The ACT Region's Australia Day 2017 Awards - Speech to Parliament

Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (11:14):  In 1975, Gough Whitlam announced the Order of Australia 'for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or meritorious service.' In replacing the British honours system, the Orders of Australia did two things. They ensured that honours would be based on decisions of Australians, not those of the British, and they ensured that they would be made by Government House, not by parliamentarians. And, with an exception or two, that system has endured in the decades since.

I want to acknowledge those who were honoured in this year's awards in the Canberra and Queanbeyan area: Martin Parkinson, for his services to Treasury and then, after a brief pause, to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Larry Sitsky, for his services to the arts as a composer and pianist; Alastair Swayn, for services to architecture; Mark Webber, for services to motor sport; Dick Woolcott, one of our great Australian diplomats; Stephen Bradshaw, for services to vascular surgery; Kimberley Brennan, for services to rowing; Hugh Dove, for services to agricultural science; ophthalmologist, Iain Dunlop; lawyer, John Garrisson; community health activist and intellectual leader, Michael Moore; charity worker, James Service; David Ian Stanton, for services to public administration; and, in the military division, Mark Holmes, Rupert Hoskin, Simon Tuckerman, Antony Forestier, Craig Meighan and Scott Winchester.

Those recognised in the OAM division were: pharmacist, Gabrielle Cooper; doctor, Mirza Datoo; for services to the community, Donald Gruber; for service to table tennis, Glenys Joliffe; for service to sport, Kathleen Kelly and Scott Reardon; for services to community health, Marion McConnell; for services to education, William Maiden; for services to aged persons, Jeanette Morris; for services to the community through mental health support, Anne Pratt; for services to victims of crime, Frances rose; for services to veterans and their families, Peter Ryan and David Sinclair; for services to the performing arts, William Stephens; for services to the communities of Queanbeyan and Canberra, Brian Walshe; and for meritorious performance of duty in the field of naval mine warfare command and leadership, Steven Reid.

As we recognised these great Australian achievers, it is also always important that we have in mind those that we might have forgotten. I note that, while the recipient rate for women this Australia Day rose to 34.7 per cent, up from 30.3 per cent in 2016, and the female nomination rate increased from 31.3 per cent to 32.9 per cent, women are still underrepresented by a significant degree in Australian honours. As honourable members will note from the fact that the nomination rate is lower than the recipient rate, once a woman is nominated, she has a better chance of receiving an award than does a man. So the problem lies, to a large extent, in the nomination process.

I know Government House is well aware of this issue, but it can be too challenging for many people to nominate someone for an honour. They may not have the requisite papers in front of them. They may simply not have the time to devote to it. Professional organisations have become expert in ensuring that their past serving members are recognised. But those who toil in a soup kitchen for three decades may not be so lucky. We need to do more to recognise traditionally feminised work, done by the quiet achievers and the community organisations as well as the traditionally male work, such as leading large organisations. We also need to do more to track recipient rates among the overseas born, people with disabilities and Indigenous Australians, because we have to stay true to that great Whitlam legacy of 1975; that of ensuring that our Australian honours system is uniquely ours and uniquely representative and ensures that it recognises everyone who is worthy of such an honour.


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