A record percentage of women were recognised at this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, with the likes WA’s Diane Smith-Gander and Nicola Forrest awarded one of Australia’s highest tributes — but the majority of the honours still went to men.
Women make up 40 per cent of recipients across all tiers of the awards, including five out of the 12 people receiving the top honour, the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).
They include ABC chair Ita Buttrose, former union boss Sharan Burrow, Perth philanthropist Mrs Forrest and business executive Ms Smith-Gander.
Girls Academy chief executive and founder Ricky Grace was appointed a Member of the Order in recognition of his work establishing and leading Australia’s premier in-school mentoring program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and young women.
The former champion Perth Wildcat said he was surprised and moved by the news, and that he couldn’t have imagined such a thing when he first arrived in Australia almost 30 years ago.
“It has been an incredible journey to see so many students develop their self-belief, aim high and work hard to get there,” he said.
It’s the last honours list for outgoing Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, who has led a push in recent years encouraging people to nominate more women for awards like the Queen’s Birthday Honours and Australia Day awards.
“We would all welcome higher recognition of magnificent Australian women,” he said.
“These awards are our opportunity to say to fellow Australians, ’thank you - without you and your tireless service we wouldn’t be the community or nation that we are’.
“Some names on today’s list are well known. Many more are known only to those they help and serve day-in-day-out. They are all wonderful people and are all worthy of recognition and celebration.”
There are 993 Australians in the general division, while 221 people are receiving meritorious and military awards.
The oldest recipient on the Honours list is 99 years old and the youngest is 18.
All awardees will receive their honours at ceremonies around the country in coming months.
Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd and Hollywood star Hugh Jackman are set to receive the top honour, with Mr Rudd dedicating his to indigenous Australians.
“These first Australians are the oldest continuing civilisations on earth, and for those of us who have arrived in recent centuries, it is a privilege to share this vast and ancient continent with them,” he said.
Premier Mark McGowan called on West Australians to nominate one another for national awards and honours, with WA lagging other States.
West Australians made up about 6.7 per cent of the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year, down slightly from 7 per cent last year.
Of the 993 honours in the General Division of the Order of Australia, 67 were West Australians.
Mr McGowan said he had said many times he would love to see more West Australians honoured with national awards.
“In recent years, WA has lagged behind other States and I’d like that to change,” he said. “There are many extraordinary people in WA who deserve to be recognised.”
Last year Mr McGowan labelled the Australia Day honours biased against WA.
West Australians made up 4.5 per cent of the Australia Day list last year and about 6.5 per cent this year.
Recipients appointed Officers of the Order of Australia (AO) include former Democrats senator turned domestic violence prevention advocate Natasha Stott Despoja, former top diplomat Geoff Raby and ex-Liberal minister and senator Nick Minchin.
Other awardees include ballet dancer Cunxin Li, actor Sigrid Thornton, former Australian of the year Rosie Batty and former NT chief minister Clare Martin.
Actor Eric Bana will become a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), along with journalists Jane Caro and Leigh Sales , as well as singer Guy Sebastian.
Creators of fashion label sass & bide, Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton, will also add AM to their names, as will News Corp group executive and AAP chairman Campbell Reid and rugby league figures Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith.