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2017 Australia Day honours list: Julia Gillard appointed an AC

Julia Gillard, AC

Former Pm Julia Gillard has received an AC.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard has been appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia. Photo: Justin McManus

The revelation came during one of Julia Gillard's first overseas trips as prime minister in 2010, in the midst of a two-day talkfest in Brussels. Rubbing shoulders with foreign dignitaries and diplomats, she confessed, was not her cup of tea.

She went into politics to make a difference, she told the ABC's 7.30, especially in the field of education. "If I had a choice, I'd probably be more [comfortable] in a school watching kids learn to read in Australia than here in Brussels at international meetings."

So it is rather fitting that Ms Gillard will not spend this Australia Day at a sausage sizzle or even having drinks with friends to celebrate her being appointed to Australia's highest civilian honour, a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

Instead, the former prime minister will be preparing to meet students and teachers at schools in Malawi, the poorest country on the face of the earth, and Ms Gillard says she could not be happier.

This is because the organisation she chairs, Global Partnerships for Education, is making it possible for the children to learn, the teachers to teach and the schools to be built and refurbished in Malawi  – where GDP per capita is 43 times lower than world average – and in more than 60 other poor countries.

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For Ms Gillard, the satisfaction will be even greater because the most recent grants from GPE have a focus on the groups most likely to be left behind: girls and those with disabilities.

"I'll be visiting schools to see how those programs are working," she explains. "We always try to fine tune and make sure every dollar is getting the best possible outcome – and they're not easy environments to work in."

But Ms Gillard says she will make time on Australia Day to reflect on her own journey and the honour that cites her service as prime minister, her contribution to policy development, especially in education and disability reform, and her being a role model for women.

"I'm absolutely delighted and very appreciative of an honour of this nature on Australia Day," Ms Gillard tells Fairfax Media before departing for Africa.

"I will spend Australia Day in Africa but, for me, being that far away, looking back at Australia, I'll be thinking about this nation and what it has been able to offer its people, including me.

"The central emotion for me will be what a great country it is that you can come as a four-year-old on a boat, and come from a very working class family, and end up being prime minister and receiving this honour."

Ms Gillard left politics in August 2013 after a tumultuous, roller-coaster finale to an extraordinary career that saw her become the country's 14th longest-serving, and first female, prime minister.

It took a full year for her to arrive at what she calls "the new normal, the new life", where her work with GPE has a practical focus, while an appointment as a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution's Centre for Universal Education allows thinking time on policy development.

There are other professorships and organisations she supports, including Beyondblue and Layne Beachley's Aim for the Stars Foundation, but there is one big difference between this and her past life.

"There is not the intensity and I don't think in my life I will ever again have the intensity that came with being prime minister, where really there is never a moment when you are not prime minister.

"Now I'm busy, frequently travelling, with a lot of time away from home, but when I am home I get the benefit that I can be intensively at home – turn the phone off and not worry and hang with family and friends and do things in a more genuinely personal way than that very intense pressurised life of prime minister.

"The thing I miss the most is the direct ability to make change. I obviously had a big focus on the politics of opportunity and what that means for the educational start that kids need, what that means for the support that people with disabilities need.

"The fact that you can see that there is problem, you can think about the problem and its solutions, and then you've got the power to push those solutions through - not with the click of your fingers because parliamentary system can be difficult and noisy, but ultimately you could make a difference.

"In the things I do now, I still feel like I can make a difference, but it's not with the same invested power and authority that a role like prime minister has."

What Ms Gillard doesn't miss is "the sheer relentlessness" of the life she had. "It's nice to have a little bit more light and shade in your life and, with all due respect, I don't miss the worst of the media intrusions into your life."

While Ms Gillard keeps in close touch with some of her former colleagues, she made a conscious decision to keep out of domestic political debates.

"I think there is a role for former PMs and former politicians in general to play, still contributing and still seeking to make a difference," she says. "But I'm a very big believer that you have got to let the current generation get on with it and be custodian of the day-to-day domestic political debates."

If she saw Australian politics at its most bruising, she says she remains a "complete optimist about our nation and our ability to work things through and get things done".

