Queen's Birthday honour list: the highlights

The Queen's Birthday honours list features Australians from all walks of life - from the state's top judge to a Fairy called Sparkle. Fairfax Media spoke to some of the recipients.

JUSTICE THOMAS BATHURST, AC

The state's top judge, Tom Bathurst, has been awarded one of the highest honours in the country for his services to the law and to the judiciary.

Mr Bathurst, who has been the Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court for three years, said he was “honoured and humbled” to have been made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the annual Queen's Birthday honours list.

The award is second only to the recently reintroduced title of knights and dames in the hierarchy of civic honours.

“Compared to other recipients there is little I have done to deserve it,” Mr Bathurst said.

“However, its conferral does recognise the importance of the judiciary's role in the preservation of a just and civilised society.”

The Riverview old boy and University of Sydney alumnus spent more than 30 years at the commercial bar before he donned the judicial robes.

He spoke recently of the obligation on all lawyers to "contribute to public discussion and, where appropriate, to correct ignorance in public debate".

"This can at times seem like one of the trials of being a lawyer," Mr Bathurst said in a speech earlier this year. "However, let me assure you it is an exceptional privilege."

Following a number of vitriolic attacks on judges over the perceived leniency of sentences in high-profile criminal cases, Mr Bathurst chaired a series of symposiums for the media, politicians and community groups to help explain the legal principles governing sentencing decisions.

He has also encouraged judges to produce summaries of their judgments in high-profile cases to explain their reasoning to non-lawyers, and called for an informed debate about the state government's controversial mandatory sentences for fatal alcohol-fuelled assaults.

The 66-year-old quipped recently that his career had "spanned typewriter to Twitter", where the NSW Supreme Court now provides updates and links to case summaries.

Previous recipients of the Companion of the Order of Australia include NSW Governor Marie Bashir, High Court Chief Justice Robert French, Nobel prize-winning chemist John Cornforth and Professor Ian Frazer, who led the team that developed the world's first vaccine for cervical cancer.

"I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the tireless effort and dedication of those who work within the court system to deliver justice to those who come before it and particularly to my colleagues in the Supreme Court whose tireless and dedicated work I have the privilege of seeing on a daily basis," Mr Bathurst said.

- Michaela Whitbourn

RICHARD GIBBS, AC

Growing up on a property in rural Victoria proved to be the perfect training for Richard Gibbs to become a world renowned scientist.

“You're always innovating on a farm,” said Professor Gibbs.

Years later, while working in his chosen field of genetics, this inventive spirit saw him develop some of the first methods for analysing DNA. He was the first to sequence the important parts of a single human gene in the early 90s.

At that time the full human genome had not been mapped, which meant scientists had no idea how many genes lived inside human cells, what mutations looked like or how they related to human disease.

“It was like trying to make sense of Australia before maps existed using only a few photographs,” he said.

When the publicly funded project to sequence the human genome started a few years later, Professor Gibbs and his colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston were selected with two other groups to lead the ground-breaking project.

For his service to science and academic medicine as a leader in genetics and human genome sequencing Professor Gibbs has been awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).

“It's been a pleasure to see science and academia well represented [in this year's honours]," he said, from his home in Houston, Texas.

Although a young Gibbs started his science career at the University of Melbourne, he has spent the past 30 years living in the US. In 1996 he became the founder and director of the Human Genome Sequencing Centre at Baylor.

At the same time he and colleagues were attempting to decipher human DNA, a private venture led by American scientist and entrepreneur Craig Venter was attempting the same feat.

Gibbs said the threat of this group might file patent on the human genome data scared many.

“That really consolidated our effort,” he said.

“We all had this deep commitment that the data had to be public and not patented before anybody could begin to work with it.”

The result of this momentous project has led to a new era of medicine, changing the way researchers and doctors study and treat many diseases.

While the human genome project took more than 10 years and cost more than $2 billion, today an individual can have their genes mapped in a few weeks for less than a few thousand dollars.

The dramatic improvements in sequencing technology - a far cry from those Professor Gibbs first developed – are now used in his centre's clinical genetics lab, which sequences the genomes of individuals with rare diseases.

