer Ridge ParkCare group was instrumental in setting up a signposted walk around the much-loved ridge and now Wendy Rainbird delights in taking groups of visitors for walking tours along the tracks to see flowers blooming in spring.
"This year I went around in a different direction, wanting to point out where the Green Army had done some helpful work as well as the ParkCare group, and improved the fairly open grassy woodland area," she says.
"I also used the recently published Ngunnawal Plant Use field guide, I really studied it.
"People found that information very interesting, it helps acknowledge the Ngunnawal history that is so long in this part of the country."
Her drive to protect the natural environment has taken her far beyond the borders of the national capital, to become involved with a United Nations advisory body.
She has been elected as environment adviser to the International Council for Women, which advocates for human rights for women.
The body holds consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the highest accreditation a non-government organisation can achieve at the UN.
She went to Turkey a few months ago to present her credentials for the position.
"I had to speak to the position and one of the reasons I gave was that in Canberra we have access to a lot of experts at the ANU and the University of Canberra," she says.
"I was elected with a pretty high vote, which is lovely."
"My role as environment adviser is to work with other advisers, such as health, nutrition and habitat.
"We develop plans of action that we send out to the national councils of member countries."
She has written a paper, soon to be published, Water for Life, based on the UN Millennium Development Goals 2015 report.
"The issue of water is very complex when you look at it globally, however, the report on those goals gave me a focus to the concept of water scarcity when you define water as safe, clean drinking water," she says.
The paper deals with the scarcity of safe, clean drinking water, due to drought and desertification, as well as floods.
"With the increases of extreme weather events, we're looking at a world with more of those things happening," she says.
"Water is a vital issue and that's why I thought it was important to address it and we put forward a series of questions that will go out to the national councils in other countries, such as what is happening, what are the issues, what are the problems, and what actions can be taken."
Several years ago she was invited to be the environment adviser for the ACT National Council of Women.
Then followed an invitation to be environment adviser for the National Council of Women of Australia. While working in that position for six years, she reported on the impacts and consequences of climate changes in Australia and elsewhere.
In that role, she also worked with the Queensland advisers on Great Barrier Reef issues.
And she never stops learning and taking in complex information about environmental issues.
For instance, this week she spent Tuesday at the Australian National University listening to a range of experts presenting on "Creating a healthy and sustainable food system for Australia".
Her lifelong achievements – and her role as an unsung hero – were recognised last week with an individual award by ACT Landcare.
Environment Minister Simon Corbell✓ says ACT Landcare volunteers have put in more than 20,000 hours of unpaid work in just the past year to keep the natural environment in top shape.
"Our local Landcare heroes put up their hand to get involved and then get those hands dirty, putting in long hours to improve and protect our local environment," he says.
The citation for the Australian Government Individual Landcarer award is: "Wendy Rainbird, who has been a significant contributor to changing the landscape of Farrer Ridge as a Landcarer for over 24 years and a convener of the Farrer Ridge ParkCare✓ group since the mid-1990s."
Volunteers have been working on Farrer Ridge since the Landcare movement began in 1989.
The Farrer Ridge ParkCare group meets once a month, usually on the first Sunday, and works for two hours.
The group has succeeded in removing most woody weeds but the seeds are still spread by birds into nature reserves, from nearby garden plants.
The 2003 bushfires burnt most of Farrer Ridge Nature Reserve black. The ParkCare volunteers removed Paterson's curse, which began to invade the area after the fire. Most plants regenerated and the group did a five-year bushfire regeneration study on carefully sampled sites. The fire was so severe that 200-300-year-old trees such as Eucalyptus melliodora died. Even so, new trees are growing where the old ones fell.
ParkCare is a partnership between the ACT government and community volunteer groups, formed to care for local nature reserves and Namadgi✓ National Park.
Rainbird says volunteers often act as the "eyes and ears" for park rangers.
"We see things that are happening; for instance, if we see a rabbit warren somewhere, we get a GPS reading and say, this is where it is, would you guys like to go and treat it please.
"So we are useful for that sort of thing, when there are threats to places."
After decades working on Farrer Ridge, she still loves going there.
"I am a painter and sculptor and poet, so beautiful, natural places really inspire me," she says.
"Having natural places so close to where we live, with our wonderful nature parks and reserves, gives a feeling of wanting to conserve and look after them and so take away the ugly weeds that were invading and taking away from their high natural values, and so it becomes a place of beauty."
"Thousands of people love going in to those reserves, walking, walking their dog, children playing, people running, people training for big walks."
Rainbird has been involved in editing The World of , which is described as a user-friendly guide to the beauty, riches and history of Tidbinbilla and was launched in October 2010.
Next came A Labour of Love – Celebrating Landcare in the ACT, described by the Southern ACT Catchment Group as a "vivid and beautiful publication telling the stories of the rich natural and human heritage that is ACT landcare".
It contains profiles of more than 40 ACT groups, the areas they care for and stories of the exceptional people that are part of the Landcare movement in the ACT, as well as sections on Aboriginal Landcare and rural Landcare.
A highly visual publication, the book celebrates the beauty and value of the ACT's natural heritage as well as its rich Aboriginal history and reinforces the importance of on-ground conservation and partnerships between public land managers and landcarers.
Rainbird says: "The book is actually part of the story of the winning design of Australia's national capital, by Marion Mahony and Walter Burley Griffin, their concept of a city within this landscape.
"You can picture Marion Mahony sitting up there on Mount Ainslie doing beautiful watercolour sketches, and the concept of keeping the mountains, hills and the ridges as natural places, and the idea of the lake, as the setting for Australia's national capital.
"I'm very pleased they won because I think it is a beautiful concept."
Next year, she is looking forward to the SEE-Change Parliament of Youth on sustainability. It will be held at the Australian National University on May 30, on the topic: What is one action we should take to reduce Canberra's ecological footprint?
"It's a fabulous project to be involved in," Rainbird says. "All ACT schools are invited to study, research, present and then vote on the best ideas, that are then compiled as a white paper for government."