Australia Day honours: women, scientists and philanthropists head up awards list

By 26/01/2022News

Gina Rinehart was recognised for her support of causes such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and her patronage of sports, including swimming and volleyball.

Article by Stephen Rice courtesy of the Australian.

This year’s Australia Day Honours List boasts more women than ever – 47 per cent of all recipients – but one woman in particular was always going to stand out.

The nation’s richest person, Gina Rinehart – at last count worth $36bn – was one of 25 Australians to become an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), in Mrs Rinehart’s case for distinguished service to the mining sector and for her philanthropy.

The 67-year-old iron ore billionaire was recognised for her support of causes such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and her patronage of sports, including swimming and volleyball.

This year’s list attempts to steer clear of the controversy that erupted last year when ABC journalist Kerry O’Brien rejected his AO in protest at tennis great Margaret Court receiving the top individual honour after being made a ­Companion of the Order (AC).

Eyebrows were also raised last year when former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull made the cut for an AC.

By contrast, five of the top seven honours this year go to scientists, with barely a politician in sight, even further down the list.

Women won 346 of the awards, the highest percentage of female recipients since the introduction of the Australian honours system by the Whitlam government in 1975, and eclipsed men in several categories, including the arts, the environment and education.

However, in law only three women were nominated compared with nine men; in medicine it was 30 women to 43 men; and in sport it was 42 women to 56 men.

No women were nominated for building or engineering.

Governor-General David Hurley said he was committed to continue reaching out to the general community to increase diversity in nominations. “The fact the list includes the highest ever percentage of women is very encouraging and I look forward to this positive trend continuing,” he said.

Recipients of the 732 awards in the general division range from 17-year-old Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Mollie O’Callaghan to 99-year-old Geelong East Rotary Club volunteer William Pratt.

The list includes 36 Australians who won gold medals in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games held in 2021, and 58 citizens recognised for their contribution in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former chief scientist Alan Finkel was honoured for service to science, energy innovation and climate change, one of seven individuals to receive the highest award, a Companion of the Order of Australia. The neuroscientist, inventor, policy adviser and entre­preneur was also cited for his Covid-19 initiatives, which included ensuring Australia had enough ventilators to cope with worst-case scenarios during the pandemic.

Other ACs went to agricultural scientist James Dale; biologist Ary Hoffmann; polymer chemist Graeme Moad; and evolutionary geneticist Jennifer Graves, for her contribution to science education in schools and as a mentor and role model for women.

The two non-scientists to receive ACs were National Disability Insurance Scheme chair Helen Nugent, until last month chair of the National Portrait Gallery, for services to the disabled; and investment banker John Wylie, former chair of Sports Australia, for services to the community in sport, philanthropy and business.

Actor and Adopt Change founder Deborra-Lee Furness was among 25 individuals to receive the next-highest honour, the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for her work with children as an adoption advocate.

Other recipients included former AFP commissioner and Nat­ional Bushfire Recovery Agency boss Andrew Colvin, now with Deloitte; former NSW Rural Fire Service chief Shane Fitzsimmons, now head of Resilience NSW; and Barossa Valley cookbook queen and restaurateur Maggie Beer.

Acclaimed Indigenous artist Lena Nyadbi, a Gija woman whose canvases of the Barramundi Dreaming Story and the Kimberley have been recreated on a giant scale on the rooftop of the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, has also been appointed an AO.

Former News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan received an AO for distinguished service to the media industry, to Indigenous welfare and to sport.

Philanthropy was also rewarded, with exchange traded funds pioneer Graham Tuckwell and wife Louise recognised for large donations, including one of $100m to the ANU, and Poola Foundation’s Mark Wootten and Eve Kantor, whose Jigsaw Farms embrace carbon neutrality and improved biodiversity, also winning AOs.

Singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem was among 155 recipients of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to the not-for-profit sector and to the performing arts, along with former Museum of Contemporary Art director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor (who has an Order of the British Empire, awarded in 2011) and NBA star Patty Mills, who led the Boomers, the men’s national basketball team, to its first medal in international competition at the Tokyo Olympics.