- Nicky Phillips


BARRY JONES, AC

For a high achiever, Barry Jones has always been a man aware of his limitations. "I was too political to be a fully accepted intellectual, too intellectual to be regarded as an effective politician in the Australian context," he wrote in his biography A Thinking Reed.

"I am well aware of my deficiencies, things I do not know and cannot do," he added, citing among his shortcomings a lack of killer instinct and "the divine gift of creativity".

His elevation to Companion in the Order of Australia (AC) came as a pleasant surprise on two counts: he thought his time had passed and he considered his interests too diverse to attract a nomination.

"As Rupert Murdoch would say, I'm humbled by the award but I'm gratified because I think there's a touch of vindication," 81-year-old Jones says.

"What's probably turned out to be significant in what I've done is that I've linked together so many disparate areas. It's not an accident that I'm the only person to have been elected as a fellow of the four learned academies."

One example is an issue Jones says he has been "banging on about" for a very long time: climate change.

"It has tremendous implications, and not just for the future of the species," he says, "but for the way we live, the way we make policy decisions, the way we analyse things, the role of science, the role of ethics, and how we deal with wicked problems.

"Where I've played a kind of useful role, but not been recognised at the time, has been to link these things together."

The award recognises Mr Jones' role as a leading intellectual in Australian public life, through contributions to scientific, heritage, musical, medical, political and public health organisations, and to the Australian and Victorian Parliaments.

Asked if he felt his prospects for such recognition had dimmed, he replies: "Frankly yes. It was a bit of a surprise. I've been an Officer of the Order (of Australia) for 21 years."

Mr Jones says the recognition will not dim his determination to keep being heard. "When you reflect on the state that science is in, we talk about wars on poverty – well, at the moment there's a war on science.

"It won't shut me up. I'll be continuing to try to save the world and the Labor Party."

- Michael Gordon

JUDITH DURHAM, AO; ATHOL GUY, AO; KEITH POTGER, AO; BRUCE WOODLEY AO

It's just over a year since Judith Durham left the stage of Hamer Hall in the early days of the Seekers' Golden Jubilee tour and found herself in a Melbourne hospital battling a cerebral haemorrhage.

Yesterday, she and her partners in harmony — Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley — returned to Australia after concluding that seemingly tenuous victory lap with two nights at London's Royal Albert Hall.

Their appointment today as Officers of the Order of Australia (AO) is a bonus round that their lead singer could hardly have imagined.

"Back when I had my brain haemorrhage I dared not predict what was going to happen. I just tried to keep an open mind," Durham says.

"It's such a thrill to have achieved our 50th year celebration with all these beautiful memories. The fact that this honour has come along now . . . transcends something. We never dreamt there would be this other dimension."

The Seekers first performed together at South Yarra's Treble Clef folk club in 1962. Within few years they had become the first Australian group to top the UK and US charts.

They were named joint Australians of the Year for 1967 and Durham was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1995.

Today's appointment recognises each member's "distinguished service to the performing arts . . . through seminal contributions to Australian music, and as supporter[s] of a range of not-for-profit organisations".

Durham says that her commitment to more than 50 community organisations began with awareness born of adversity.

"Particularly with my husband [pianist Ron Edgeworth] having died of motor neuron disease [in 1994]; for me that was a huge realisation that there as something I could do in addition to being an entertainer."

Three years later, Durham recorded I Am Australian with Air Supply's Russell Hitchcock and Yothu Yindi's Mandawuy Yunupingu. Written by Bruce Woodley with Bushwacker mainstay Dobe Newton, it was a regular fixture on the Seekers' Golden Jubilee Tour set list.

"More and more I'm grateful for the fact that I am Australian," she says "It's an enormous privilege to have Australian citizenship and a huge responsibility in itself. All four of us are very much aware that no longer can somebody take it for granted."

All now in their seventies, the Seekers have no plans to perform again after last week's final bows at Royal Albert Hall, but Judith Durham prefers not to say never.

"I feel so overwhelmed that this has happened that I feel now I have to live up to the honour that's been bestowed on us."

Back to Hamer Hall then?

