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