"One thing about travelling so much is it does give you a wonderful sense of joy and thankfulness when you step back off the plane and you are back here and you can contrast us with some of the poorest places on earth that I travel to now, but also many other countries that are, income-wise, like us.

"I just think we have got a whole lot right about our spirit of egalitarianism and fairness – things you would always want to be part of being Australian."

- Michael Gordon

Stephen Gageler, AC

Justice Stephen Gageler of the  High Court.

Justice Stephen Gageler of the High Court. Photo: Andrew Meares

A recurring theme in the life of Justice Stephen Gageler is modesty.

At his swearing-in as a High Court judge in October 2012, Justice Gageler thanked his parents for giving him a moral compass, and his public school teachers from Muswellbrook High School for empowering him with critical thinking.

He then recalled Alfred Deakin's 1902 description of the court's powers as "moving by gradual, cautious, well-considered steps to join the past with the future without undue collision and strife in the present". Justice Gageler said: "I join the Court with no agenda and with no ambition other than to continue to walk that same walk".

As the son of a Hunter Valley sawmiller and a hairdresser, an eminent career in law perhaps seemed unlikely.

But many who know Justice Gageler, who has been appointed a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia, say his upbringing helped shape his outlook, and his humility in the courtroom.

"In an adversarial system where the breastplate of supreme confidence and the helmet of hyperbole may be considered to be essential armour for the advocate, your honour is an exception to the general rule," then Australian Bar Association president Craig Colvin, SC, said upon Justice Gageler's appointment.

Before his promotion to the bench, Justice Gageler was a sought-after litigator, acting for Avon, Betfair, and for Humane Society International in their fight against the Japanese whale hunt.

He was appointed Solicitor-General in 2008, and provided legal advice to the government on its asylum seeker deal with Malaysia.In that role, he also successfully fought for plain packaging on tobacco products, a world first.

On the bench, Justice Gageler was the dissenting judge in the High Court's ruling that the Independent Commission Against Corruption had no power to investigate Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC.

In 2015, the Australian National University awarded him an honorary doctorate, recognising his work in legal thinking and public law. Justice Gageler's career trajectory, former attorney-general Nicola Roxon said, also speaks volumes about Australia.

"It is an excellent thing that in Australia someone born into a sawmiller's family in a small NSW town can reach this high office."

- Stephanie Gardiner

Mick Fanning, AO

Australian surfer and charity worker Mick Fanning.

Australian surfer and charity worker Mick Fanning. Photo: Mark Kolbe

Mick Fanning may be widely known for surviving a shark attack in 2015, but much of the work the three-time surfing world champion does is behind the scenes.

Mr Fanning has been appointed an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his contribution to the sport of surfing and his charity work.

Mr Fanning is proud to have received the recognition.

"It's a huge honour, to be recognised with that high an accolade. I'm not someone who goes and chases awards, but this is one that's really special," he said.

Mr Fanning took a break from the professional surfing circuit in 2016, competing in a limited number of events, while taking time to explore a raft of new endeavours, including surfing under the Northern Lights, exploring his Irish heritage and camping in Alaska.

"When you're competing, especially if you're chasing world titles, you want to keep your program pretty tight, you're always travelling through somewhere, you're always getting ready for the next event.

"I just wanted to break out of routine a bit, that was the main reason for it and just wanted to do something, put myself in places where I wouldn't normally be."

He did find time to return to Jeffreys Bay, the site of the shark attack, to gain some closure. Closure came in the form of a competition victory.

"I had so many great memories in J-Bay, so to leave it on that one note wouldn't have been right, so for me it was just righting wrongs. Once I had that first surf it was fine, just like old times."

Much of Mr Fanning's charity work goes unseen. He has worked as a Starlight Ambassador since 2014 and has helped raise funds for Camp Quality.

"I think we all should give back in a way, these kids are going through a tough time and I'm pretty blessed, I'm lucky to have my health. I'm more than happy to take some time out and try and put some smiles on their faces.

"But, at the end of the day, they're the ones that are putting smiles on my face, I walk away just being so humbled and just grateful that I am healthy and happy and able to do the things that I want to do."

 - Cameron Mee

Linda Dessau, AC 

Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau at Government House.

Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau at Government House. Photo: Penny Stephens

Victorian governor Linda Dessau has been appointed the highest honour, a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia, in this year's Australia Day honours list.

