A COVID-era premier, rock star and an AFL legend have been recognised in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours list.

This year, 737 Australians have received the honour, including comedian Hamish Blake, the ABC’s Jimmy “Giggle” Rees and cricketer Glenn McGrath. 

And for the fourth year, there has been a separate roll for Australians who contributed to the country’s COVID-19 response.

The honours are announced ahead of Monday’s public holiday for King Charles’s birthday celebrations. 

Ranking of Order of Australia appointments:
Companion of the Order of Australia AC
Officer of the Order of Australia AO
Member of the Order of Australia  AM
Medal of the Order of Australia OAM

‘Pumped’ by recognition 

Former Powderfinger bassist John “JC” Collins has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the arts through music, and to the community. 

Collins co-owns Brisbane venues The Triffid and Fortitude Valley Music Hall.

“Supporting live music has always been so important, but most recently there have been lots of challenges,” Collins said.

“I’m really surprised to be honest. I’m pumped and grateful to be included in this year’s honours.

“We [Powderfinger] always felt responsibility to give back and be charitable where we could be.”

John Collins says he was surprised to receive the honour and kept thinking what his teachers would think.(ABC News: Nickoles Coleman)

Collins wants to use the honour to encourage others to support live music.

“I hope people keep being involved in seeing young bands and music because that is the future.”

Successful, dominant — but divisive

Former Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is one of the six people awarded the highest honour – the Companion of the Order of Australia.

Mr Andrews is recognised for his service to the people and Parliament of Victoria, public health, policy and regulatory reform, and infrastructure development.

Daniel Andrews announcing his resignation in September 2023.(AAP: Diego Fedele)

He was the state’s longest-serving Labor premier from 2014 to 2023 and led Victoria through significant historical events, including the 2019-20 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

He resigned from politics last year, leaving as a successful, dominant, and polarising figure. 

Bush tucker cuisine 

Aunty Beryl Van Oploo started work at 12 but didn’t have a formal education until she was 31. 

Now 81, the chef, proud Kamilaroi woman and educator’s career spans more than 50 years.

The Indigenous elder is also known internationally for using bush tucker in modern cuisine. 

Aunty Beryl Van Oploo is a proud Kamilaroi woman and educator whose career spans more than 50 years.(ABC News)

She’s been recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia for her service to the Indigenous community and the hospitality industry.

“It’s a great honour and the people that have nominated me, I thank them,” she said.

Aunty Beryl’s love of food began in childhood in Walgett in northern NSW. 

“I come from a family of 17, my aunt raised me and she never separated us because she didn’t want us to be part of the Stolen Generation.”

She got her first job at 12, and it would be nearly 20 years before she received a formal education. 

“If you have an education you have a voice, and you have a choice – that was lacking in our communities,” she said.

Aunty Beryl now runs a hospitality school in Sydney.

Posthumous honour for ‘Colac’

AFL legend, the late John Devine, has been recognised with an Order of Australia medal for his service to football and Tasmania. 

Devine died in January last year aged 82.

He was recruited to play for Geelong from the Victorian country town of Colac and made his debut in 1960, nicknamed “Colac”. 

John Devine was appointed captain-coach of North Hobart and took the previous year’s wooden spooners to premiership in his first season.(Supplied)

After playing 118 games for the AFL/VFL he moved to Tasmania, where he coached the North Hobart club to grand final victory in 1967. 

“When dad arrived in 1967 it was right on the edge of the bushfire tragedy and the North Hobart oval was covered as a crisis centre for fire engines and recovery work,” his son Mark Devine said.

“It was an unusual initiation into his job as the North Hobart coach.”

Mark Devine, son of the late John Devine, says the recognition is particularly special for his mum, who John always said was his best asset.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Devine’s son said his father would have been surprised by the appointment. 

The former footy player entered Tasmania state politics in 1979, serving as the ALP member for Denison until 1984. 

“He had simple motives — he wanted to be able to help people.”

The COVID-19 honour roll

South Australian epidemiologist Katina D’Onise is one of 34 Australians to be recognised for their work through the pandemic. 

Professor D’Onise received a Member of the Order of Australia for services to public health for her work overseeing COVID-19 operations for South Australia Health.

“The pandemic was a rare opportunity for me to use everything I’ve ever learned all at once,” Professor D’Onise said. 

