If You Don't Like The Australia Day Honours List Winners, Stop Complaining And Do Something About It

2014 Australian of the Year, Indigenous advocate Adam Goodes. Photo Stefan Postles/Getty Images

One of the more predictable aspects of the release of the Australia Day Honours list (and six months from now, the Queen’s Birthday Honours), is a column decrying the lack of women or excess of sportspeople and politicians scoring the gongs.

According to Jill Stark, the honours list is “still largely an elitist boys’ club” and “exactly how and why these prestigious awards are bestowed remains a process shrouded in mystery and controversy”.

But it’s not a mystery at all. Anyone can nominate a fellow Australian.

And not just individuals – any community organisation, professional body or similar group can nominate someone for an award, so if Madge has been cutting the oranges every Saturday morning for the Little Blighters under 8s cricket team for the last 30 years, the club can put her forward for services to sport and kids, or some such thing.

It’s pretty easy and straightforward. Here’s the link to the nomination form, so all you have to do now is download it and print it out.

There’s about five pages of paperwork to fill out. You have to list the nominee’s achievements and why you think they should get the gong and provide your details and the names of a couple of referees – the way you would if applying for a job.

Does that sound very mysterious?

As the Council for the Order of Australia points out on its website, It’s An Honour, they meet twice yearly to consider all nominations and make recommendations to the Governor-General on who should receive awards and at what level.

Here’s the criteria the 19-member Council uses in assessing nominations:

  • demonstrated achievement at a high level;
  • made a contribution over and above what might be reasonably expected through paid employment; or
  • whose voluntary contribution to the community stands out from others who may have also made a valuable contribution.

And the Council adds “The degree and value of the contribution, rather than merely length of service, is the primary focus of the Council’s consideration”, so those oranges you’re nominating Madge for had better be good ones.

One more important detail: treat it like a surprise birthday party – you don’t tell the nominee, or speak to them about it, you have to get the information surreptitiously.

That’s not too controversial, is it?

As Stark points out, 951 nominations were received in the current round: 281 for women, 670 for men. Of those 683 honours were announced with women receiving 212 – 31 per cent.
But since statistics can be twisted to suit any arguments, you could say that women have a much greater success rate in receiving awards compared to nominations for men.

Also keep in mind there’s a limit to the number handed out annually: 25 Companions of the Order of Australia (AC); 100 Officers of the Order of Australia (AO); 225 Members of the Order of Australia (AM); and 450 Medals of the Order of Australia (OAM), in addition to more than 100 Bravery Awards, so they have to keep a few for June’s announcement.

As the Chair of the Council for the Order of Australia, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said, we need to encourage more nominations for deserving women.

So now it’s up to you. I’m passionate about food, so I was thrilled to see two prominent women recognised: Stephanie Alexander, AO, especially for her efforts working with kids and teaching them how to grow food as part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation; and Lyndey Milan, OAM, for nearly four decades of outstanding work for the food and wine industry and broader community.

Now have a think about the brilliant women in our community and nominate them.

And the blokes too, because most of these people are modest and have spent their lives putting their hands up to help others. So as a thank you, take a little time to help them get a small token of recognition from a grateful nation.

There’s no mystery, just action required.

Here’s that nomination link again.

By the way, you should also swing by the It’s An Honour site if you want the PM to send a birthday message to anyone over 90 or celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, or for messages from the Queen and Governor General if you crack 100, or 60 years of marriage.

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