And no, she won't have to put the medal around her own neck. While she will hand out gongs for recipients at lesser levels of the honours at Government House in April, the Governor-General will officiate for AC recipients in Canberra.

Ms Dessau, a former family court judge, says she is "very honoured" to be listed among the "wonderful people" in the honours list. She says in her first 18 months as Governor, the community members she has hosted, or visited around the state, have proven just as interesting as politicians or foreign dignitaries.

It can be everyone from war veterans to croquet players to the 160 babies she hosted to mark a hospital's 160th anniversary.

"Every day you're meeting good people, to whom you can say thank you and people who inspire you with their creative ideas, their vision and their innovation."

Ms Dessau plans to open Government House more to the public, host school tours and start a kitchen garden program for migrant women.

On Australia Day she will host the annual Government House open day with food, games and animal exhibits.

- Carolyn Webb

Jimmy Barnes, AO

Paul Kelly, AO

Nick Cave, AO

Jimmy Barnes has also been recognised for supporting children with a disability.

Jimmy Barnes has also been recognised for supporting children with a disability. Photo: Stephanie Barnes

The three musicians appointed as Officers in the General Division of the Order of Australia have between them more than 100 years experience, more than 50 albums, more gigs than anyone could remember and clocked up more kilometres in the back of vans, cars, planes and trains than anyone could count.

Jimmy Barnes, or James Dixon Barnes as it will say on his certificate, has been honoured for "distinguished services to the performing arts as a musician, singer and songwriter, and through support for not-for-profit organisations, particularly to children with a disability.

That suggests a pretty full life and his battered body would back it up, having sung his throat, and almost his heart, out with Cold Chisel and on his own since the early 1970s. He didn't do it alone but he did do it 100 per cent.

"I just wanted to say thank you to whoever decides these things of course, but more importantly, those who have worked so hard and sweated with me at all the shows that I have done over the last  40  odd years," a "humbled" Barnes said in his statement where he describes himself as someone who arrived in Australia as "a young Scottish immigrant with dreams and hopes" and not just someone with a swag of ARIA awards and gold albums.

It is with this migrant experience that he sees a continuing role for himself making sure more children have a "chance at making a good life" while also recognising "the original inhabitants of this vast country. We are lucky to be sharing it with them".

It's a sentiment likely to be shared by another musician who, like the long-time Sydney resident Barnes spent formative years in Adelaide, Paul Kelly.

Almost universally regarded as Australia's greatest living songwriter and teller of uniquely Australian stories, from Bradman and Shane Warne to land rights and the underbelly of Sydney, Kelly is also a long-time activist on behalf of indigenous and other national issues.

The Melbourne-based artist was honoured for "distinguished service to the performing arts and to the promotion of the national identity through contributions as a singer, songwriter and musician".

A former Melbourne musician who now is an internationally recognised author, screenwriter, composer and performer, Nick Cave completes the trio of musicians recognised.

Cave, who lives in Brighton on the English south coast, was honoured for "distinguished service to the performing arts as a musician, songwriter, author and actor, both nationally and internationally, and as a major contributor to Australian music culture and heritage".

- Bernard Zuel

Anna Bligh, AC

Former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

Former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. Photo: James Alcock

When former Queensland premier Anna Bligh is appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia this Australia Day, she will have  just one regret.

"I do look forward to a time when these awards are made by an Australian head of state," she said. "That would be quite an Australia Day.

"This award came as quite a surprise to me, but I'm very, very grateful to be a recipient and I'm very honoured to have had the chance to serve the people of Queensland in my role in government," Ms Bligh said.

Since losing government to the Campbell Newman-led Liberal National Party in 2012, Ms Bligh has moved interstate and signed on as chief executive of the YWCA NSW in Sydney.

But Queensland was never far from the former Labor premier's thoughts and she looked back to her time in the sunshine state with pride.

"The opportunity to be in government at any level in Australia is a remarkable opportunity to make a difference, to leave a legacy and to get things done," Ms Bligh said.

"And when I look back at the time that I had in government, first as a member of Peter Beattie's government and then leading a government in my own right, it's clear that there were many, many things put in place that are still making a difference today.

