More Australians return their Order of Australia awards in protest

Clarinetist, saxophonist, composer and music educator, Mark Walton, is the latest Australian to return his Order of Australia award.

Several recipients of the Order of Australia honours have announced they’ll be returning their awards in response to the governing bodies decision to celebrate the work of tennis player turned religious leader Margaret Court.

Walton was Chair of Woodwind at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for many years before being appointed Chair of Performance, Outreach and Communications there, posts he held for nearly 20 years.

His 2005 award noted his groundbreaking use of video conferencing facilities to make education available to people in regional areas. Writing on Facebook Walton announced he would be returning his award.

“In 2005 I was very proud to be awarded an Order of Australia medal for my services to education in regional Australia and for my pioneering work with distance education. Sadly in 2021 I feel obliged to return my honour in protest about current developments with the Australian Honours system. Everything I do is about total inclusivity and done with a fair amount of love. People can hold whatever opinions they choose but those opinions must never impact negatively on other human beings”.

Painter Peter Kingston has also informed the Governor General that he’ll be returning his award that was given to him on the Queen’s birthday in 2012.

Kingston told The Australian he felt compelled to return his award because he objected so strongly to Reverend Margaret Court being elevated to the awards highest level, a Companion of the Order of Australia.

“It makes me sick, the whole thing,” he said. “To inflict this on us, when everyone is having such a hard time, I can’t be a part of it anymore.”

While in an interview with The Age, Kingston said he could not stand-by while Reverend Court’s words continued to denigrate marginalised people in society.

“I’m returning this award because I believe the elevation of Margaret Court is contrary to the integrity and meaning of the award and her effort in amplifying divisive opinions has not made our community a better place and contradicts the objectives of the award.

“I’m not intending to undermine the efforts and immensely good works of the other people who have been recognised and not denigrate those who have been recognised but to highlight the need of people who have been marginalised by Court’s hurtful, damaging and divisive attitudes to the LGBTIQ + community.

“I couldn’t think of a better use of the award than to stand up to religious bigotry.”

Previously Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo announced she’d be giving back her award, and journalist Kerry O’Brien made the last minute decision to reject his award which had been due to be announced yesterday.

“Margaret Court was a great tennis player who thrilled most Australians in her tennis years including me, but her hurtful and divisive criticisms relating to the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ+ community are clearly repugnant to many Australians,” O’Brien said.

“I believe the decision to present her with this award was deeply insensitive and must undermine community respect for awards that were created to celebrate a true spirit of community, not divide it.”

The decision to give an additional award to Reverend Court has been criticised by several political leaders including Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and Western Australia’s leader Mark McGowan.

OIP Staff

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