Controversial tennis player Margaret Court made headlines last week after it was announced that she is set to cop Australia’s highest honour – Companion of the Order – as part of January 26’s Order of Australia awards ceremony.
This sucks, but if you take a quick squiz at the list of recent recipients of the various Order of Australia awards, you’ll see that ol’ Marg is by far the least controversial person we’ve given it to.
To put it simply, Australia bloody *loves* to reward our most controversial members of society with the country’s highest honours. At this point, the award is an embarrassment and we should just scrap it altogether.
There are four active levels of the Order: Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), Member of the Order of Australia (AM), Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).
But even the lowest ranking, the OAM, is still a huge honour. Or at least… It’s meant to be.
Among the list of past recipients, we’ve got some absolute Australian legends like tennis pro Dylan Alcott and even everyone’s favourite Olympian Steven Bradbury.
However, you simply can’t forget all of the problematic names that we’ve chucked these awards to.
So, in honour of Margaret Court copping the country’s highest honours, let’s take a look at the other recipients, shall we?
Tony Abbott (AC)
Former Prime Minister and onion eater Tony Abbott received the country’s highest honour last year for “eminent service to the people and Parliament of Australia”, with the award citing his work with Indigenous Australians, and his work on border control and trade as a reason for the award.
Not only was he vehemently against marriage equality, and felt “threatened” by homosexuality, but he also said “coal is good for humanity”, and was incredibly sexist and misogynistic towards former PM Julia Gillard.
Rupert Murdoch (AC)
Rupert Murdoch, the man who controls media as we know it, was awarded Australia’s highest honour in 1984 for services to publishing.
Now, I can’t deny that Murdoch has had an integral role in the development of the Australian media, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Recently, Kevin Rudd called his media monopoly a “cancer eating at the heart of Australian democracy”, he helped fuel Trump’s rise to power and has consistently denied climate change.
George Pell (AC)
No, this is not a joke. Cardinal George Pell was awarded Australia’s highest honour in 2005 for services to the Catholic Church in Australia and internationally. Even when he went to prison for child sex abuse, he kept his AC honours.
Although Pell’s child sex abuse convictions were overturned last year, a Royal Commission report (released after his release) found that Pell was at least aware of the child abuse in the clergy in the early 1970s.
“We are satisfied that in 1973 Father Pell turned his mind to the prudence of (Gerald) Ridsdale taking boys on overnight camps,” the report reads.
Bettina Arndt (AM)
Bettina Arndt was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2020 for – and I quote – “significant service to the community as a social commentator, and to gender equity through advocacy for men.”
We’re just going to ignore the fact that being a men’s rights activist is a pretty redundant role considering men aren’t discriminated against for their gender. However, that’s not the only thing that’s controversial here.
In 2020, Bettina asserted that Rowan Baxter (who murdered his wife and children) could’ve been a man who was simply “driven too far,” seemingly placing the blame on Hannah Clarke for her own murder.
But even after huge petitions to have Bettina’s AM revoked, she still holds one of Australia’s highest honours.
Don Burke (OAM)
Don Burke, former host of Burke’s Backyard was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2010 for his service to conservation and the environment.
However, a major Fairfax Media/ABC investigation found that Burke allegedly indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied a number of his female coworkers throughout his time at both outlets. Countless women in media including Kerri-Anne Kennerley came forward with allegations.
Burke was never formally charged, and ended up winning a defamation lawsuit against one of his accusers. To this day, he still holds his OAM honours.
Adrian Cheok (AM)
Adrian Cheok is an Australian professor and academic who was made an AM in 2019 for his work in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. His main focus of his work has been human sex with robots, which isn’t even the reason his AM has been contested.
Cheok came under fire in 2019 after posting islamaphobic memes on social media, prompting him to come forward and formally announce that he is not anti-Muslim and is not a white supremacist.
He has also received backlash for comparing same-sex marriage to robot-human sex.
“(People might say it’s) crazy, evil, immoral – but I guarantee you it’s going to happen,” he said.”In 50 years it will be legal to marry a robot, just like 50 years ago it was outrageous for a man to marry another man.
In addition to that, Cheok has faced backlash for allegedly attacking those who question his work on social media.
“When others have tried raising academic and ethical concerns about his conduct with students, he responds with personal attacks on social media,” Dr Brendan Keogh, a research fellow at the Queensland University of Technology said.
Following backlash, Cheok received support from Fraser Anning and ended up keeping his AM.
Alan Jones (AO)
Controversial radio broadcaster copped his Order of Australia honours back in 2004, partially for his contributions to media and sport, and partially for his charity work.
Now, I can’t deny that the man is charitable. He’s worked with a plethora of charities over the years in a number of different ways, which is absolutely a good thing.
However, we must not forget that his entire career is shrouded in bullying, racism, misogyny and defamation.
There’s a whole list of bad things he’s done in his career, but to name a few:
- In 2011, he said that PM Julia Gillard should be shoved in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea.
- In 2012, he claimed that Julia Gillard’s deceased father “died of shame.”
- More recently, in 2019 he asserted that Scott Morrison should “shove a sock down the throat” of Jacinda Ardern.
And that’s just the sexism, he has also dropped the n-word live on air, is accused of “inciting hatred” in the lead up to the 2005 Cronulla riots and a plethora of other reasons why we *probably* shouldn’t give him the country’s highest honour.
At this point, I don’t quite understand how anyone would actually feel honoured to be on the Order of Australia list, which probably explains why veteran journalist Kerry O’Brien straight-up declined the honour this year after the announcement of Margaret Court.
I mean it when I say this, king shit.