"Whether it was the prep (school) year, introduced into all Queensland primary schools, the introduction of fluoride, or the development of so much infrastructure, there is a great sense that I didn't waste a moment and it's a great honour to have it recognised in this way."

The honour bestowed upon Ms Bligh was not just for her time in government, but also for her role as an advocate for women and the not-for-profit sector.

Of that, Ms Bligh was particularly proud.

"I became a young adult through the late 1970s and early 1980s in Queensland," she said.

"It was a time when women were not able to enjoy a lot of the opportunities they now take for granted and should take for granted, a time when there were much, much higher levels of discrimination, prejudice and things that held women back.

"As a young woman, I felt that very keenly. I saw it around me, in my workplace, my university and in broader public life.

"I have been someone who has championed those causes, both in and out of government and in and out of the Parliament, all of my adult life, and now working at the YWCA where we provide services for women and children, particularly those escaping domestic violence.

"I do know there has been enormous progress, but there is still much, much work to be done."

Ms Bligh also watched with interest the ascension of Gladys Berejiklian to become premier of her adopted state and the questioning she received at her first media conference regarding her status as a childless, unmarried woman.

As Queensland's first female premier, Ms Bligh said while it was "good to see New South Wales finally catch up to Queensland and get its second woman premier".

- Cameron Atfield

Isaac Wakil, AO

Susan Wakil, AO

Sydney multimillionaires Isaac and Susan Wakil.

Sydney multimillionaires Isaac and Susan Wakil. Photo: Supplied

The reclusive Sydney couple whose $200 million-plus property portfolio has been turned to the service of philanthropic causes have been appointed Officers of the Order of Australia in the general division for their charitable works.

Once fixtures on Sydney's arts and social scene and now in their 80s, the Wakils began selling off their large, vacant industrial properties including the iconic Griffiths Tea warehouse in inner Sydney a few years ago, funding two enormous donations to the University of Sydney's nursing and health faculties in 2015.

Their second bequest, $35 million for the university to build a new healthcare precinct bringing nursing, midwifery, medicine, pharmacy and dentistry under the same roof, was the largest donation in the history of the nation's oldest university.

They also provide individual scholarships to disadvantaged teenagers to help them undertake tertiary study through the Public Education Foundation.

Lifelong opera devotees, their generosity has also benefited Opera Australia, with a $1.5 million donation to in 2015 which sought to broaden access to the opera by subsidising cheap tickets.

The couple made their fortune in the garment trade before investing in property in the 1970s, having emigrated from Romania and Iraq.

- Kelsey Munro

Ken Wilson, OAM

Ken Wilson, a volunteer for 32 years, and now OAM.

Ken Wilson, a volunteer for 32 years, and now OAM. Photo: Wayne Taylor

In 32 years as a Vinnies soup van volunteer, Victorian Ken Wilson has acquired some insight into homelessness an how to fix it.

He called on the government to legislate that the developers give one out of every 100 new apartments to public housing.

"If governments had the will, these sorts of issues could be resolved very quickly."

Mr Wilson receives an Order of Australia medal (OAM) for his work as a "vannie". 

It involves visiting the homeless and disadvantaged in Collingwood streets and public housing flats, offering food and human connection.

Mr Wilson initially rode the Fitzroy and city van. Two 'clients' stick in his mind. One was his friend Paddy, "a lovely fella" who died aged 81, in 1995. 

Police traced Paddy's family to Belfast and Mr Wilson visited them. As a youth, Paddy, a Protestant, had got a Catholic girl pregnant. It's believed shame drove him to join the merchant navy and vanish from his family.

Then in 1987, Mr Wilson was the last person to see a man before thugs bashed him to death in Banana Alley. 

Mr Wilson says as a vannie he's gained good friends and the pleasure of helping others. He attends funerals for the destitute and takes disadvantaged people on outings.

"It's like sand between your toes, it gets in there and, bloody hell, you just can't get it out," he says of the work. 

- Carolyn Webb

(John) Andrew Forrest, AO

Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest has been recognised.

Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest has been recognised.

Andrew Forrest, known by his childhood nickname Twiggy, has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to the mining sector, the development of employment and business opportunities, and his support of sustainable foreign investments. 

On top of his success in the mining industry, Mr Forrest has been named for his philanthropic pursuits. Through the Minderoo Foundation, he has supported more than  250 community initiatives aimed at ending modern day slavery and indigenous disparity. 

After announcing the Minderoo Foundation had successfully placed more than 5000 people into long-term employment in October of last year, Mr Forrest encouraged the unity of all Australians.

"When we refuse to accept the plight of vulnerable Australians, when we push back against the status quo, have the courage of our convictions and are willing to have a go, we can create parity."

Mr Forrest was recently named Western Australia's 2017 Australian of the Year. During the ceremony, he said we should be "fiercely and passionately proud to be Australian".

"If we're in Australia say we're not going to stand for any form of modern slavery, like we're not going to stand for any form of indigenous disparity, then we're together, working together as individuals," he said.

- Naomi Neilson  

Robert Ellicott, AC

Robert Ellicott QC has been honoured.

Robert Ellicott QC has been honoured. Photo: Louie Douvis

Leading Sydney QC Bob Ellicott might have quit frontline politics more than 30 years ago, but the former attorney-general and Federal Court judge remains close to the heart of Australian public life.

Appointed a Companion in the general division of the Order of Australia, the former Wentworth MP and minister for home affairs and the environment has been recognised for service to Parliament - particularly as attorney-general in the Fraser government, and in legal practice, policy development and arbitration of international sporting disputes. 

Inspired to become a barrister at the age of 8, Mr Ellicott later began to consider politics when listening to the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill and John Curtin as a teenager. 

Admitted to Queen's Counsel in 1964, he served as Commonwealth solicitor-general from 1969 until 1973. Elected to Parliament a year later, he quit politics in 1981 to join the Federal Court bench, where he served until 1983.

Mr Ellicott played a role in the Dismissal, construction of Canberra's new Parliament House and is considered a founding father of the Australian Institute of Sport.

A regular presence before the High Court and NSW Supreme Court, Mr Ellicott was reportedly a go-between in the Turnbull government's search for a new solicitor-general last year. A foundation board member of Life Education Australia and long-time member of Sydney's Wayside Chapel, Mr Ellicott is patron of Gymnastics Australia. 

- Tom McIlroy

Ken Lay, AO

Former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay.

Former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay. Photo: Eddie Jim

In decades of frontline policing in the 1970s and 1980s, Ken Lay came across countless instances of mindless domestic violence and preventable road crashes.

When he rose to senior ranks, and as Victoria Police chief commissioner from 2011 to 2015, he was able to introduce policy and attitude changes that have been widely lauded.

He oversaw expansion of the speed camera network, introducing research-based policing strategies and publicising the need to change driver behaviour. 

He is proud of establishing a police Family Violence Command, ordering a review into sexual harassment and bullying within Victoria Police, and helping bring about the Royal Commission into family violence.

Mr Lay, who is appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, says it's nice to get personal accolades.

"But a lot of people have contributed to this, many thousands of police members who helped shape my career, obviously my family, and a lot of people who have taken a personal interest in me to help me to become who I am, both at a personal and professional level.

"Each one of them own a little bit of this. It's not something one person gets just by acting alone."

Having grown up in Korumburra in South Gippsland, he joined Victoria Police "straight out of high school", with his first posting Russell Street police station in Melbourne. "A bit of an eye opener for a young boy from the country." 

His time as chief commissioner was seen as calming but he says there were also "some fairly dramatic changes" such as the establishment of the blue paper mapping out the future of the force, and moves addressing some police members' predatory behaviour "which shook the organisation up".

The police force grew by 2500 members, and 950 Protective Service Officers were established. It was "quite a lot of change in a very short amount of time" but he was "blessed" by the support of stakeholders such as the Police Association.

He was influenced in his actions as chief by the "terrible and challenging things" he saw early in his career, such as "hundreds and hundreds of times I went into people's homes where women and children had been murdered or badly assaulted or treated badly", and seeing people who had been killed in car crashes.

Mr Lay is now chair of Ambulance Victoria, an organisation "facing enormous change" but is also "enormously exciting and rewarding" to work with. He is also on the boards of the Alannah​ and Madeline Foundation and Essendon Football Club. 

- Carolyn Webb

Chloe Esposito, OAM

Pentathlon gold medallist Chloe Esposito.

