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Member of the Order of Australia

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Member of the Order of Australia

Order of Australia
Awarded by
HM Queen Elizabeth II
Type National Order
Eligibility All living Australian citizens
Awarded for Achievement and merit in service to Australia or humanity
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II
Chancellor Quentin Bryce
Grades (w/ post-nominals)
  • Knight/Dame (AK/AD)[1]
  • Companion (AC)
  • Officer (AO)
  • Member (AM)
  • Medal (OAM)

  • Awarded in:
  •   General Division
  •   Military Division
  •   as an Honorary award
Established 14 February 1975
First induction 21 April 1975
Total inductees (General & Military Divisions)
AK – 12[1]
AD – 2[1]
AC – 406
AO – 2,233
AM – 8,233
OAM – 18,569[2]
Ribbons: general division; military division

The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, to recognise Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service. Before the establishment of the order, Australian citizens received British honours.

The order is divided into general and military divisions, with the following grades in descending order of seniority:

  • Knight or Dame of the Order of Australia (AK or AD – Civil division only – Closed to new appointments in 1986);[1]
  • Companion of the Order of Australia (AC);
  • Officer of the Order of Australia (AO);
  • Member of the Order of Australia (AM); and
  • Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).[3]


The Order was established on 14 February 1975 by letters patent of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, and countersigned by the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The original Order had only three grades: Companion (AC), Officer (AO), and Member (AM).

On 24 May 1976, the further categories of Knight (AK), Dame (AD), and Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) were established by the Queen on the advice of Whitlam's successor, Malcolm Fraser.

Following his 1983 election, Prime Minister Bob Hawke abolished the Knight and Dame categories. On 3 March 1986, the Queen co-signed letters patent revoking the categories of Knight and Dame. Existing Knights and Dames were not affected by this change.

The Queen of Australia is Sovereign Head of the Order[4] while the Governor-General is Principal Companion and Chancellor of the Order. The Governor-General's Official Secretary is Secretary of the Order.

The Order of Australia is modelled closely upon the Order of Canada, though the Order of Australia has been awarded rather more liberally, especially in regard to honorary awards to foreigners. To date, only 18 non-Canadians have been appointed to the Order of Canada, while more than 275 non-Australians have been appointed to the Order of Australia, with more than 30 to the "Companion" grade.


The Order consists of four grades and the medal, in both general and military divisions. Knighthood and Damehood of the Order were made in the general division only.

While State Governors can present the Officer, Member and Medal of the Order of Australia to their respective state's residents, only the Queen of Australia or Governor-General can present the Companion grade of the Order.[5]

The different grades of the Order are awarded according to the recipients' levels of achievement:


General Division – 'Eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or to humanity at large'.
Military Division – 'Eminent service in duties of great responsibility'.
Excluding honorary appointments, no more than 25 Companions are appointed in any calendar year.


General Division – 'Distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or to humanity at large'.
Military Division – 'Distinguished service in responsible positions'.
The quota is set at 100 Officers appointed in any calendar year.


General Division – 'Service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group'.
Military Division – 'Exceptional service or performance of duty'.
The quota is set at 225 Members appointed in any calendar year.

Medal of the Order of Australia

General Division – 'Service worthy of particular recognition'.
Military Division – 'Meritorious service or performance of duty'.
There are no quota limits on awards of the Medal of the Order.

Any person may nominate any Australian citizen for an award. The nominations are reviewed by the Council for the Order of Australia,[6] and then approved by the Governor-General. The Order is awarded twice annually: on Australia Day, and on the Queen's Birthday public holiday in June, when public announcements are made about new awards.

People who are not Australian citizens may be awarded honorary membership of the Order at either the Companion, Officer or Member level. All awards of the Medal of the Order are substantive, regardless of the citizenship of the recipient.

Appointments to the Order are not made posthumously; however, if a nominee dies after accepting an appointment but before the relevant announcement date, the appointment still stands and it is announced as having effect from no later than the date of the nominee's death.


The badge of the Order of Australia is a convex disc (gold for AKs, ADs and ACs, gilt for AOs, AMs and OAMs) representing the Golden Wattle flower. At the centre is a ring, representing the sea, with the word 'Australia' below two branches of golden wattle. The whole disc is topped by the Crown of St Edward. The AC badge is decorated with citrines, blue enamelled ring, and enamelled crown. The AO badge is similar, without the citrines. For the AM badge only the crown is enamelled, and the OAM badge is plain. The AK/AD badge is similar to that of the AC badge, but with the difference that it contains at the centre an enamelled disc bearing an image of the Coat of arms of Australia.[1]

The star for knights and dames is a convex golden disc decorated with citrines, with a blue royally crowned inner disc bearing an image of the Coat of arms of Australia.[1]

The ribbon of the Order is blue with a central stripe of golden wattle flower designs; that of the military division has additional golden edge stripes. AKs,[1] male ACs and AOs wear their badges on a necklet; male AMs and OAMs wear them on a ribbon on the left chest. Women usually wear their badges on a bow on the left shoulder, although they may wear the same insignia as males, if so desired.

A gold lapel pin for daily wear is issued with each badge of the Order at the time of investiture; AK/AD[1] and AC lapel pins feature a citrine central jewel, AO and AM lapel pins have a blue enamelled centre, and OAM lapel pins are plain.

The Order's insignia were designed by Stuart Devlin.

