'What a joke': Fury at Australia Day Honour list
Many Australians are fuming after some famous names made the Australia Day Honours list, who they claim are undeserving and a "total joke".
While community heroes from the bushfire and COVID-19 emergencies were honoured alongside scientists, politicians, performers and sports stars also joined the ranks of the Australia Day honours list for 2021.
This year's awards sparked controversy last Friday when it was revealed Margaret Court was one of four people who have been made Companions of the Order of Australia.
News Corp readers vented their fury online, with many saying the awards were now becoming "meaningless".
Reader Carl wrote that they were "Awards for the rich and famous", while another, Wayne, wrote: "No public servants should be given awards for doing their job - these awards are becoming a joke."
It comes as ABC veteran journalist Kerry O'Brien advised the Secretary of the Order of Australia that he has declined his appointment as an Officer in the Order of Australia.
O'Brien was recognised for his "distinguished service to the broadcast media, and to journalism, as a current affairs television presenter, interviewer and reporter".
What did you think of the list this year? See below and have your say.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was one of the other recipients, who got the same award as Court for eminent service to the people and Parliament of Australia, particularly as Prime Minister, through significant contributions to national security, free trade, the environment and clean energy, innovation, economic reform and marriage equality, and to business and philanthropy.
DR JOHN LEVI
Jewish community leader Dr John Levi was another. He was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to Judaism through seminal roles with religious, community and historical organisations, to the advancement of interfaith understanding, tolerance and collaboration, and to education.
EMERITUS PROFESSOR CHERYL PRAEGER
Professor Cheryl Praeger was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to mathematics, and to tertiary education, as a leading academic and researcher, to international organisations, and as a champion of women in STEM careers.
COMMUNITY FIGURES HONOURED
Among the community figures to be honoured this year is 88-year-old May Blacka, who was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to Cobargo, one of the towns most devastated by the bushfires.
A Cobargo resident since 1953, Mrs Blacka has fundraised for the Rural Fire Service by selling pies, flowers and pot plants since the inferno which swept through the small town on New Year's Eve, 2019.
The Cobargo community was "getting there," she said, but "they're a very slow and very independent people."
"But Cobargo has always looked after me and I'll always look after it," she said.
A total of 845 Australians were recognised this year, down from 1099 in 2020 and a record 1127 in 2019.
Women received 210 awards (36.78 per cent), down from 41.2 per cent in 2020 and 37 per cent in 2019.
"Recognising that more needs to be done in this regard, over the last 12 months the Governor-General has been reaching out to organisations in Australia to increase the number of nominations for women," a statement from the Governor-General's office read.
The statement also noted that while the 2021 Honours list recognised the contribution of those who had distinguished themselves during the bushfire and COVID-19 responses, more nominees from these areas were likely in coming years.
AUSTRALIA DAY SPORT HONOURS
New Zealand may still not have forgiven Greg Chappell for ordering the most contentious delivery in cricket history, but officials on this side of the Tasman have long ago buried the hatchet - and now recognised the former test captain in this year's Australia Day honours.
Long overdue, Chappell is being made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) award, joining former Socceroo skipper Tim Cahill and pioneering racehorse trainer Gai Waterhouse trainer as sport's recipients one of the highest awards in the nation.
Chappell's record as a player speaks for itself. He's one of cricket's all-time greats despite the one blot on his copybook, when he instructed his brother Trevor to bowl the underarm delivery against New Zealand in 1981.
The Kiwis still remind him about it to this day but his Australia Day recognition has nothing to do with that, nor his impressive batting average or long list of centuries.
It's a recognition for all the years of work he's put into various charities, including the Chappell Foundation, which raises money for homeless youths.
"It's a great honour," Chappell, who was made an MBE in 1979 when he was still in his heyday as a player, said.
"Other awards were received around what I did on the playing field, where this is probably more of an all around recognition.
"To be recognised by your country as someone who has done something above the ordinary is wonderful."
Gai Waterhouse was made an Officer in the General Division (AO) for her services to horse racing and as a role model for young women.
Asked how an Australia Day honour compared to the thrill of winning a Melbourne Cup, Ms Waterhouse said both were a "huge satisfaction" but the AO was "very humbling".
"It's a humbling experience to think that people have given you an honour saying you've worked hard and you're recognised for that in your industry," she said.
Ms Waterhouse has trained well over a hundred champion racehorses throughout her career, saying "like a mother, I love them all equally, but like a mother, there's also one or two that stay in your mind."
She nominated Pierro and Shout The Bar as two of her all-time favourite horses.
While the 2.15am starts would not be to everyone's taste, 66-year-old Waterhouse said she still enjoyed the training process "hugely".
"I know I'm enjoying doing what I'm doing and I'm going to keep on doing it until I wake up one morning and turn to [husband] Robbie and say 'I think I will stay in bed today'.
"But I don't know. Trainers seem to die with their boots on somehow," Ms Waterhouse said.
