News - 01 December 2021

Carol Ridgeway-Bissett made an Honorary Life Member

Carol Ridgeway-Bissett has been made an Honorary Life Member for her decades of hard work spent advocating for nature with the Wilderness Society. “I’ve received many awards over the years, but truly this is the best! I’m so honoured!” says Carol.

From left to right: Michael Osborne, Convenor The Wilderness Society Newcastle; Carol Ridgeway-Bissett, Worimi Elder; Cathy Burgess, Stockton Bight activist; Victoria Jack, Wilderness Society NSW Campaigns Manager.

A proud Worimi woman, Carol worked with the Wilderness Society Newcastle from the mid-1990’s to stop sand mining at Stockton Bight and on the Tomago sandbeds. She then helped advocate for the area protected as a national park, recognising, as Carol says that “the natural environment is one of the most sacred things to the Aboriginal people”.

This led to the NSW Government announcing the establishment of a new Stockton Bight National Park in 2001. After negotiations, 4,029 hectares was granted to the Worimi LALC under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and leased-back and gazetted in 2007 under the NPW Act as Worimi National Park, Worimi State Conservation Area and Worimi Regional Park. In 2007, the Watagans to Port Stephens Green Corridor was also formally recognised and 4,570 hectares was gazetted as the Tilligerry State Conservation Area across the Tomago sandbeds.

In 2004-06, Carol worked with the Wilderness Society Newcastle to get the Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park gazetted with the maximum area zoned for the protection of habitats, animals and plants, ecological processes, natural features and areas of cultural significance. The park was established in December 2005 and its zones and management rules commenced in 2007.

In 2013, Carol supported the Wilderness Society Newcastle campaign with the local community to stop a coal seam gas proposal in Fullerton Cove; another campaign that was successful.

For decades, Carol has been standing up for the proper protection and management of the Port Stephens biodiversity corridors, including local Port Stephens wetlands like Mambo and Wanda, as well as for the recognition and consideration of First Nations cultural heritage, including the protection of a local Port Stephens women's sacred site.

"We congratulate Carol on this award, she has worked tirelessly over the decades to secure lasting protections for nature and wilderness in NSW," said Michael Osbourne, Convenor of The Wilderness Society Newcastle. "We look forward to continuing our important work with her in the years to come."