News of receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) left one Highlander very excited and honoured.
She also felt validated that she had honoured the words of her father who once told her to "make a difference to the planet".
Peggy Janeen McDonald (OAM) was quick to add that she believed the recognition was a tribute to the many people who had supported her through her work with birds of prey (raptors) over the past near 30 years.
Ms McDonald said that she was especially hopeful that the recognition would attract greater attention to a passion that had dominated much of her life.
The founder of the Higher Ground Raptor Centre and Australian Raptor Care and Conservation Inc co-founder was honoured with the award in recognition for her service to conservation and the environment.
Ms McDonald said her passion for wildlife in general began when she was a child working alongside her father caring for reptiles, but her focus had been directed towards birds of prey since 1992.
It is a special message from her late father John McDonald that has long been a driving force behind her work.
"My father once said to me 'Peg, I don't care what you choose to do, just don't hurt yourself, don't hurt anyone else, and make a difference to the planet'," she said.
"My father suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his role in World War II. He received one of the highest accolades for bravery and contribution in the war, a British Empire Medal. I can now say, like him, I have made a difference."
However, it is a vision for the future care and advanced rehabilitation of Australian birds of prey that has Ms McDonald most excited.
As far as Ms McDonald is concerned the greatest reward in her work with raptors is "seeing them rehabilitated, released and given the best chance to go back where they belong with the ability to survive and thrive."
She said that she developed an expanded appreciation and understanding of caring for and rehabilitating her feathered friends while taking part in training at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
Ms McDonald also won a Churchill Fellowship in 2017 which enabled her to advance and exchange knowledge of Australian raptor rehabilitation and release techniques with other countries including USA, Canada, Alaska, Abu Dhabi and South Africa.
"It is important to steer attention towards better pathways for rehabilitation - it is all about preserving the species and the individual creatures," she said.
In the meantime Ms McDonald continues to dedicate her life to the rehabilitation of raptors at her Southern Highlands centre.
The centre is home to the largest free flight facility of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only a few in the world. It is named in honour the late Dr Peter Spitzer.
Ms McDonald describes Dr Spitzer as "my friend, GP and mentor" whose continued encouragement and wise words "kept me going through some tough times."
There is also a second large free flight enclosure at the centre as well as several other facilities that help Ms McDonald and her team of dedicated supporters continue their lifesaving work.
To learn more about Ms McDonald and the work at the Higher Ground Raptor Centre go to https://www.highergroundraptors.com/
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