“It was incredibly challenging, but it was also really rewarding — I saw so many people come together.”

Katina D’Onise says public health combines her love of social justice and medicine.(ABC News: Ben Pettitt)

She also worked on vaccine hesitancy to improve vaccination rates in remote and Indigenous communities. 

Professor D’Onise is now working on removing discrimination in public health. 

“For me, it’s so pleasing to see when public health works. I’m deeply honoured to be recognised and I’m thrilled that public health has also been recognised.”

‘I get angry and it keeps me going’

Margaret Findlater-Smith has dedicated more than half a century to improving women’s lives. 

The Canberran, who has served on the boards of the National Council of Women Australia, Equality Rights Alliance and Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS), has received a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to women’s affairs.  

“You do things not to get rewards or to be recognised, you do things because you feel strongly about it,” she said.

“It’s nice to have someone say thank you.”

Margaret Findlater-Smith has received a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to women’s affairs.(ABC News)

Ms Findlater-Smith began her career as a WRANS radio operator in the 50s, before going into public service.

She credits her mother’s community work for her own dedication. 

“I think she would have probably ended up in today’s life, very similar to what I have done,” she said. 

“I get really angry about not much happening for women and that’s what has kept me going.”

Ms Findlater-Smith says there’s still more to be done.

“We still haven’t got equal pay for work or equal value and we still don’t have the top standard for parental leave, but we are getting there.”

The truth about filicide

Thea Brown has received a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to social welfare, particularly through family violence and child protection research.

The Monash University emeritus professor has led two of the country’s most comprehensive studies into filicide. 

Thea Brown has led two of the country’s most comprehensive studies into filicide.(Supplied)

The grandmother of two told the ABC the issue of filicide in Australia is alarming and relatively unknown, with the rate remaining unchanged for 20 years.

“If I had a dollar for everyone who told me that hardly ever happens, I’d be a rich person,” she said.

“It’s a complex problem to resolve. How can you stop somebody killing their child?”

She welcomed the team’s work being recognised. 

“It makes me feel that the work we are doing has been seen to have some value in the eyes of some parts of the community. I really appreciate that.”

Chain reaction

West Australian Pat Ryan’s first job in child protection helped him see “how bad it could be” for young people. 

Years later, he joined Dismantle, a social enterprise group for young people that runs programs like bike-building. 

“While we’re teaching them about how to build a bike, they’re actually having a conversation about mental health,” Mr Ryan said.

“Funny enough, we don’t care about bikes — we are about young people.”

Pat Ryan is the CEO of Dismantle, an organisation helping support young people through building bikes.(ABC News: David Weber)

Mr Ryan has received the Order of Australia Medal.

“What we’re trying to do is to lift the profile of social enterprise in WA and show that creating impact at the core of business models can change lives.”

‘A real need’ 

Darwin’s Donna Rousham’s work with children with disabilities was inspired by her daughter, Tahnee Afuhaamango, who in 2021 broke a swimming world record without even realising it. 

Afuhaamango — who broke the 200-metre freestyle record by six seconds — is a swimmer with Down syndrome. 

Donna and Paul Rousham with their daughter Tahnee Afuhaamango.(Supplied: Donna Rousham)

Mrs Rousham started the Starfish Swim Group for children with special needs in 2007. 

“We started the swim school because there was a real need for kids with disabilities who couldn’t fit into the mainstream programs,” she said. 

“We’re living in the territory and there are pools and water everywhere, so these kids should not miss out.”

Ms Rousham has received a Medal of the Order of Australia. 

“Swimming is just one of the best sports in the territory,” she said. 

“I hope this award will lift our group and show how much it’s needed in the community.”

‘Deep gratitude to WA’

Former Western Australian premier Mark McGowan is the second COVID-era premier to be given the highest honour — the Companion of the Order of Australia.

The former Labor premier stood down last year at a press conference held with just 45 minutes’ notice.

Mark McGowan thanked “whoever nominated me”.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

He has been recognised for service to the people and Parliament of Western Australia, public health and education and international trade relations

“My deep gratitude goes to the people of WA for being so kind to me,” he said. 

“Thank you to my former colleagues, staff and the Labor Party. I was very fortunate to have their support during my time as premier and throughout my parliamentary career. 

“Without that support, I would not have achieved anything.”

But the award, he said, belonged to his wife and three children. 

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at www.gg.gov.au.