News / Environment

King’s Birthday honours for conservation activists

Merri Creek and its surrounds would have been vastly different without their work

Gil Freeman (left) and Ann McGregor both received Order of Australia Medals.

Mark Phillips

TWO Brunswick environmental stalwarts have been recognised in this year’s King’s Birthday awards. 

Gil Freeman, one of the co-founders of CERES in Brunswick East, received an Order of Australia Medal for service to conservation and the environment. 

Along with several other community members, Mr Freeman first conceived of the idea of turning an abandoned quarry and tip into a community garden and environmental park in the late-1970s.  

They convinced the-then Brunswick City Council to lease the land alongside the Merri Creek to them and CERES opened to the public in 1983. 

Mr Freeman served for two years as chair of CERES in its early days. He was also the founder of the Sydney Road Community School, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and was a founding member of both the Merri Creek Management Commmittee and the Brunswick Merri Creek Action Group in 1976. 

He was community director of the Moreland Energy Foundation, which was formed from proceeds from the privatisation of the Brunswick and Coburg electricity supply companies, from 2001-2003 and was chair of the Brunswick Unemployment Group in the 1970s. 

He now lives in Korumburra where he was involved in running an organic green grocer. 

Another founder of the Merri Creek Action Group and of the Friends of Merri Creek, Ann McGregor, has also received an OAM for service to the conservation and environment. 

Merri Creek today.

Along with her husband Bruce, Mrs McGregor was a key figure in the campaign in the late-1970s to save the creek from being lined with concrete as part of a project to build a new freeway running along the Merri Creek valley. 

Soon after moving to Brunswick, they formed the Brunswick Merri Creek Action Group in 1976 and over almost half a century have helped to turn the creek from an open drain for neighbouring industry into the environmental and recreation asset it is today. 

Mrs McGregor remains an active protector of Merri Creek and its wildlife as president of the Merri Creek Management Committee since 2012 (she was secretary for the prior 12 years) and vice-president of the Friends of Merri Creek since 2002. 

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