For the outgoing sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, becoming an officer of the order of Australia (AO) for her service is “a real thrill and a great honour” as well as a surprise.
“I didn’t expect it,” she says. “In the work I do, there are people contributing in many different ways, together with others. But it is an honour.”
“There are many incredibly meritorious people aside from me who never have an opportunity to be recognised with an award,” she adds.
“A lot of the work that we do lives in the shadows. There’s a silence that often surrounds it – but sometimes that silence is at the request of people working with victims of family violence and discrimination.”
Broderick singled out the 2015 Australian of the year, Rosie Batty, for her work on domestic violence.
“Rosie Batty – someone with such a persuasive and influential voice – has really showed us this year that when we take these issues out of the shadows so much change can happen,” she says.
Broderick, who encouraged Australians to nominate more women for honours in 2016, believes the nation has experienced a real shift on gender equality, “the pointy end of which is violence against women”.
“We’ve started to say: ‘That’s not who we are, that’s not part of the values we have here in Australia’.”
Asked about recent high-profile scandals involving harassment, Broderick says: “I expect we’ll continue to see more public scrutiny [in 2016], that people will call out sexism whenever they see it, that there’ll be greater education around respectful relationship.”
Change is coming, Broderick says, “from the classroom to the boardroom”.