How many Australian honours include a citation for marriage equality?

Yesterday announcement of the 2021 Australia Day Honours included former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull being named a Companion of the Order of Australia, the honour system’s highest ranking.

Listed in the citation for the award was Turnbull’s long list of achievements in business, law and politics, including a notation on his role in Australia achieving marriage equality in 2017.

Many people in the LGBTIQ communities find it frustrating that Turnbull and his colleagues increasingly put forward a version of history that lists the postal survey sent to every Australian of voting age as one of the Prime Minister’s greatest achievements.

The Question

Some readers asked us how many people have been recognised for their role in bringing about the historic change, is Malcolm Turnbull the first person to be formally recognised for their part in brining in marriage equality?

The Answer

A scan of the new Australian Honours database suggests that Malcolm Turnbull is the third person to have their contribution to marriage equality listed in the citation.

Marriage Equality laws were passed by the parliament in 2017, and came into effect in 2018. In the 2019 Australia Day Honours actor Magda Szubanski was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Szubanski’s citation noted her professional work alongside her campaigning for change, it read; “For distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, comedian and writer, and as a campaigner for marriage equality.”

In 2020 Janine Midedleton, who was one of the leaders of the YES campaign became a Member of the Order of Australia. She was recognised for significant service to the LGBTIQ community, and for her contribution to changing the marriage laws. Alongside her work on the YES campaign Middleton had also served as the CEO of the Pinnacle Foundation for two years.

Many prominent members of the movement that brought about marriage equality had been recognised for their advocacy work prior to the laws changing in 2017.

Rodney Croome from just.equal was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003, his Queen’s Birthday award was; “For service to the community as a human rights advocate, particularly through promoting tolerance and understanding of the human rights of gay and lesbian people.”

Colleague Shelley Argent was added to the Order of Australia in 2006 for her work as a leader of PFLAG, with the citation noting her work supporting families and promoting equality and tolerance.

Ivan Hinton-Teoh received news that he’d been added to the Order of Australia in June 2019, while his citation noted his service to human rights and the LGBTIQ community, it did not list his contribution to marriage equality. His biography includes that he was the Deputy National Director of Australian Marriage Equality from 2012 – 2016.

Brian Greig was also a recipient of the Order of Australia medal in 2011 with his citation describing his work as a social justice advocate for the gay and lesbian community.

Just months before Australians were asked to fill out the postal survey, Peter Bonsall-Boone was posthumously recognised by the awards. His Order of Australia medal was for his many decades of volunteering with the LGBTI communities, and his work as an advocate for rights.

Prior to his death ‘Bon’ and his partner Peter de Waal had appealed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to act more decisively and address the issue of marriage equality via parliament rather than a plebiscite or postal survey. Sadly Bonsall-Boone died before the laws were changed.

Olympian Ian Thorpe, who fronted the television advertisements encouraging people to vote Yes in the postal survey was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2019, his citation described his service to youth and Indigenous education through charitable initiatives, and his contribution to swimming.

Traditionally people who hold political positions are not considered for the awards until after they retire, so many of the prominent faces of the marriage equality campaign including Senator Dean Smith, Alex Greenwich and Christine Forster are still in their elected positions.

OIP Staff

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