Former state MP and Cronulla resident Marie Ficarra says she is "humbled" by being awarded an OAM in the Australia Day honours.
"With all the volunteers, the firefighters out there...it's not recognition I expected," she said.
Ms Ficarra was a Hurstville councillor and mayor for 16 years before being elected state MP for Georges River from 1995 to 1999.
She returned to Macquarie Street from 2007-2015 as a Liberal member of the Legislative Council.
In her inaugural speech in the upper house, Ms Ficarra revealed two life-changing events during her time away from parliament.
A scientist by background, she was among a group of medical researchers and diagnosticians who successfully lobbied the federal government to introduce mass immunisation for cervical cancer.
Her background in government and parliament proved to be a big plus in opening doors.
The other major change occurred in her private life while working for women's health.
Ms Ficarra met and married Alan Carless, a doctor whom she met while they were both working to improve women's health care.
Ms Ficarra became passionate about fighting cervical cancer after two of her nieces were affected by it in the year before she lost the seat of Georges River.
While Liberal party colleagues were devastated by the election loss, she had felt "well, it's sad, but there are other things that are a lot worse".
"I felt I had another job to do, and quickly turned my attention to the diagnostic field,"' she said.