Helping people with disability is a long-time passion of Jean Martin’s.
Mrs Martin, who turns 87 on Sunday, was named on this year’s Australia Day honours list, receiving an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her services to people with disability in Cessnock.
Mrs Martin said she was in disbelief when she received the letter from Government House notifying her of her nomination.
“I thought somebody was taking the mickey,” she said.
But after being reassured by her daughter that it was the real deal, she didn’t hesitate to accept the honour.
Mrs Martin was the founding president of Lower Hunter Peer Support (now known as Disability Social Circles) in 1984 and continued in the role until 2016.
She was seeking opportunities for her son Darcy, then 17, to socialise and interact with other people with disabilities, and joined forces with some like-minded parents to form the group.
Lower Hunter Peer Support first met at a hall in Kurri Kurri on Thursday nights, and blossomed from there.
The group eventually moved into the former Weston Ambulance Hall and was attended by up to 40 people at its peak, with activities including movie nights, dinners, day trips and weekends away.
Mrs Martin says it was “natural instinct” for her to help people with disability.
“They shouldn’t be pushed into the background – they are the most truthful, friendly people you would ever meet,” she said.
“They will do anything that’s humanly possible to help their friends, and even people they don’t know.
“While ever there’s any need for the disabled to have help, I’m there, and I’ll always be there.”
Mrs Martin is also a long-time supporter of the Lower Hunter Ten Pin Bowling Club and the Maitland Gilbert and Sullivan Society, through Darcy’s involvement with both organisations.
She was also a member of the Cessnock Country Women's Association for many years, including a stint as president.
Mrs Martin is one of 379 people from all walks of life who were recognised with the OAM this Australia Day. The honour is presented for service worthy of particular recognition.
Black Hill resident Nicholas Talley – the University of Newcastle's Pro Vice Chancellor of Global Research – was named a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) – the Order of Australia’s highest honour.