It’s time for equal honours this Queen’s Birthday

In the lead-up to the announcement of the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Order of Australia awards, community organisation Honour a Woman and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency are highlighting the current gender inequalities in the awards system and asking all Australians to nominate more women for awards.

Since the Order of Australia was established in 1975, men have consistently received around 70% of the Australian honours.

Statistics provided by the Governor General’s Office to Honour a Woman clearly illustrate the gender disparities in last year’s round of Queen’s Birthday Order of Australia Awards:

  • Out of the 31 categories, 28 had more male than female nominees
  • Mining was the only category with more female nominees and men and women were equallyrepresented in the Religion and the Conservation and the Environment categories
  • 8 categories had no female nominees at all
  • In the female-dominated industry of Education, 58% of nominees were male (35 out of 61)
  • In Medicine, 78% of nominees were male (89 out of 114)
  • 66% of all nominees (718 out of 1090) and 63% of all award recipients (489 out of 778) were male

“These statistics from last year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list are very telling and clearly show just how we undervalue women and the important contribution women make in our society,” said Libby Lyons, Director,Workplace Gender Equality Agency and an Ambassador for Honour a Woman.

“Australian employers can play an important role in changing this situation. I ask employers to recognise and celebrate the skills, experience and contribution of their accomplished female employees by nominating them for an award.

“We know that receiving an Order of Australia award increases a woman’s profile and raises their visibility in their chosen field. As more women receive awards, it might even help to improve the persistent lack of gender balance on boards and at the CEO level.”

Honour a Woman co-founders Carol Kiernan and Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young said that gender inequality in the Australian honours system begins with fewer women being nominated.

“These awards do not fairly represent our society. Many outstanding women who contribute tirelessly to our community are being overlooked. In last year’s Community category, where you would expect women to be more fairly represented, 62% of nominees were male (292 out of 470).

“Continuously rewarding more men and fewer women with an Order of Australia perpetuates the cycle of women’s invisibility in society, in the community, in the workforce and in the boardroom.“It is time for the Order of Australia to recognise equally ‘men and women whose actions have set them apartand enriched our community’.”

Media Contact: Murray Black

About the Agency: The Workplace Gender Equality Agency is an Australian Government statutory agencycharged with promoting and improving gender equality in Australian workplaces.
About Honour a Woman: Honour a Woman is a non-partisan movement working towards gender equality inthe Order of Australia. We seek 50/50 by 2020.

MEDIA RELEASE 23 January 2019

Calling time on gender inequality in the Order of Australia

Honour a Woman, a movement seeking gender equality in Australian honours, is calling for candidates in the 2019 Federal Election to declare their position on gender equality in the Order of Australia. 

This Australia Day Honour A Woman welcomes the expected increase in women awarded an Order of Australia but argues that it’s not sustainable without permanent structural change to the award system.

‘Gender equality will be front and centre of the political agenda in the 2019 election year’, says Carol Kiernan, co-founder of Honour a Woman. ‘We’re asking Australians to support politicians who wish to modernise the Order of Australia by agreeing to gender targets and a transparent and unbiased administration of the award system.’ 

The Order of Australia is meant to reflect Australian society, but currently the majority of award recipients are men. ‘We’re calling time on the decades-long trend of men being awarded two-thirds of all Orders of Australia,’ said Elizabeth Hartnell-Young, co-founder, Honour a Woman. ‘We will be canvassing candidates in the lead-up to the election and publicising their position on gender targets for Australian honours’.

Honour a Woman is calling for gender targets to be set for 40% men, 40% women and 20% unspecified, to be applied to the Order of Australia at all levels of the awards. Currently the awards set annual quotas that only specify the total numbers to be awarded for the three categories of Companion, Officer and Member (AC, AO and AM) levels.  

Honour a Woman co-founder, Ruth McGowan OAM says, ‘We’re often told that Honours are awarded on ‘merit’ but this is an elusive, subjective term. It can be an excuse to avoid action to address inequality’.

Honours matter because they recognise outstanding achievement, open doors to greater contribution, elevate status and authority and provide role models for future generations. Australian women deserve to be honoured and rewarded in equal proportion to men.

Honour a Woman contacts for additional comment and media enquiries:
Honour a Woman is a bi-partisan movement of Australian citizens working towards gender equality in the Order of Australia. Its co-founders are:

  • Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young is an activist with a background in education, research and policy.  
  • Carol Kiernan is an Intelligence and Communications consultant working to achieve safer and more empowered communities.
  • Ruth McGowan OAM is a community leader and consultant on women’s equality and leadership in the local government and community sectors.


Progress too slow in achieving gender equality in Orders of Australia: why honours matter

Honour a Womanexpects an increase in the number of women awarded Queen’s Birthday Honours in response to its national campaign. But the progress is too slow towards our goal of 50:50 by 2020.

In January 2018, there were no nominations of women considered in Architecture, Library, Engineering, Public service or Tourism and Hospitality. Yet there are worthy women in all these fields. 

