Despite sounding like a shadowy cabal appointed to defeat Batman, being appointed to the Order of Australia is one of the highest Australian honours anyone can receive. People are appointed to the order for "achievement and merit in service to Australia or humanity", which is quite an ask for anyone and certainly worthy of some kind of recognition. While only Australian citizens (and the royal family) are eligible to be appointed to the order, honorary awards are frequently given to non-citizens in recognition of their work.
What is the Order of Australia?
Being appointed to the Order of Australia is really more of an honorary commendation for civilians, however it is nonetheless structured as a more traditional order of chivalry. The reigning monarch is the head, and the Governor-General acts as chancellor. Australians are recognised twice a year to join the Order, on Australia Day and the day set aside in June to celebrate the Queen's birthday.
Below the officials and any royal members, the order is separated into civilian and military divisions, with three ranks and one medal.
In order of ascending rank, recipients are appointed the rank of a member, an officer or a companion of the order. Below these, anyone can receive a medal of the Order but this does not formally include them in the ranks.
Isn't there supposed to be another rank? Didn't Prince Philip receive a medal a few years ago?
There has occasionally been one higher rank of the Order, the Knight/Dame of the Order. While the rank has mostly been removed since 1986, it was briefly reinstated in 2014 by Tony Abbott. This lasted for 18 months before Malcolm Turnbull once again ceased awards at that level. While it is closed, previous recipients are still recognised.
Only five people were awarded the rank of Knight/Dame across 2014 and 2015. These were Governor Quentin Bryce, Governor Marie Bashir, Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston, General Sir Peter Cosgrove, and controversially, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
How do I nominate someone?
While anybody can nominate someone for an Order of Australia award, only the Minister for Defence can recommend awards for the military division.
Notable recipients of Order of Australia honours include Indigenous activist Faith Bandler, Cate Blanchett, Steven Bradbury, Eric Bana and Don Bradman. Apologies to the thousands of other recipients, a full list is available here.
The most recent recipients, released on Australia Day, include Hugo Weaving, Kate McClymont and Ian Healy, among hundreds of others.
That list seems to have a lot of men on it.
That is not a question, but well observed! Over the last few years, many have noticed the disparate number of men being nominated and awarded. In 2016, men received 66 per cent of nominations and 63 per cent of awards. In fact, the most recent honours on Australia Day had 4 categories in which no women were nominated at all.
The group "Honour A Woman" was formed in 2017 to promote nominating women for more awards and recognition, and has found some success. Since it was launched, nominations of women for awards has risen from 31 per cent to an incredible... 42 per cent. It's something?
Who can be nominated?
While any Australian citizen can be nominated, there are a few rules. Honorary awards are given to non-citizens, but they can only be nominated by the Prime Minister or Governor-General.
If a nomination is unsuccessful, a nominee can be reconsidered after a period of three years. A prior recipient can be nominated for a promotion, but this will be considered a separate application and is unrelated to their previous award.
Can I nominate myself?
While there are no official rulings on this, the nomination guidelines specify that a nominee should not be notified of the process until it is completed, so take that as a no. It's also just a bit odd to nominate yourself for an award, really.