It's not often that Kay Hull is lost for words, but she struggled to describe how she felt today.
The former tow truck driver, who went on to become the only woman to ever represent the Riverina in Federal Parliament, has received one of the nation's highest honours.
She has been named an Officer of the Order of Australia for her unwavering service to rural and regional communities through health, skills development and agricultural organisations.
Mrs Hull, who represented the Riverina for 12 years until her retirement in 2010, says she is inspired by the strength of country people despite the challenges they can face.
"I think that resilience is that ability to open and look out your window every single day and see despair - of drought, floods, fires, shutdowns of business through COVID, whatever - but to be able to see beyond it," she said.
"I think the greatest reward is that I look at that every day and I just am so grateful for the resilience and the people that make up this nation, because I think they're just amazing."
Mrs Hull, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia six years ago, said she was surprised and humbled to receive the "extraordinary" new award.
"To have had whomever decide that they felt that what I was doing was important enough to warrant them to go through the massive process of this application system ... is just extremely overwhelming," she said.
"Actually, it's quite an emotional feeling that somebody would do that."
Mrs Hull has always been dedicated to her community, but she first entered public life on Wagga City Council, wanting to represent local people and local businesses.
"Pretty much all my life I've been in volunteer organisations in some way, shape, or form. And then in local business with my late husband," she said.
She served on council for seven years from 1991, including a three-year stint as the city's deputy mayor.
She soon realised that regional and rural voices were limited in how much they were heard in the major cities and decided to head for Canberra in 1998.
"I think there's far more recognition of us now, but we've still got a long way to go," she said.
"I was just so fortunate to have a loyal, committed, engaged electorate that did things as a team."
Mrs Hull has served on many boards including chairing AgriFutures. Her "unrelenting passion" for rural people has seen her improve outcomes in health, palliative care, agriculture and education.
In March she was named Nationals Party president and now wants to encourage other regional women to enter politics.
"The best times and the most important years of my life were when I was industry driven, as an operative in a smash repairs ... understanding what the true value of all life means," she said.
"They were the formative years, and then the next best years were in Canberra, where I saw women making such an extraordinary difference."