NFP Leaders and Philanthropists Honoured on Australia Day
26 January 2017 at 12:01 am
Philanthropists and not-for-profit leaders have joined former prime minister Julia Gillard in receiving top awards in this year’s Australia Day honours list.
The governor-general and chancellor of the Order of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove, approved 958 awards as part of the Australia Day 2017 honours list.
Included in the list are 727 recipients of awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia who have been recognised for their contributions and service to the Australian and international communities.
Gillard has been honoured with one of this year’s top awards – a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).
The Labor former PM received the award for “eminent service to the Parliament of Australia, particularly as prime minister, through seminal contributions to economic and social development, particularly policy reform in the areas of education, disability care, workplace relations, health, foreign affairs and the environment, and as a role model to women”.
CEO of YWCA NSW and former Queensland premier Anna Bligh also received an AC for “eminent service to the Parliament of Queensland, particularly as premier, to infrastructure development and education reform, as an advocate for the role of women in public life and to the not-for-profit sector”.
Bligh told Pro Bono News she was excited and honoured to be recognised in this year’s honours list.
“I think the honours system is an important part of recognising and encouraging contributions to local communities and broader society and the public life of our country,” Bligh said.
“I have been very fortunate and privileged to have had the opportunity in government over a long period of time to work in a number of portfolio areas where you really get the chance to make a big difference. My very first portfolio was in families youth, community care and disabilities.
“As a very new and enthusiastic young minister I am still very proud of the achievements I had as the most junior minister in the government particularly with the work we did with not-for-profit organisations back then, completely overhauling disability services.
“My decision to return to the not-for-profit sector after my time in politics was in part driven by the work I was able to do with the not-for-profit sector in government and in a number of portfolios, and I really appreciated the difference that can be made in this sector.”
She said she would always be passionate about advocating for the rights of women.
“When I went to university as young woman in the 1970s in Queensland I saw injustice and discrimination around me everywhere I looked and it was a time of great awakening for women in the western world at that time,” she said.
“I have always felt moved to action by injustice… I have seen a lot of those injustices remedied in my lifetime but I am deeply conscious that there is a long way to go and a lot of work that has to keep being done.
“I have not lost the fire in my belly about it.”
Also in the AC category were husband and wife philanthropists Isaac and Susan Wakil for their “distinguished service to the community through a range of philanthropic endeavours, and as a supporter of charitable, education and cultural”.
The Sydney property tycoons’ foundation donated $35 million to the University of Sydney in 2016 with the funds to be used for the construction of the Susan Wakil Health Building which will co-locate the faculties of nursing and health sciences with medicine, pharmacy and dentistry to provide a state-of-the-art, multi-service clinic.
The Sydney couple’s foundation had previously donated $10.8 million to the University of Sydney’s nursing school in 2015.
This year 475 men and 252 women received Australia Day awards.
The governor-general said that from actors to activists, sport champions, medical specialists, community leaders, volunteers and philanthropists – many recipients were high profile while others were largely unknown to the general community but were awarded for their tireless efforts.
“To all recipients, I offer my deepest congratulations, admiration and respect for your contribution to our nation,” Cosgrove said.
“Today’s recipients now join the company of almost 50,000 women and men whose meritorious and brave actions have enriched our community and our lives. Their qualities – compassion, dedication, generosity, selflessness, tolerance and energetic ambition – inspire and motivate us.”
Of the 27 recipients of the Office of the Order of Australia (AO) WA mining magnate and philanthropist Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest was honoured for distinguished service to the mining sector, to the development of employment and business opportunities, as a supporter of sustainable foreign investment, and to philanthropy.
Another 162 Australians became Members of the Order of Australia (AM) including Phillip Glendenning, executive director of human rights advocacy organisation the Edmund Rice Foundation, Dr Sue-Anne Wallace who was the former CEO of the Fundraising Institute Australia, as well as Paul Wheelton OAM, philanthropist and former owner of Budget car rentals.
Glendenning, who’s organisation focuses on social justice, human rights and eco-justice issues, used the award to call for Australia to redouble its efforts for social justice change.
“It’s good to have this work recognised but we also have to recognise that the work’s not done,” he told Pro Bono News.
“If you look at people languishing on Nauru and Manus at the moment who really have committed no crime, [they] need to be brought to safety and security as soon as possible… and that needs to happen in the next few days let alone months.
“There’s work that we need to do… that remains unfinished and receiving an award like this gives an opportunity to highlight that it’s not done yet.”
Businessman and philanthropist Wheelton has been a deputy chair of Life Education Australia (2010 to 2015), a director of the Life Education Foundation and he has been a council member of the Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Foundation since 2011. He is currently the patron of Les Twentyman’s 20th Man Fund.
Wallace received her award for significant service to the not-for-profit sector, particularly through charitable fundraising reform and establishing codes of practice.
Wallace has been the executive officer of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, the inaugural executive chair of Creating Australia, (2013 to 2016) and she is vice-president of the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (Geneva).
Recipients of the Medals of the Order of Australia (OAM) include Vedran Drakulic, chief executive officer at Gandel Philanthropy, and Melanie Raymond, chair of not-for-profit organisation Youth Projects.
Raymond, whose work is around advocacy and homelessness, told Pro Bono News that the people working in the community sector don’t do it for rewards.
“It was the last thing I expected but being recognised in such an honour and a privilege. But of course it is only achieved by surrounding yourself with good people and that’s the privilege that I have had in working with amazing people in every role I have had,” Raymond said.
“This kind of honour is very special and it doesn’t get any better than this and I take it very much to heart. It’s enormously humbling to be on that list.
“Giving back to the community seems to be a very natural thing to do. People often ask me why do I do it. I struggle with answering that. My actual question is: ‘Why are you not doing it.’”
Drakulic received his award for services to the community through a range of charitable organisations. He told Pro Bono News that as a refugee from war torn Sarajevo in 1995 he wanted to dedicate his award to all those people who have resettled in Australia and worked to make a better life for themselves.
“I came as a refugee 25 years ago and was given a second chance,” Drakulic said.
“I was working with the Red Cross and at the end of the war in November 1995 I came to Australia under a humanitarian resettlement program.
“Winning this award is really a great honour. Humbling, I would have to say. It is great recognition also for the work that philanthropy does in this country in general and I feel honoured to receive this recognition.
“I see  as very exciting. I have been in this space for a number of years now and one thing that I find is that it’s amazing how many new and interesting ideas and initiatives are popping up in philanthropy… both the organisations we are trying to support and as well as philanthropic organisations that are providing grants that are looking at new and different ways to try to tackle entrenched social issues.”
Drakulic is also an Australia Day ambassador and he is spending the day in Queenscliff with his family helping with the local ceremony including officiating at the citizenship ceremony.
The full list of the 2017 Australia Day award recipients can be found here.