‘Honours matter. They place women squarely on the public record. Otherwise their contribution to society is lost to history. Future generations will ask ‘where were the women?’ claims Elizabeth Hartnell-Young.

Women who have received Australian Honours report the value of the visibility, affirmation, empowerment and public recognition in furthering their professional and voluntary work.  An award helps them drive a cause and contribute to a better world.

Ruth McGowan OAMsays ‘My honour brings a certain level of “gravitas”. It increases my visibility and helps me support women standing for public office and in local government. The Order of Australia should celebrate the achievements of all genders and reflect the true diversity of the Australian community’.

Honour a Womanis working with government and the community to bring added fairness and rigour into the way that the Orders of Australia are nominated, assessed and awarded. We call on the Governor General to address current bias by applying gender targets to the existing quotas, for all levels of the Australian honours.

‘It’s time to end the inherent sexism of the past 43 years in the Order of Australia. Women make up almost 51% of the population and should receive half of the awards, right up to the Companion at the top. Otherwise it’s a biased landscape of acknowledgement’, says Carol Kiernan, of Honour a Woman.

Honour a Woman Ambassador Professor Fiona Stanley AC says:

‘The Award of Companion in the Order of Australia has been extremely helpful for me in my career.  It meant that I immediately became known as a successful researcher with integrity, which helped me to translate our research findings into improving outcomes for children and youth. Women tend to do things that are undervalued but really important for a successful society, so rewarding them raises the value of those activities. It also helped me join important committees of influence, both government and non-government’. 


Honour a Womanis a movement of men and women working towards gender equality in the Australian honours (


I was delighted to receive my AO because it was a public acknowledgement of the more than two decades I had spent working for what was, for much of that time, an unpopular issue – advancing the education and employment outcomes of women and girls. I was also thrilled to be one of the few female recipients of an AC.  Professor Denise Bradley AC

The award gave me a deep feeling of affirmation for the work I had done in parliament, especially in advancing opportunities for women. It highlighted the need to keep working against gender discrimination and move Australia forward to a society where all can live without discrimination and enjoy equal opportunity.Susan Ryan AO

My Order of Australia is a licence to continue to give whatever is needed to drive a cause or issue, and contribute to a better world.  It’s a chance to share my story to inspire others to do good things. Diane James AM

The Award provided me with a higher platform and confidence to further my passion in areas that continue to need my support and efforts. It has given me the credentials to be a stronger respectful voice in our wider community, to be heard and taken seriously when needed, and hope I can continue making a difference to this world. A/Professor Vicki Kotsirilos AM 

My family, friends, and colleagues are enormously proud that I was awarded an Order of Australia. The award means that someone thought enough of what I do, to nominate me. Professor Jennifer Martin AC

I felt very honoured that I was recognised for my service to the Jewish community of Victoria. I feel it is my duty to seek and nominate others who contribute and improve many lives of those in need, especially women. Rysia Rozen OAM

The award’s recognition has increased my determination to ensure that I give more than I receive. It has also lifted my appreciation of others honoured in this way and a greater awareness amongst my colleagues about the value of participating in community work. Mark Stone AM

Receiving an Australian Honour is a great source of pride and profile to be enjoyed not only by the

nominee, but also their family, friends and colleagues. None of us gets there alone! It attracts new

personal opportunities to widen the scope of one’s work, roles and commitments, in professional, community and volunteering life. Pam Robinson OAM

MEDIA RELEASE 23 January 2018

Gender Targets needed for Gongs

A movement of women working towards equality in our national awards system has called for gender targets to be immediately introduced into the Australian Honours. 

The three co-founders of Honour a Woman have grown impatient with the perennial gender imbalance favouring male recipients of the Order of Australia and have been lobbying the Federal Government to ensure women are equally acknowledged by the year 2020. 

Co-founder Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young explains:

“On 26 January, many worthy people who have enriched our community will deservedly be recognised. But yet again, we will see men awarded the majority of the awards, as they have ever since the Honours began in 1975.” 

“In a country that prides itself on equality and fairness, how can men continue to receive on average two thirds of our honours while many worthy women remain unacknowledged? The system does not reflect the rich diversity of our society” she said.

“Honour a Woman calls on the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer to introduce targets in our national awards so that we can fairly celebrate diversity, while recognising outstanding service”said co-founder Ruth McGowan OAM.

Receiving an Order of Australia, or a ‘gong’ as they are affectionately known, generally relies on a citizen being confidentially nominated by a member of the community. Men are nominated at a higher rate than women and consistently receive approximately 70 per cent of the awards. 

Co-founder Carol Kiernan said, “Government has to stop blaming the community for the low nominations of women. The system is broken. It’s time to change both the way people are nominated for Orders of Australia and the whole selection process. Targets will bring in some fairness.”

When the nominations are announced on Australia Day, Honour a Woman is hoping to see an increase in women recognised as a result of their extensive efforts over the past year. “But what we really want is structural reform that commits to fairly recognising women and their outstanding contribution to the Australian community. After 43 years, it’s surely time for equality.”said Dr Hartnell-Young. 


Contacts for additional comment and media enquiries

Honour a Woman