Health experts dominate Australia’s Queen’s birthday honours for work during pandemic | Honours system

A Covid honor roll has again dominated the Queen’s birthday honours list. Former chief health officer Dr. Brendan Murphy was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), one of 92 people recognized for their work during the pandemic.

The New South Wales chief health officer, Dr. Kerry Chant, was awarded an AO for “distinguished service to the people of NSW through public health administration and governance, and to medicine”.

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws was awarded an AO for her service to epidemiology, infection prevention, and health administration. Former Queensland chief health officer (now Queensland governor) Jeannette Young was awarded an AC.

Sporting superstars Ash Barty and Shane Warne were also among those who were appointed Officers of the Order of Australia, while several past politicians were also up for gongs.

Murphy said the appointment was “very humbling” and reflected the “great fortune” he has had in his career and the “brilliant and talented” people he has worked with.

He said he “didn’t expect to be in the thick of the pandemic” and named the two most influential pieces of advice that he had to give the federal government as the one to close the borders and introduce lockdowns and restrictions.

Asked if such decisions woke him up at 2 am with worry, he said, “not much”.

“I was probably still up at 2 am. It was a pretty crazy phase. I didn’t have much time to reflect,” he said.

But it “really hit home” to drive past Centrelink and see the long queues there, he said, and to witness the crisis in aged care in 2020.

Murphy said he was keen for everyone to get their third vaccine shot and to realize there are now effective antiviral drugs for people at high risk.

Murphy is now the federal health department secretary.


“It’s impossible to stop transmission anymore so that Covid will be with us; it’ll wax and wane. We can’t stop it, but we can protect the vulnerable people… and that’s our current focus,” he said.

His AC was awarded “for eminent service to medical administration and community health, particularly as a chief medical officer, and to nephrology, research and innovation, and professional organizations”.

Of the 669 appointments to the general division of the Order of Australia, 45.9% were awarded to women – the second-highest proportion given, slightly down from the 47% cited in this year’s Australia Day honours.

Five women were awarded ACs – the highest honor – compared with three men.

The youngest award recipient was 23, and the oldest was 101.

Overall, 994 Australians received honours; there were 37 military service awards, 201 meritorious awards, and 85 distinguished and conspicuous awards on top of the 669 in the general division.

The governor general, David Hurley, congratulated the recipients on behalf of all Australians, saying they represent the “very best of Australia”.

“Recipients share some common traits – including selflessness, excellence, and a commitment to service,’ he said.

“They’re from different backgrounds, their stories are each unique, and each has served in different ways. This diversity is a strength; each impacted their community and improved it.

“For that, we thank them, and today, we celebrate them.”

Former Western Australia Labor premier Dr. Carmen Lawrence was awarded an AO for her service to the WA and federal parliament and anpreservationiststs administration work.

Carmen Lawrence has been awarded an AO. Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

Nationals MPs Lawrence (Larry) Anthony and former deputy prime minister John Anderson also picked up AOs. Victorian Liberal MP Louise Asher was awarded an AM.

Other notable inclusions were Tim Carmody, who resigned as Queensland chief justice after controversy surrounding his leadership; former Westpac chief Steven Harker, who featured in the Pandora Papers; and John Middleton, a federal court judge who has overseen a range of high-profile cases.

Previous awards have come under fire for controversial appointments, including former tennis champion Margaret Court, an opponent of same-sex marriage; writer Bettina Arndt, who was criticized for her interview with a convicted pedophile; and former Liberal staffer Peta Credlin, Sky News host and former chief of staff to Tony Abbott when he was prime minister.

Hurley, who is trying to increase diversity within the system, said the Order of Australia “belongs to all Australians”.

“In addition to the characteristics of selflessness, excellence, and service, each recipient in the Order has something else in common: someone has taken the time to nominate them for recognition,” he said.

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.