"Wow, wouldn't it be nice?"

- Michael Dwyer


MEGAN CLARK, AC

As the head of Australia's national science agency, Megan Clark oversees some extraordinary researchers, including the likes of John O'Sullivan's team, which brought Wi-Fi technology to the world.

It may explain why the CSIRO chief executive seems somewhat sheepish to have been bestowed the country's top honour: she is now a Companion in the Order of Australia.

"Yes, there is a bit of awkwardness there, because many of our teams and scientists deserve this recognition," Dr Clark says.

"I'm not the Nobel prize winner; I'm not the one who develops the technology.

"I've been lucky enough to work with those people and, if I can help them take those breakthroughs into society in a way that benefits humanity, that's an amazing thing to be part of."

Nonetheless, much of Dr Clark's life has been devoted to the business of science, albeit mostly in the mining industry.

When she was appointed to lead the CSIRO five years ago, she was a vice-president at BHP Billiton, where she was widely admired for combining technical expertise with business savvy (her doctorate was in economic geology).

She is also the organisation's first female chief executive, though this is scarcely mentioned despite the push to entice more women into science.

Dr Clark herself plays down the importance of this milestone, though it is understood that, during her term at CSIRO headquarters in Canberra, she has quietly encouraged more women to aim for executive roles.

She was a young female geologist when very few women entered the field, and has only praise for how the industry treated her: "I was very lucky to have had some great women pave the way before me."

There was a small "moment of difficulty" early in her career: she was threatened with arrest because she was exploring at a time that mining legislation banned women from working underground.

"That clause was next to the paragraph that said you had to water your horses three time a day," she laughs.

"That particular glitch was a bit confronting but, in terms of the people I worked with, [my mining career] was wonderful.

"It was a very accepting industry. It also had a lot of migrants. If you did your job, you were accepted."

Dr Clark's appointment at the CSIRO, which was extended last year, will expire in December.

"Science is the foundation of our future and it's very important that we remember that."

- Markus Mannheim


LES CARLYON, AC

Les Carlyon has always been about the words, and finding subjects worthy of them – often horses, sometimes war and, always, people. "What you saw, what you heard, what you smelled," he once declared to be the essence of good writing.

Ten years ago, accepting the Melbourne Press Club's lifetime achievement award, he said there were only two reasons for being a journalist. "One is that you're curious about the world and the people in it – and this is where political correctness, from either the left or the right, is a danger because political correctness, by its very definition, is hostile to curiosity," he said. "It says, in effect, you've got to look at the world through a keyhole, not a big bay window.

"And the other reason for being a journalist is because you love to write. The rest is all dross. All journalists are ever remembered for are their words."

Leslie Allen Carlyon has been made a Companion (AC) in the general division of the Order of Australia for his dedication to words. "Maybe I should take myself seriously now," he quipped.

The commendation reveals the nation has already taken him seriously: "For eminent service to literature through the promotion of the national identity as an author, editor and journalist, to the understanding and appreciation of Australia's war history, and to the horse racing industry."

The last is not least. Carlyon has always loved the turf, the hooves that thunder on it and the characters who inhabit its environs. He once flew to New Zealand to sit by the grave of a stallion, Sir Tristram, that had been buried standing up. He wanted to feel its spirit to assist him in writing about the stallion's son, the great Zabeel, a prodigious sire.

Carlyon was editor of The Age at 33, assuming the position in 1975 just as the Whitlam government's crisis was breaking, and later was editor-in-chief of The Herald and Weekly Times. He won the Walkley Award for magazine feature writing in 1971 and was named the Graham Perkin Journalist of the Year in 1993. In 2004, he won the Walkley for a lifetime of journalistic leadership. He is the author of Gallipoli, and followed it up with The Great War, for which he won the Prime Minister's Prize for History in 2007.

- Tony Wright

MICHAEL GAWENDA, AM

Michael Gawenda, Melbourne wordsmith, won numerous awards for journalism and served for seven years as editor of The Age, but his heart was informed by the circumstances of his birth.

He was born in a displaced persons camp in Austria. His Jewish parents had fled the the Nazis from their home in Poland, travelling all the way to Siberia for refuge. When they returned from Russia to the ashes left by World War II, there were no family members left in Europe.

Gawenda’s father had a cousin across the world, Helen Maas, whose family ran Melbourne’s first cabaret. The Gawenda family sailed south in 1949: refugees, about to make a new life.

Now Michael Gawenda, the boy from a displaced persons camp, has been recognised by the country of his family’s adoption as a Member in the general division of the Order of Australia (AM).

He declares himself thrilled and is sure his parents, gone now, would be ‘‘tremendously thrilled’’, too.

But he mourns for something lost in the heart of Australia since the nation welcomed his family.

‘‘I regret that the generosity shown to my parents is not being shown now,’’ he says of contemporary treatment of seekers of asylum.

‘‘I find it incredibly sad.

‘‘There seems no historic memory for those things.’’

Gawenda joined The Age in 1970 and became one of the most elegant writers and reporters in Australian journalism. He won the first of his three Walkley Awards for a feature on Melbourne’s high-rise welfare flats, Ghettos in the Sky. He won another in 1996 for his coverage of the Port Arthur massacre, ‘‘In Cold Blood’’ and another, while writing for Time magazine in 1988, called  "Echoes of a Darker Age: Australia’s Nazi War Crime Trials’’.

Gawenda became editor-in-chief of The Age in 2003.

He insists his great love in journalism was ‘‘writing, writing’’, and says ‘‘I think I was an accidental editor’’.

Yet he remained editor-in-chief for seven years, something of a landmark in modern editing.

He returned to reporting in 2004 as Fairfax Media’s Washington correspondent. His book about US politics, American Notebook: A Personal and Political Journey, was published in mid-2007.

In his post-newspaper years, Gawenda became the inaugural director of The Centre for Advanced Journalism at The University of Melbourne, launched in 2009, and he remains an Honorary Fellow of the centre.

Gawenda, who lives in St Kilda, says he has never lost his enthusiasm for journalism and sometimes – ‘‘when there is a big story breaking, or a particularly interesting federal election’’ – yearns to be part of it still.

He and his wife, Anne, have two children, both of whom worked at different period on The Age newsdesk – Evie, a teacher, and Chasky, a highly successful musician.

- Tony Wright

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI, AO

You can peg him as a scientist, a father or even an executive who has loved life in the fish bowl of public life – just don't label Dr Ziggy Switkowski a migrant boy come good.

With his rising forehead and black-rim glasses, evocative of NASA scientists and Melbournian hipsters, you'd walk past the prominent business leader a dozen times before spotting him in a crowd.

But while he may have the look of a city solicitor or family GP, a conversation with Dr Switkowski makes it clear that his is a mind that hovers above myriad topics from the state of Australia's manufacturing sector to its future on the national broadband network.

Dr Switkowski will today receive the Order of Australia (AO) for his work across everything from the arts, sciences and tertiary education to the telecommunications and business community.

He's best known for leading telecommunications giants Telstra and Optus as their chief executives and currently chairs NBN Co – the government funded company building the $41 billion NBN.

However, Opera Australia, RMIT University, Suncorp-Metway and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation are included in the list of organisations that have seen his leadership.

Born in Germany to Polish parents, he migrated to Australia (the family's third preference after the US and New Zealand) from a war-ravaged continent to the working class northern suburbs of Melbourne at 14-months of age.

“No-one should try to make much of that fact [and] I've never thought of it as being a uniquely immigrant or particularly worthy upbringing,” he said. “[My] story is not one of an immigrant facing insurmountable hurdles and overcoming cultural, language and financial difficulties made good because it's just not me!”

Dr Switkowski's name has nought to do with pop-star David Bowie's alter-ego Ziggy Stardust and is instead an anglicised version of Zygmunt. A brother to three siblings born in Australia with “simpler” names like Robert and Richard, he was teased as a young child for being different.

“For our two children we picked very simple names, Mark and Claire, because they were conventional and provided an appropriate balance to the surname,” he said.

Today's award belies a journey that at times has been akin to a stint in the stocks.

He battled Paul Keating to keep Kodak manufacturing in Australia, was thrown out of Telstra after disagreements with the board and got famously close to a physical altercation with fellow Optus board-member Geoff Cousins – a topic Dr Switkowski declined to touch.

Kodak was his formative fight. The front-page battles to win generous government grants required a mental shift from science boffin to limelit-lobbyist and were the defining moments of his life.

“That's when I morphed from being a technologist to being a business executive … and I do think they were my character-forming years,” he said.

But living in the fish bowl, as he describes public life, comes at a personal cost.

“Did you miss large chunks of your children's youth and infancy? Of course you do. Could you have aimed for a better balance in life? Perhaps,” he said. “But I've never believed if you are a very senior executive in a large enterprise that you can actually achieve work-life balance as conventionally understood and I've never tried to.”

“It's critical that you have the right partner, in this case my wife. My kids have grown up to be very interesting, engaging people with good values.”

While Dr Switkowski isn't ready to leap out of the fish bowl and into a sunset of quiet retirement, he hopes the era of bruising boardroom battles is behind him.

“I don't feel like I'm in a position where I can sit back and rest upon a long career with satisfaction on headlines and highlights,” he said. “I think there are highlights still ahead. I see myself as a work in progress and NBN is just one of the responsibilities I currently have.

“Hopefully there will be a balancing period where I'll get to do the fun stuff, which doesn't bring with it the possibility that you might get killed in the process.”

- David Ramli

PAUL GRABOWSKY, AO

The story of Australian jazz is perfectly typified by the story of pianist and composer Paul Grabowsky, whose selection for this year's honours list lands in his 28th year on the scene.

Jazz has grown from strength to strength in the past three decades, with a major milestone being the inclusion of its canon in the curriculums of music schools.

"My generation was the one that created that, so it's been a wonderful period in music and I can only see it getting better and better," said the composer, performer and educator.

"Mentoring and teaching, that's very important to me. I have a need to engage with the next generation and pass on the knowledge I've accrued over the years."

Grabowsky maintains his involvement in the Australian Art Orchestra, composing works such as his most recent Crossing Roper Bar, and is executive director of performing arts at Monash University.

"We artists are in it for the calling, not the money. We believe in it deeply and passionately and we believe art central to the human condition, so it is an absolute honour to have that recognised," he said.

- Bhakthi Puvanenthiran

MAUREEN WHEELER, AO; TONY WHEELER, AO

When Maureen and Tony Wheeler arrived in Australia on Boxing Day 1972, after meandering through Asia, they had barely a dollar.

How times have changed. From that journey came their first Lonely Planet guide, Across Asia on the Cheap, and the beginning of a publishing venture that would become a global success story. The equation was simple: if you travelled, a Lonely Planet guide was your companion.

Their honours are for publishing and philanthropy. "It's Lonely Planet I'm really proud of," Tony Wheeler says. "Its heart and soul is Australian – the rest has just followed."

Since they sold the company for $244 million they have endowed the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, and set up the Planet Wheeler Foundation, which operates in child and maternal welfare, education and health care in Asia and Africa. Maureen has been on boards in the arts and tourism while Tony is on the board of Global Heritage Fund, which protects cultural sites in the developing world.

- Jason Steger

RICHARD WILKINS, AM

For once, Richard Wilkins is speechless. He admits he has been "blindsided" by becoming a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to charities and the entertainment industry.

"It's lovely," he manages to muster up. "It's humbling. It feels really bloody wonderful."

Wilkins has been the face of showbusiness in Australia for almost 30 years, beginning with a gig presenting MTV in 1987 and has been part of the Nine network family since then, including as Today's entertainment editor.

What audiences might be less familiar with is the long list of his charity work with organisations such as the Down Syndrome Association, the Steve Waugh Foundation, the Golden Stave Foundation and Musicoz.

His oldest son, Adam, 41, has Down Syndrome and Wilkins, 59, says he's received support "from a lot of great people" and passing on the goodwill has been a no-brainer.

"They're all such deserving causes and cases and I just knew what so many people had done for me, and I instinctively wanted to help out."

