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Recognising ‘the best of Australia’

26 January 2020 at 6:00 am
Wendy Williams
Australia Day Honours List dominated by those in the community sector

Wendy Williams | 26 January 2020 at 6:00 am


Recognising ‘the best of Australia’
26 January 2020 at 6:00 am

Australia Day Honours List dominated by those in the community sector

Aussies from age 19 to 97 have been celebrated in this year’s Australia Day Honours List, with almost 45 per cent of awards recognising outstanding service or achievement in the community.

Governor-General David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) said the 837 Australians recognised in this year’s awards exemplified “the best of Australia”.

He said behind every medal and citation there was a story. 

“Whether through their service, sacrifice or significant achievement, these people help others and make our towns, communities and nation better,” he said.

“They’re extraordinary but also, in the best possible way, ordinary. The fantastic thing, the inspirational thing, is that we all know people like those who have been recognised today – people who look out for each other and, day-in-day-out, serve their communities in ways big and small. We have seen countless examples of this sort of service during the bushfire crisis.”

Philanthropy Australia CEO Sarah Davies, who has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the community through a range of executive roles, told Pro Bono News she was thrilled to see her “tribe” increasingly recognised and celebrated.

“It is wonderful to be seen, but what is even more meaningful for me is that the things that matter to me have also been seen as mattering to all of us,” Davies said.

“I think that the growing awareness of the powerhouse nature of our not-for-profit and community sector and of philanthropy is just so exciting.

“As a sector we are 10 per cent of Australia’s workforce, plus another 3.6 million volunteers, we are about 8 per cent of GDP, and so seeing through this formal recognition program, all of the people that dedicate their energy and their time and their resources to positive change and overall progressing of public good is just marvellous. That I find so inspiring.”

There were many familiar faces for the social sector included in the honours list, with volunteers, charity workers, and philanthropists all receiving acknowledgement.

Sam Lipski AM, who announced his retirement from his long-running post as CEO of the Pratt Foundation in December last year, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the community through the promotion of strategic philanthropy, to education, and to Australia-Israel relations.

Jane Hansen, chair and CEO of the Hansen Little Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband Paul Little AO, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia; as was Julie Kantor, founder and director of the Annamila Foundation. 

Australian academic Professor Larissa Behrendt – the first Indigenous woman to graduate from Harvard University – was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to Indigenous education and research, to the law, and to the visual and performing arts.

Other sector figures included philanthropist Allan English, Settlement Services International CEO Violet Roumeliotis, copywriter John Bevins, RESULTS Australia chair Christine Franks, former World Vision Australia chairman George Savvides, Limbs 4 Life founder Melissa Noonan, child safety advocate Damian De Marco, The Dowd Foundation co-founders Carl and Wendy Dowd and Georgina Dulcie Williams, who were all appointed Members of the Order of Australia.

Jocelyn Bignold, Leif Cocks, Carly Findlay, Maree Nutt, Seri Renkin, Patricia Burke, Gillian Hund and Jennifer Doubell were among those awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

A number of people working in the impact investing space were also recognised including Impact Investing Australia co-founder Rosemary Addis, who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, and Impact Investing Australia CEO Sally McCutchan, who was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Dr Catherine Brown, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation CEO and a member of the Social Impact Investing Taskforce Expert Panel, was also awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through charitable organisations.

Addis told Pro Bono News that impact was on the agenda.

“I am delighted to see the focus and recognition for the role of social innovation and investment and I hope we can really take advantage of the spotlight on that to drive change – particularly at this important time when there are lots of things that we need to do, to invest in and help rebuild communities who have been affected by the fires and to make the most of the opportunity that we have with the federal government taskforce,” she said.

“We can see the acknowledgment of the role of these areas coming into the mainstream in a range of ways and with the recent statements at Davos and from a number of business leader forums that impact is definitely on the agenda, and we want to use this opportunity to continue to drive forward and make progress as quickly as possible.”


Australia Day 2020 Honours List in numbers:

  • This year’s list recognised 837 outstanding and inspirational Australians:
    • 5 appointed Companions of the Order (AC)
    • 59 appointed Officers of the Order (AO)
    • 224 appointed Members of the Order (AM)
    • 549 Medals (OAM) awarded.
  •  Women received 348 – or 41.6 per cent – of awards.
  • 375 awards were for outstanding service or achievement in the community.
  • The oldest recipient in the list is 97 years old. 
  • The youngest recipient is 19 years old.
  •  15 recipients have previously received an award in the Order.


Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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