Australia Day honours list: Kylie Minogue and Peter Reith among 2019 recipients

Women account for 37.5% of those honoured – a record but still short of the 40% target promised by Labor

This year’s Australia Day honours list has the highest proportion of women ever – but female recipients still make up just over a third of the list, only a 4.5-percentage-point increase from last year.

Seven former Liberal or National male politicians have been honoured in the 2019 awards, including former Nationals leader Warren Truss, former deputy Liberal leader Peter Reith and former Liberal national director Tony Nutt.

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On Friday, 1127 people were made companions, officers or members of the Order of Australia, or received the medal of the Order of Australia, in honour of their achievements.

Of these, 422 were women (37.5%) – the highest number and percentage of women to be honoured ever – and 705 (62.5%) were men.

But the number of women still falls short of a new 40% target promised by Labor, and is close to the same imbalance the awards have maintained since 1975. Last year, 33% of the recipients were women.

Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton-John and Ian Thorpe are among this year’s recipients. Newton-John was made a companion of the Order of Australia (AC), the highest award in the honours system.

Actor and marriage equality advocate Magda Szubanski, sex abuse victim advocate Chrissie Foster and the soon-to-retire broadcaster Jon Faine have also been honoured, along with four Indigenous activists who played a crucial role in the 1967 referendum: Dulcie Flower, Ruth Hennings, Alfred Neal and Diana Travis.

Eighteen other Australians have been made companions of the Order of Australia, joining Newton-John. They include former men’s tennis world No1 Roy Emerson, current high court justices Michelle Gordon and Geoffrey Nettle, and children’s author Jennifer Rowe – better known as Emily Rodda – who wrote the Deltora Quest and Rowan of Rin series.

Rowe told Guardian Australia she never expected the news.

“I’m extremely honoured and very amazed,” she said. “I had no idea I was even nominated and I was completely bowled over. It actually felt quite strange. It sounds so horrible to say I’m humbled, because that’s what everyone says, but that is is how I felt.

“I had this immediate rush of gratitude because my field, the field I’m best known for – children’s books – is not a glamorous field. And it is often disregarded by mainstream media, despite the fact that the people who work in the area, the writers, the illustrators, librarians, school teachers, are so committed. It’s like recognition of them as well – this.”

The former speaker of the lower house, Anna Burke, the former editor of the Australian, Chris Mitchell, the founder of OzHarvest, Ronni Khan, Indigenous artist and art administrator Banduk Marika, film producer Susan Maslin, and AFL coach and player Kevin Sheedy have been made officers of the Order of Australia (AO).

In the media, the triple-Walkley award-winning business reporter, Adele Ferguson, TV producer Anita Jacoby, and financial journalist Alan Kohler have been made members of the Order of Australia (AM).

The historian and author Frank Bongiorno, former Darwin lord mayor Katrina Fong Lim, and Kitty Chiller – the first woman to compete in the pentathlon for Australia at the Olympics, and later the Australian team’s chef de mission at the 2016 Rio games – have also been made AMs.

Seven former Coalition politicians have been honoured: Truss (AC); former Northern Territory Country Liberal MP Barry Coulter; former Liberal senator Garry Humphries and Nutt (all AO); former Western Australia state Liberal MP Barry House, former National party federal director Paul Davey, and Reith (all AM).

All four members of Human Nature, Toby Allen, Phil Burton and Andrew and Mike Tierney, have received the medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Khan said it was “very clear” that more women should be honoured in the awards.

“These should be awards given to those who deserve them. As far as I am concerned, if women are 50% of the population, I would be very surprised if at least 50% of the people who deserve awards are not women.

“It seems very clear that there seems to be a discrepancy. It’s very clear that the net is not being cast wide enough … obviously more women should be getting this award.

“I am getting this award because of all the amazing people around me. I want to thank every single person who has ever worn a yellow T-shirt or given a single dollar to OzHarvest.”

Rowe agreed, saying women in overlooked fields should be more confident in nominating themselves and their peers.

“It’s a matter of looking at every area of life. You look naturally at science or politics. People in those areas think of it as a natural course that they might nominate somebody. People in some areas like education or in my case, children’s writing, they maybe don’t think of it so naturally.

“The people who loved these books who I keep meeting, say it makes such a great difference to their lives. It actually does mean a lot to me in that sense.”


Naaman Zhou

The GuardianTramp

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