Known as "the first lady of racing" who has won virtually every major race on the Australian calendar after fighting for years just to be allowed to get her trainer's licence, Waterhouse said she was blown away by her recognition.
"It's very touching, very humbling to be honoured with this award,'' she said.
"I think it is great that racing gets the recognition it deserves, too.''
Waterhouse was joined by another woman who broke through Australian racing's glass ceilings.
Michelle Payne, who became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup after her stunning ride on longshot Prince of Penzance in 2015, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
A total of 50 people from the sports world were recognised, many who are household names but also dozens of unsung heroes who have worked at grassroots level.
Australia's greatest footballer with 50 goals for the Socceroos, Cahill was also recognised for his charitable work, mostly with international organisations including UNICEF.
"Tim represents much that is beautiful about Australia," Craig Foster, another Socceroos skipper, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), said.
"Ambition, overcoming adversity, rising above our circumstances, believing in our ability to take on the world, our multicultural tapestry with his Samoan background, his passion for representing his country as well as his love of his cultural heritage which is a gift that over half of Australia carry with them today.
"He inspires millions of kids to dream of great achievements, believe in themselves and create their own destiny. That's extremely powerful. Football is immensely proud of his achievements and I congratulate him on richly deserved recognition."
Former Socceroos captain, SBS football commentator and refugee advocate Craig Foster was among the honours recipients who have called for the date of the national day to be moved.
Foster was recognised for his services to multiculturalism, human rights and refugee support. A passionate campaigner on a range of issues, he has called for Australia's national celebration day to be changed from January 26, saying: "I stand with Indigenous Australians because I am not committed to the date, but to the glorious dream that so many of us share of an inclusive, reconciled Australia."
Mr Foster said the date was becoming "increasingly untenable" and it was "not difficult to simply accept that the founding of our country was based on the legal fallacy that indigenous Australians were not civilised, were subhuman, had no laws and therefore required no treaty or recognition."
He said working with people from different cultures throughout his career had made him feel "a responsibility to let them know they are welcome, valued and should feel equal in every way".
He dedicated his AM to "everyone who helped free Hakeem al-Araibi with the #SaveHakeem campaign, whether high profile or low".
Former Australian netball coach Lisa Alexander, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), said she regarded her award as a recognition for everyone in her sport.
"We all share in it and I think it's a great thing for our sport and for me personally," she said.
"It has been quite a journey and I'm just really grateful for that time that I had.
"When those coaches appointments come, it's just the right person at the right time, it's not always that the planets align for things. To do it for that long and have that level of success, it's quite unbelievable when you look back on it."
AUSTRALIA DAY ENTERTAINMENT STARS HONOURED
Enduring screen stars, broadcasters and composers of our soundtrack have been recognised in the 2021 Australia Day Honours from former Young Australian of the Year Danzal Baker to gardening guru Graham Ross.
Prisoner legend and charity queen Val Lehman, who remains an iconic entertainment figure for her role as Queen Bea Smith in the Prisoner series, won more hearts when she starred as the oldest contestant in the 2016 series of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
She auctioned off one of her Silver Logies last year to raise money for bushfire relief.
She is on the list for her significant service to the performing arts and wildlife conservation.
Little River Band co-founder Graeham Goble has been recognised for service to the performing arts as a singer, songwriter and producer.
A Country Practice icon Lorrae Desmond has been recognised for her service to the performing arts as an actor, entertainer and singer.
TV broadcaster Glenn Wheeler has been recognised for his service to broadcast media and the community.
Piano virtuoso David Helfgott have also been awarded honours in this year's roll for his service to the performing arts.
Graham Ross, who has been a fixture on Australian radio and TV for four decades and an Australia Day ambassador for two decades, was in the NSW wheatbelt town of Harden-Murrumburrah to celebrate his medal.
The town was struggling with agricultural poverty before the 2020/21 harvest brought "a lot of optimism and teary happiness."
Ross said he was humbled by the "enormous" honour and wanted to bring focus to the country's bush communities who have battled drought, fire and flood.
"I am a gardener who gives people some enjoyment and information and a bit of support for their escapism; that's what I do and I'm real," Ross said.
"That's why I like going to the bush because 83 per cent of us live on the coast and people in the bush provide all our food in the main and we need to look after them."
Danzal Baker, the acclaimed rapper, singer, dancer and Indigenous advocate known as Baker Boy, has brought his Yolngu Matha language into the Australian charts with his groundbreaking songs and was named 2019 Young Australian of the Year for inspiring Indigenous youth as a role model.
The 24-year-old musician issued a statement expressing gratitude for the honour and called for Australia Day to be shifted "out of respect" for his First Nations community.
"I'm grateful for this recognition, and look forward to being able to share and celebrate it, but I do not wish to comment any further at this stage as I am in mourning for Invasion Day," the Yolngu artist said.
"I look forward to a time where we celebrate our country, our people and their achievements on a different day out of respect for all of my First Nations brothers and sisters. Thank you."
Originally published as Famous faces of the Australia Day Honours list