- Sarah Thomas


ANGELA CATTERNS, AM

Angela Catterns has often been critical of people receiving awards for "doing what they're paid to do", so when she found out she was being made a Member In the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM), she was glad it was for her service to social welfare organisations as much as to broadcast media.

If she were to pinpoint an absolute highlight from a career that has seen her host shows on Triple J, 702 ABC and now, 2UE - not to mention a plum gig as "the voice" of all public announcements at the 2000 Sydney Olympics sit - it would have nothing to do with mics and dials. Rather it would be the annual "knit-ins" she established and oversaw for 10 years at the ABC, where readers would gather to knit warm wraps for charity Wrap With Love, which would send them to needy people around the world.

Lately Catterns has worked as an ambassador for Habitat For Humanity and travels to Cambodia to help build houses for the organisation. "It's hard work, but work you're really happy to do - you just flop down in your bed at night and you feel good," says Catterns.

On her first trip she built a house for a woman she had met in the slums of Phnom Penh; on her second trip she visited the woman in her new home where she was conducting a sewing business. "The house is more like what we would call a garage or storage unit. But it has a concrete floor, a roof and a lockable door. Suddenly this woman had a real hope in a future for her children."

As for her broadcast career, Catterns says one of the challenges she has always faced is that "fabulous old excuse" from certain radio executives: that women don't like listening to other women on air. "I don't find it true," she says, laughing. "Maybe it is, but I haven't seen the research to back it up."

- Joel Meares

STEVE MONEGHETTI, AM

Steve Moneghetti was a world-class marathon runner whose life in Australian athletics has been another marathon all of its own.

Moneghetti is the Ballarat runner who competed at four Olympic Games. Sydney was his last games but Seoul in 1988 was his best Olympic performance, finishing fifth.

At the world championships in Athens in 1997, he claimed bronze after being denied a medal when he finished fourth at the Rome world championships 10 years earlier.

Moneghetti climbed each step of the dais in successive Commonwealth Games.

He won bronze first, then four years later silver before finally winning gold in Victoria, Canada, in 1994.

He also won bronze in the 10,000 metres in Kuala Lumpur and has held successive voluntary Commonwealth Games roles since then.

He will act as chef de mission in Glasgow next month.

"It [the AM] is recognition of work over a long period, I suppose. But there are so many people who have worked like me in voluntary roles over a long period of time [who were not honoured]," Moneghetti said.

- Michael Gleeson

PHIL GOULD, AM

Rugby league commentator and manager Phil Gould has been awarded a Member in the general division (AM) in the Queen's birthday honours for significant service to rugby league football as an administrator, commentator, coach and player, and to the community.

Gould is the executive general manager of rugby league at the Penrith Panthers. He is also a commentator for Channel Nine and as a columnist for Fairfax Media. Gould has been involved in rugby league since his first year for the Panthers as a player in 1976, going on to coach at club level and becoming NSW's most successful coach in State of Origin.

Gould has also contributed significantly to the community through his charity work and support for several organisations and groups, including Panthers on the Prowl, Panthers Women in League, Randwick Children's Hospital, Brave Hearts Foundation, St Gabriel's School for Hearing Impaired Children, Trees of Hope Foundation, the McGrath Foundation, and the White Ribbon Foundation.

He has also dedicated his time to helping build rugby league in Papua New Guinea, working with country's government to help develop a range of development programs in the region. Gould is a motivational speaker for NSW Police, and has delivered motivational talks to a range of organisations across education, health, business and sporting industries.

Gould spent three years at Penrith as a player from 1976 to 1979 and was crowned the club's youngest captain at the age of 20 in his third year at the foot of the mountains. He played with the Newtown Jets from 1981 to 1982, Canterbury from 1983 to 1985 and South Sydney in 1986.

His coaching career began at Canterbury from 1988 to 1989. He then returned home to coach the Panthers to grand final appearances for the first time in the club's history in 1990 and again in 1991, securing the club's historic first-ever premiership in 1991. He coached NSW in State of Origin for eight years over two different stints. From 2002 to 2004 he worked as the director of coaching for the Sydney Roosters. In 2011 he returned to the Panthers to take up the role as executive general manager of rugby league.