Pentathlon gold medallist Chloe Esposito. Photo: Janie Barrett

Australian pentathlete and 2016 Rio Olympic Games gold medalist Chloe Esposito has added another award to her tally, receiving the Order of Australia medal for service to the sport.

Ms Esposito set a goal of trying to win a  medal in the sport that Australia had never done so: the modern pentathlon.

Making her Olympic debut at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Ms Esposito says that "hard work and determination is what's needed to keep pushing through".

The 25-year-old from western Sydney is also thankful to her support network for being by her side including her brother who also competed in the pentathlon.

On how she feels about her OAM, she says she is  "honoured to be invited into a privileged world [and] would really like to start giving back to the country".

The gold medallist plans to speak in schools particularly about the promotion of women in sport.

"Can't expect to go easy," is her  her philosophy for success.
Ms Esposito also received the Australian Institute of Sport Performance Awards' 2016 - ABC Sports Personality of the Year.

- Roydon Ng

Rebecca Peters, AO

Rebecca Peters, gun law reformist.

Rebecca Peters, Australian gun-control activist Rebecca Peters speaking at the UN in 2014.

Rebecca Peters has dedicated her life to the cause of gun law reform and improving the lives of those injured by gun violence. She has been appointed an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia for her service to the community as an advocate and campaigner for gun control as well as her work as a "global leader in the reduction of the proliferation and misuse of small arms". 

As a leader of the National Coalition for Gun Control and a law graduate with a thesis on the relationship between gun availability and homicide in domestic violence, she played an influential role working with the Howard government in the aftermath of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre to deliver tougher gun laws. The final overhaul of state and territory gun regulation contained 11 of the points the coalition advocated and is estimated to have saved thousands of lives.

After a period in the US working on gun control there, she became the London-based director of the International Action Network on Small Arms, an organisation dedicated to supporting and coordinating gun-control efforts worldwide.

She now lives in Guatemala where she is campaigning for better assistance for the disabled survivors of gun violence. 

- Julie Lewis

Phil Kearns, AM

Wallabies great Phil Kearns.

Wallabies great Phil Kearns. Photo: Brendon Thorne

With a successful career in rugby union spanning a decade, Phil Kearns, who today becomes a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), has been recognised for significant service to the community through support for charitable organisations, to business, and to elite level sport.

Both as a respected former captain of the Australian rugby union team and business company director in addition to involvement in the nonprofit charities sector, Mr Kearns is also a keen supporter for children's health and safety.

The father of four, who accidentally ran over his baby daughter in his driveway a decade ago (she recovered), is the brains behind charity event the Balmoral Burn, which has raised more than $27 million dollars to purchase lifesaving medical equipment for children's hospitals and medical facilities in Australia and East Timor.

Mr Kearns' personal philosophy is "be kind, grateful and polite to everyone because karma is an amazing thing".

Recovering from an 18-month Achillies and knee injuries to help Australia win the 1999 Rugby World Cup as well as following from the accident with his daughter, Mr Kearns has often been viewed as a symbol of endurance and determination.

- Roydon Ng

Martin Parkinson, AC

Martin Parkinson , honoured for leadership in public service.

Martin Parkinson, honoured for leadership in public service. Photo: Rohan Thomson

You can't tell Martin Parkinson that careers in the Australian Public Service are predictable.

It was just two years ago that he thought he was finished forever with the Commonwealth bureaucracy.

Now he's the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the nation's most senior public servant and as of Thursday morning, a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

The award, which will sit alongside the Public Service Medal he won in 2007, was awarded for Dr Parkinson's "eminent service to the Australian community...innovative government administration....development of economic policy, and...climate change strategy."

The last bit is ironic, as it was his background in climate policy that was widely blamed for his sacking from his job as Treasury secretary by the climate-sceptic Abbott government in 2013.

But Dr Parkinson, known in bureaucratic and government circles as a very cool head, took the whole thing in his stride.

After all, former Treasury secretaries do not stay unemployed for long.

"I fully understand and respect the right of the Prime Minister to decide who he wants to be secretary of departments," Dr Parkinson said this week.

"Unlike the rest of the APS, all secretaries work for the Prime Minister of the day; we're appointed by the Prime Minister and we can be remove.

