Queen's birthday honours list recognises trailblazers Rosie Batty and Ita Buttrose

Natasha Stott Despoja, TV chef Elizabeth Chong and Johnathan Thurston also feature in list with highest percentage of female recipients yet

Ita Buttrose, Natasha Stott Despoja and Rosie Batty have been given some of Australia’s highest civilian honours, in a Queen’s birthday honours list marked by female trailblazers.

Monday night’s list has the highest percentage of female recipients yet at 40%, but is still below 50/50 parity, and close to the same 33% to 66% imbalance the awards have historically maintained since they were founded in 1975.

The 2019 Australia Day honours list had set a new record of 37.5% female winners, up from the 33% in 2018.

Buttrose, the founding editor of Cleo and current chair of the ABC, was made a companion of the Order of Australia (AC) – the highest civilian award under the Australian honours system.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd and actor Hugh Jackman joined her on that list.

Batty, the anti-domestic violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year, Stott Despoja, the former leader of the Australian Democrats and youngest female parliamentarian, and Michelle Simmons, the industry-leading quantum physicist and 2018 Australian of the Year, were all made officers of the Order of Australia (AO) – the second-highest honour.

Li Cunxin, the artistic director of the Queensland Ballet and author of Mao’s Last Dancer, was also made an officer, as well as Johnathan Thurston, the legendary former captain of the North Queensland Cowboys, four-time Dally M Medallist and philanthropist with Indigenous charities.

Pioneering TV chef Elizabeth Chong, ABC journalist Leigh Sales and author Charlotte Wood were made Members of the Order of Australia (AM).

Chong, one of the first Chinese Australian chefs on television, told Guardian Australia she never expected the honour.

“I was really surprised when I saw the envelope. When I opened it I was a bit overwhelmed. I immediately thought of my parents – my mum and dad who are no longer with me, and I wish they could have known. I had a few tears when I realised what had happened.

“My own children and grandchildren were absolutely excited and proud as well. Mixed feelings, you have to feel proud and humble … I haven’t a clue as to how I got it.”

She said she was “pretty chuffed” to be among other female trailblazers and to represent the Chinese Australian community.

“I never thought about that side of things [pioneering],” she said. “But when I think back, it is 57 years since I started my cooking school … I think I have been called the first wok star, kind of like I’m a historical person. And I’m still going! And so is Ita. It’s wonderful.

“I count myself as a bridge. When I did it, nobody was doing that, and it seemed like it was us and them. Now I think most Australians would think of Chinese food as part of their own culture.

“A lot of new migrants, not only Chinese, have told me that when they came to Australia, they felt a bit strange and they didn’t feel a sense of belonging, and when they meet me, they have a sense of security. I never knew I gave them that. They came to a strange country and they saw an Asian face up there on TV and they thought ‘oh that’s nice’. And they kind of adopted me, as kind of their spokesperson. And that gives me a lot of pleasure and joy.”

Actor Eric Bana, journalist Jane Caro and pop star Guy Sebastian were also made members of the Order of Australia, while Channel 10’s The Project host and Gold Logie winner Carrie Bickmore was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Stott Despoja, who was also the founding chair of anti-domestic violence organisation Our Watch, said she was proud to be recognised among so many “wonderful women, especially alongside a hero of our times, Rosie Batty.”

“Working with her has been one of the most meaningful times of my life.”

“I’m honoured also to work with my dear friend Carrie Bickmore … and to celebrate her good work and raising awareness of and money for brain cancer.”

Stott Despoja said while it was pleasing to see a record number of women receive honours this year, she looked forward to the awards reaching gender parity in the future.

“My message always to women - regardless of age or background - is one of sisterhood,” she said. “Working together to support each other to build a kinder, fairer and more respectful world should of course be everyone’s goal.”

Contributor

Naaman Zhou

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Rosie Batty 'dismayed' by decision to give Bettina Arndt an Australia Day honour
The 2015 Australian of the Year can’t understand why someone ‘has been rewarded for work that pits men against women’

Luke Henriques-Gomes

26, Jan, 2020 @4:30 PM

Article image
ABC board defends Ita Buttrose against ‘disrespectful’ spray by Liberal powerbroker
Joseph Gersh says Michael Kroger was ‘out of line’ on Sky News Australia when he called ABC chair a ‘hopeless failure’ who should resign over biased programs

Amanda Meade

03, Jun, 2021 @6:22 AM

Article image
ABC chair Ita Buttrose accuses Coalition of ‘political interference’ and ‘intimidation’
Buttrose launches blistering attack after Senate establishes inquiry into ABC’s complaints handling process

Amanda Meade

14, Nov, 2021 @3:37 AM

Article image
Australia Day honours: Evonne Goolagong-Cawley and Tracey Spicer on male-dominated list
Just 33% are women of 900 notable names across media, medicine, science, advocacy, sport and politics

Helen Davidson

25, Jan, 2018 @1:01 PM

Article image
ABC chair Ita Buttrose condemns AFP raid as 'clearly designed to intimidate'
Buttrose vows to fight any attempt to ‘muzzle’ the ABC and says she has had a frank conversation with the communications minister

Amanda Meade

07, Jun, 2019 @12:24 AM

Article image
'I have no intention' of sacking ABC chair Ita Buttrose, minister says
Paul Fletcher says he is within rights to expect a ‘serious and substantive’ response from Buttrose over Four Corners story into Christian Porter and Alan Tudge

Daniel Hurst

13, Dec, 2020 @12:46 AM

Article image
Ita Buttrose calls for more funding for greater ABC role in Asia-Pacific
ABC chair says journalism’s importance to Australia’s interests in region ‘cannot be underestimated’

Amanda Meade

20, Oct, 2019 @1:32 AM

Article image
ABC staff demand Ita Buttrose and David Anderson ensure diversity not 'just a cliche'
Open letter says ABC executive must ensure different cultural perspectives are reflected in content

Amanda Meade

08, Jul, 2020 @5:30 PM

Article image
Two media executives and lawyer passed over for Ita Buttrose as ABC chair, FOI confirms
PM’s ‘captain’s pick’ given job over ex Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood, former News Corp CEO Kim Williams and lawyer Ian Robertson, who were recommended by independent panel

Margaret Simons

08, Jan, 2020 @4:30 PM

Article image
ABC chair Ita Buttrose accuses government of 'political interference' in draft letter to Paul Fletcher
Exclusive: Buttrose mounts robust defence of broadcaster’s independence in response to questions about Four Corners’ episode Inside the Canberra Bubble

Amanda Meade

14, Dec, 2020 @2:29 AM