- Michael Chammas


MIKE MUNRO, AM

When she was drunk, his alcoholic mother used to tell him: "You'll never amount to anything, because you're nothing but a pasty-faced nothing."

But veteran journalist Mike Munro reckons his late mother would be "very proud" of him today.

"She was a fantastic woman and I would not be getting this fantastic award if was not for the sacrifices my single mother made," he said.

Mr Munro said being made a Member of the Order of Australia was a "bolt from the blue" he was yet to recover from.

The title honours his "significant services to journalism" as a reporter and presenter of news programs such as A Current Affair and Sunday Night.

The award also recognises his decades of volunteer work with charities such as Youth Off The Streets.

"I've wanted to give back, and I never expected anything in return," Mr Munro said.

- Patrick Begley


CHRISTOPHER BROWN, AM

He's chaired a United Nations council and was part of the team that won Sydney the Olympics, but Chris Brown says he is most proud of his work in western Sydney.

Mr Brown, who has fought tirelessly for an airport to be built at Badgerys Creek, has been awarded a Member in the General Division Order of Australia (AM) for his service to the tourism, infrastructure and transport sectors.

"Putting western Sydney firmly on the table politically, commercially and socially that might be my biggest achievement," Mr Brown, who ran the industry lobby group Tourism and Transport Forum for two decades, said.

The father-of-two was born and raised in western Sydney and this year founded the Western Sydney Leadership Forum to bring together community groups in the area.

"We're trying to address the problem whereby for 200 years we've had everything centred in the city. We're doing all things to level the playing field," Mr Brown, the son of former federal tourism minister John, said.

"I want a kid growing up in Penrith to have the same opportunities as a kid growing up in Paddington."

Even though he is a staunch Republican, Mr Brown said receiving the Order of Australia was a "rare and humbling" honour. He currently serves as director on the University of Western Sydney board and was chairman of the Parramatta Economic Development Forum.

- Melanie Kembrey


LYNDON TERRACINI, AM

Among the countless achievements in Lyndon Terracini's career, few are as miraculous as beating Sydney's fickle weather three times to successfully stage the blockbuster Handa on Sydney Harbour.

“Somebody up there likes me I think,” he says.

The artistic director of Opera Australia, Terracini has been made a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Queen's Birthday Honours list for significant service to the performing arts as an opera performer, director and administrator.

“It's a lovely recognition,” he says, “particularly if you think the contribution you've made is appreciated by other people not only in the industry but in the wider community. I'm really pleased and thrilled about that.”

Terracini had a successful international career as a baritone including in the Peter Greenaway work, Rosa – A Horse Drama, about a composer who falls in love with his mare, before heading up major Queensland arts festivals from 2000.

But Terracini's greatest challenge is the self-declared mission to drag opera into the 21st-century by finding new audiences, lower ticket prices, attacking outdated work practices and telling overweight opera singers to shape up.

“We're really just trying to play to a number of different audiences rather than just traditional the opera audience, which is not very large,” he says.

He says it is incumbent upon taxpayer-subsidised arts companies to appeal to as broad an audience as possible.

- Andrew Taylor

ANGELA CRAMMOND, AM

Angela Crammond can recall a time when volunteers simply "ploughed along and did their thing" without the help of a central agency to harness their energy and encourage their efforts. Along with a group of like-minded individuals, she founded the Volunteer Centre for NSW almost 40 years ago, working out of a "garret in King Street".

Today, two million people in NSW regularly volunteer, contributing more than 241 million volunteer hours a year.

Mrs Crammond, who was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division for her services to the community and to children through Barnardos Australia, is pleased to see the growth in giving.

"There is a huge breadth of volunteer work which is done across nsw these days," she said. "It is now a sub-sector of the economy."

The chair of Barnardos Australia from 2001 to 2007, Mrs Crammond has also been delighted to watch the progress of the organisation which has become one of Australia's leading child protection charities.

"In the past 20 years or so, people have become much more aware of neglect and abuse," she said. "It tended to be rather pushed under the carpet before and nowadays it's much more out in the open and recognised."