"So I didn't have any personal concern, I took it as: 'OK, time for me to go in a different direction'."

"So when I left Treasury in December 2014, I didn't anticipate coming back to government in any way shape or form."

Dr Parkinson was getting on with the next phase of his life and career almost a year after his departure when a "surprise" call from Malcolm Turnbull, who had wrested power from Abbott, tapping the former Treasury man for a return to the public service; this time at the top of the pile.

"Basically, if you believe in the importance of public policy and the Prime Minister of the day asks you to do something, you better have a very good reason not to do it," Dr Parkinson said.

"Prime ministers are very persuasive men."

Individual honours are nice, Dr Parkinson says, but public service is a team effort and he believes he could not do much without the men and women around him.

"In the public sector, everything you do is joint effort," he said.

"Anything I've achieved has been built on the contribution of others and reflects the contribution of others."

- Noel Towell

Anne O'Donovan, AO

Anne O'Donovan,  founder of the  Good Food Guide.

Anne O'Donovan, founder of the Good Food Guide.

In 1979, small independent publisher Anne O'Donovan approached Melbourne's The Age with a big idea. Why not publish a stylish book with The Age's respected writers reviewing the city's restaurants?

Reviewers would not accept payment from eateries nor identify themselves. They would pen concise appraisals that avoided fashionable put-downs.

The Age editors loved it, and from the first edition in 1980, edited by Claude Forell​, so did the public, but no one imagined it would be such a raging success.

Ms O'Donovan says she is "tremendously touched" to be appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in today's Australia Day honours.

The Age Good Food Guide is still a staple in households across the state, spawned spin-offs such as Cheap Eats and the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, and its annual launch remains the hospitality industry's big night out. 

Ms O'Donovan sold Good Food Guide to The Age in 2000, but has watched its evolution proudly. She says it helped turn Melbourne into Australia's dining-out capital.

Ms O'Donovan also found mass success in 1980, publishing The Billings Method - a guide to natural fertility, by Dr Evelyn Billings and Dr Ann Westmore - which is still in print, was translated into 20 languages and has sold about 1 million copies.

- Carolyn Webb

Mark Webber, AO

Mark Webber  has been honoured.

Mark Webber has been honoured. Photo: Getty Images

Former Formula One driver Mark Webber has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his distinguished service to motor sport as a competitor and ambassador and to the community for a variety of charitable endeavours.

Webber had an acclaimed Formula One career, winning nine races and finishing third in the World Championship three times. After moving to the World Endurance Championships, he was crowned World Champion in 2015, before retiring in 2016.

Webber has worked hard to develop motor sport in Australia, mentoring current F1 racer Daniel Ricciardo and establishing a fund to support emerging drivers.

He has also been involved in a number of charity projects, with the Mark Webber Foundation raising more than  a million dollars for organisations including the Leukemia Foundation and Save the Tasmanian Devils Foundation.

Speaking in November ahead of his retirement, Webber urged Australians to get behind the next generation of race car drivers.

"Generally the support from Australia is extremely difficult for young drivers," he said.  "We need people to share the same vision as the drivers and then we've got half a chance to have this talent progressing through."

- Cameron Mee

Graeme Henson, AM

Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson.

Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson. Photo: Brendan Esposito

After 28 years on the bench, Judge Graeme Henson​ says he still leaps out of bed every morning to come to work.

"I understand well and truly the value of law in a free and democratic society such as this. It's fundamental to our way of life and the protection of the community," said the NSW chief magistrate, who is being honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the law.

"I wouldn't swap it for anything."

A moment spent in Judge Henson's court makes it clear community concerns and deterrence are at the forefront of his mind.

"It is important that the community knows of the potential consequences ... particularly in drink driving and domestic violence, which goes to the question of the quality of people's lives." 

Judge Henson, who has been the chief magistrate for more than a decade, has advocated for education about drug and alcohol-fuelled violence.

He has also spoken out against cuts to magistrates and legal services, while arrest rates and case loads increase.

Judge Henson is also known for his dry wit.

Noting delays in a case this week, he said: "This matter is coming up for its first anniversary. Who's bringing the cake next time?"

- Stephanie Gardiner

Ray Meagher, OAM

Ray Meagher is honoured today.

Ray Meagher is honoured today.

