Government and community figures who have worked for the LGBTIQ community are among this year’s Australia Day Honours List, while protests continue over Margaret Court’s second medal.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has received the highest award, the Companion of the Order of Australia, for his services to the country, including the introduction of marriage equality following the controversial 2017 postal vote.
Turnbull found “no shortage of irony” in receiving the award alongside vocal anti-LGBTIQ protestor Court, according to The Guardian.
“We should always be seeking to eliminate discrimination on any ground, including sexual orientation,” said Turnbull.
“Any honours system is always going to be controversial because there will always be people who are contentious and there will always be plenty of people who deserve to be recognised who aren’t.”
Veteran journalist Kerry O’Brien has rejected his own Order of Australia appointment in protest against Court’s “repugnant” homophobia and transphobia.
Tennis star turned Pentecostal preacher Court has spoken out for decades against LGBTIQ people, from campaigning against decriminalisation of homosexuality to accusing trans children of being satanic.
“I believe the decision to present her with this award was deeply insensitive and must undermine community respect for awards that were created to celebrate a true spirit of community, not divide it,” said O’Brien.
Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo is among past recipients who have returned their medals in similar protest over Court’s second appointment to the Order of Australia.
Dr Soo received the award in 2016 in recognition of her work with the LGBTIQ community and people living with HIV.
Adelaide public servant and community advocate Anne Burgess has been honoured with the Member of the Order of Australia for her contributions to gender equality, older persons, and mental health.
Among many other roles, Burgess served for more than a decade as Deputy Commissioner and Acting Commissioner of the Equal Opportunity Commission SA, which fights for the equal treatment of groups including the LGBTIQ community.
Sydney author, performer, and activist Steve Ostrow has received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his extensive work for the LGBTIQ community and in performing arts.
The former owner of the Continental Baths in New York, Ostrow was instrumental in the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the city.
The opera singer and former Sydney Academy of Vocal Arts director has worked with New South Wales LGBTIQ health organisations since the 1980s, including as an ACON education officer and the founder of its Mature Age Gays program.
While last year’s Australia Day Honours List included a record number of female recipients, only 36.8% this year are women.
Fewer honours have been given this year for services to the LGBTIQ community than in recent years, with at least four awarded in 2020 and nine in 2019.