- Rachel Browne

HETTY JOHNSTON, AM

IT has been a long struggle for child-protection campaigner Hetty Johnson to have her cause recognised but being awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division (AM) legitimises the campaign, she says.

Ms Johnston, 55, received the nomination for founding Bravehearts, an organisation aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse, and has described it as an “absolute honour”.

She said she saw the award not so much as being a reward for the organisation's work, but more as the ultimate acceptance of the issue by mainstream society.

“I would never have believed this would happen when I started," she said speaking from the Bravehearts' office in Brisbane.

“What this does is help make the issue mainstream. It's no longer perceived as that sort of thing that is brought up by people on the edge of society. It's saying that survivors are real people," she said.

Ms Johnston set up Bravehearts in 1997 after she discovered her daughter had been abused and found there was no appropriate support group in existence to assist child-abuse victims and their families.

- Rory Callinan


FAIRY SPARKLE, OAM

Glittering in jewel-encrusted gown with a tiara atop her head, Fairy Sparkle looks like she stepped right off the pages of children's storybook. But unlike your standard kids' party rent-a-fairy, Fairy Sparkle isn't just a persona played by an entertainer.

"People ask if I can be a gypsy at their kid's birthday party," she laughs, "but I'm not a gypsy, I'm a fairy."

"This is who I am, this is my life".

Fairy is today awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her work as a children's ambassador at the Sydney Children's Hospital in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

"I do this work for the little things, like a smile or a laugh, so to receive such a big honour is so humbling and so unexpected," says the former IT worker, who legally changed her name to Fairy Sparkle in the mid-90s.

Over more than two decades, she has worked in hospitals around Sydney to improve the lives of patients and their families during their most vulnerable moments. Accompanied by her pomeranian Inkling, she sings, plays and chats with the young patients seven days a week.

"Nothing makes me happier than seeing a child's face light up - and then seeing that same glow reflected in their parents' faces," she says.

"If I can wave my wand and make something positive happen, why wouldn't I?"

Particularly close to Fairy's heart is the "happy garden" project, which has seen eight separate gardens built in various hospitals around Sydney. The project aims to create a sanctuary outside the white-walled, air-conditioned interior of the hospital ward, where patients and their families can go to relax, seek inspiration and interact as a "normal" family.

"It's about allowing happiness and dignity to flourish in the face of difficult times," she says.

Certainly, Fairy brings both of these qualities to her own life, embracing her extravagant wardrobe and alternative lifestyle with pride.

"Lining up at the post office is quite hilarious - and airport security is the worst!" she admits. "But it always makes people laugh and raises their spirits, so I know I'm having a positive effect."

Travelling around in her silver VW beetle and matching 'pod', Fairy says she is happy to have sacrificed certain areas of her life in order to pursue her passion.

"This life and this work is what makes my heart happy," she said. "I'm a little bit left of field, so to have my work recognised is such a wonderful honour."

- Brittany Ruppert

JUNEE WAITES, OAM

When Dane Waites was born in 1974, his mother Junee could never have dreamed it would lead to an Order of Australia (OAM) for her the day before her son's 40th birthday.

This Merimbula mother has been honoured for her services to people with Autism Spectrum disorder and their families.

When Dane was born there were few services for children born with this pervasive development disorder. He didn't smile at his parents or meet their gaze - he only smiled at the shadows of moving trees. It took until his fifth birthday for a diagnosis.

Her moving memoir,Smiling at Shadows , (Harper Collins) published in 2002, has since become an emotional guide for many parents navigating the world of an autism diagnosis.

Despite bleak prospects delivered from doctors, she and her husband Rod, have watched their son win a gold medal at the drug free Power Lifting competition in Melbourne in 1999, a bronze medal at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, three Melbourne marathons in under 3 hours and 30 minutes, six City-to-Surfs, and run the Sydney 2000 Olympic torch relay. Waites has worked as a tireless advocate with government departments to expand services for people with autism.

"I've always wanted to give society an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the 'World of Autism'. I endeavour to see what my son can see," she said.

- Helen Pitt

The story Queen's Birthday honour list: the highlights first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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