Royal members of the Order

Officials of the Order

Knights and Dames

The category of Knight (AK) or Dame (AD) of the Order was created by Letters Patent issued by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia on 24 May 1976 on advice from the Fraser Liberal-National government and was discontinued by her on 3 March 1986 on advice from the Hawke Labor government. Existing knights and dames were not affected by the removal of the category from the Letters Patent.

During this period, twelve knights and two dames were created, of whom ten of the knights and both of the dames are now deceased.

The following is a complete list of the knights and dames of the Order of Australia, shown in order of appointment. Living knights are shown in bold:

Name Known for Date of appointment Date of death
Sir John Kerr AK GCMG GCVO Governor-General 1974–77 24 May 1976[7] 24 March 1991
Sir Robert Menzies KT AK CH QC Prime Minister 1939–41, 1949–66 7 June 1976 15 May 1978
Sir Colin Syme AK[8] Industrialist 6 June 1977 19 January 1986
Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO QC Governor-General 1977–82 8 December 1977[9] 8 December 2011
Sir MacFarlane Burnet OM AK KBE Immunologist, Nobel laureate 26 January 1978 31 August 1985
Dame Alexandra Hasluck AD Historian 6 June 1978 18 June 1993
Dame Enid Lyons AD GBE Politician 26 January 1980 2 September 1981
HRH The Prince of Wales KG KT GCB OM AK QSO CD PC Royalty, Heir apparent 14 March 1981 living (age 65)
Sir Roden Cutler VC AK KCMG KCVO CBE Soldier, Governor of New South Wales 1966–81 7 April 1981 22 February 2002
Sir Garfield Barwick AK GCMG Chief Justice of Australia 1964–81 8 June 1981 14 July 1997
Sir Charles Court AK KCMG OBE Premier of Western Australia 1974–82 14 June 1982 22 December 2007
Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE QC High Court Judge, Governor-General 1982–89 29 July 1982[10] living (age 91)
Sir Roy Wright AK Physiologist 26 January 1983 28 February 1990
Sir Gordon Jackson AK Industrialist 13 June 1983 1 June 1991

Educational background of recipients of highest awards

In December 2010, The Age reported a study of the educational backgrounds of all people who had received Knight/Dame and Companion level awards at that time. It reported that "An analysis of the 435 people who have received the nation's top Order of Australia honours since they were first awarded in 1975, shows they disproportionately attended a handful of elite Victorian secondary schools. Scotch College alumni blitzed the field, with 19 former students receiving Australia's highest honour".[11][12]

Order of Australia Association

On 26 January 1980 recipients of awards in the Order formed the Order of Australia Association. This organisation seeks to aid the members of the order in their pursuits related to the development and maintenance of Australia's culture and traditions. The organisation also attempts to increase awareness of those honoured by the order, since many of their number are not household names, despite their contributions. Branches of the association can be found in all the states and territories of Australia.

Honorary awards

Awards in the Order of Australia are sometimes made to people who are not citizens of Australia, to honour extraordinary achievements. These achievements, or the people themselves, are not necessarily associated with Australia, although they often are. On 11 July 2010, the Australian Honours website listed appointments for 34 Honorary Companions, 67 Honorary Officers, 86 Honorary Members of the Order of Australia and the award of 88 Honorary Medals of the Order of Australia.[13] Notable honorary awards include:

Royal Family

Prince Charles was appointed a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK) on 14 March 1981. His appointment was created by Letters Patent signed by The Queen. The Prince of Wales is a full member in the General Division, not an honorary appointment.[15]

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is a Companion of the Order.

References in popular culture

The award is parodied in the play Amigos, where the central character is determined to be awarded the AC, and uses persuasion, bribery and blackmail in his (ultimately successful) attempts to get himself nominated for the award.[16]

During the 1996 season of the popular television programme Home and Away, the character Pippa Ross was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her years of service as a foster carer.

Lack of Transparency

A nomination for an Order of Australia award starts with an Australian citizen filling in a confidential form and submitting it to the Honours Secretariat at Government House in Canberra.[17][18] This form is confidential and cannot be verified by anybody else at any time; the forms are not covered by the Freedom of Information act.[19][20]

The nomination forms are given to the Council for the Order of Australia;[21] all Council for the Order of Australia business is strictly private and cannot be checked by members of the press or public. No information is available to the public as to who attended these meetings or why a nomination either failed to result in an award, or resulted in an award.[22] The Council makes recommendations to the Governor General, who presents the awards,[23] and has terminated awards.[24][25] [26]

People awarded honours have the option of not having the information appear on the "It's an Honour" website.[27][28][29]


"Imperial" honours awarded after 5 October 1992 have been classed as "Foreign awards", and hence have lower precedence than all Australian awards.
(Note that the Victoria Cross, and awards of the monarch, have retained their order of precedence.)

If awarded after 5 October 1992[1]
Preceding Grade[1] Following
Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) Companion Knight/Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO/DCVO)
Knight/Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO/DCVO) Officer Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO)
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Member Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO)
Emergency Services Medal (ESM) Medal Order of St John

If awarded prior to 6 October 1992
Preceding Grade Following
Member of the Order of Merit (OM) Knight/Dame Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG)
Knight/Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) Companion Companion of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH)
Knight Bachelor Officer Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB)
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Member Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO)
Emergency Services Medal (ESM) Medal Order of St John

See also

Recipient categories


External links

  • Australian Honours Secretariat
  • Order of Australia including list of the Order, its history and its "Constitution" (statutes).
  • Order of Australia Association
  • Medals of the World – Australia: The Order of Australia
    • Insignia of the Sovereign, and of Knights and Dames
    • General Division
    • Military Division
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