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.