Best known for playing Alf Stewart in Australia's top-rating soap opera  Home and Away, Ray Meagher, 72, is recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the performing arts as an actor – in a career spanning almost five decades. 

Raised on a Queensland sheep and cattle station, Meagher's upbringing helped secure an early gig on a rural-themed ABC series. "When I got there they said, 'You can actually ride a horse? Most people just lie about it,'" Meagher told News Corp. Within a few years, he had roles in acclaimed films including The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Newsfront, My Brilliant Career and Breaker Morant. 


On television, Meagher appeared in popular programs such as Prisoner, Kingswood Country, Mother and Son, A Country Practice and the racy serial Number 96 ("People saw my body and thought, `We'll pay this bloke [to] keep his clothes on,'" Meagher joked.)

In 1988, Meagher starred in Home and Away's debut – Channel Seven's answer to Neighbours. (Seven had axed Neighbours a couple of years earlier, only to watch Ten make it a hit. Now, Home and Away has a national audience four times the size of Neighbours'.)

In 2010, he won the viewer-voted Gold Logie award for TV's most popular personality.
- Michael Lallo


Peter Woolcott, AO

Peter Woolcott, a senior officer with DFAT.

Peter Woolcott is honoured with an AO.

As the scion of one of Australia's most famous diplomats, Peter Woolcott could have rested on his laurels.  Instead, the career diplomat dedicated his life to making the world, and Australia's place in it, better and more accountable. 

His work helped ensure a regional response to people smuggling but it's the role he played in the development of the 2013 United Nations Arms Trade Treaty which has seen him appointed  an Officer of the Order of Australia.

That treaty, the first of its kind monitoring trade in conventional weapons, won overwhelming support, with just Iran, Syria and North Korea voting against it, and aims to "prevent arms from being transferred irresponsibly and illegally to commit atrocities, human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law". 

Mr Woolcott, who began his career as a barrister in Sydney before moving to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the early 1980s, has served Australia in Jakarta, Buenos Aires, acted as chief of staff to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in 2002-04 and is currently posted in the Australian High Commission in New Zealand.

- David Wroe
 

Colin Masters, AO

Professor Colin Masters, Alzheimers researcher and

Professor Colin Masters, Alzheimers researcher and AO. Photo: Penny Stephens

Alzheimer's disease is the scourge of our ageing population, but Colin Masters is full of hope.

The world renowned researcher is leading a human trial of drugs that could dramatically slow the progress of the disease.
Professor Masters, a laureate professor of dementia research at the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute, says his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia in today's honours list is recognition of his 35 years of work into neurodegenerative diseases.

This included the discovery, with German professor Konrad Beyreuther of how the amyloid protein in brain cells forms the plaques that build up and cause Alzheimer's. 

His research has followed the protein's origin, how it accumulates in the the brain, and working out "a way to use that knowledge for diagnosis and therapy". The goal of the drugs trial on 600 people is to slow the disease's onset by five years.

Professor Masters said today's honour "means that people are interested in the progress of our work, because this has been a very long hard effort over th last 35 years to really understand what goes wrong in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.
"We are very optimistic that we will see disease-modifying drugs in the near future - slowing or delaying onset of the disease."

 - Carolyn Webb

Charlotte Caslick, OAM

Charlotte Caslick, Olympic gold medallist and OAM.

Charlotte Caslick, Olympic gold medallist and OAM. Photo: Mark Metcalfe

Charlotte Caslick has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to sport as part of the gold medal winning women's rugby sevens side at the Rio Olympics.

Caslick scored the match winning try in the final  and was one of the stars of the tournament, scoring seven tries. She was named World Rugby women's sevens player of the year in November.

She has since spoken of her pride at representing Australia and her desire to advance women's sport in Australia.

"We've always wanted to leave a legacy and inspire people to keep that up and be a part of what we've built. Rugby sevens has given me so much in my life already, whether it's travel or being full-time professional, I feel like it's my duty to give back to the sport that has given me so much." Caslick told Fairfax Media in November.


In  a separate interview she said: "In Australia particularly, with our sporting culture, we could create so many amazing female athletes, so I hope it keeps going the way it is."

 - Cameron Mee

Australia celebrating Australians

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

You can read the full list of those honoured here.