News National Most honours go to Australians we’ll never hear of – and that’s a shame
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Most honours go to Australians we’ll never hear of – and that’s a shame

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That damned Margaret and her precious gong. Margaret Elder I’m talking about – not Margaret what’s-her-name, the long-retired tennis player.

Margaret Elder, my tough-as-nails mother, was given an OAM a few years back for services to local sport and running cancer and disability groups. Something like that.

She wasn’t home when I called to check. Out somewhere being a do-gooder. She’s still involved at the age of 83. Or maybe she was just doing the shopping.

Just for the fun of it, I should go on Twitter and tell everybody that she once chased me two miles with a broom because I was slow to get going in the mornings and she’d had enough. Child abuse! Or maybe I just drove her mad.

What a hoot, also, to talk about my father, John Richard Elder AM.

More than 50 years ago he dragged me to long meetings about building ambulance stations.

Turning 86 and he still mans the gates at the tulip festival in Bowral. Need something doing? He’ll still climb a ladder for you, chainsaw in hand.

The author’s parents, both of whom have received Australia Day honours. Photo: John Elder

JR Elder PhD was eventually gonged for services to the building industry, and it has to be said: One hell of a white man, what with some of the jokes he tells.

Who cares, right? You’ve never heard of my mum and dad.

You’ve probably never heard of the late Dr Melissa Anne Baker, formerly of Frankston South, Victoria.

One of those people who swapped television time to sit on committees and boards and waste their weekends on fundraisers.

The late Dr Baker, a forensic pathologist with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, finally got her Order of Australia Medal today.

“For service to people living with lymphoma.”

Dr Baker researched the disease that also killed her. Photo: Facebook

What about the late Denise Merle Bannon, formerly of Milperra, NSW?

Mrs Bannon is likewise an OAM as of today.

“For service to the community, particularly youth and Indigenous people.”

But what does that mean? It’s all a rort isn’t it, these gongs? A pat on the back for the rich and powerful – or them coddled “heroes” that are good at sport, right?

Among her many contributions, Mrs Bannon founded netball, softball and ballroom dancing clubs for young people. Meals on Wheels she gave her time to. Community radio. A minister’s warden at the Anglican church in Revesby.

Also honoured today is the late Gregory Keith Gibson, formerly of Lewisham, NSW.

Mr Gibson spent decades in service to people with a disability through tennis, notably for many years coaching Special Olympics players.

The late Margaret Annette Bartkevicius-James, formerly of Launceston, is honoured for “service to dance, and to the community of Tasmania”.

The list of her commitments as a volunteer stretch back 50 years.

Her name was among those mailed out to media organisations earlier this week.

The list goes out under strict embargo, meaning the names of 2021 Australia Day Honours recipients are not to be published until the big day.

A local journalist, who happens to be flogging a book at the moment, decided it was in the “public interest” to reveal that Margaret Court was to receive the nation’s top honour, the Companion (AC) in the general Order of Australia.

Margaret Court looks on during a Tennis Hall of Fame ceremony on day nine of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park
Backlash is growing at the decision to give controversial tennis champion Margaret Court an Australia Day honour. Photo: Getty

The journalist felt he was doing the nation a favour by calling for a debate as to whether the much-honoured Mrs Court AO MBE deserved the upgraded gong – concerned as he was that Mrs Court, who is a Pentecostal pastor, has a vigorous history of damning gay and lesbian people as the work of the devil.

The damnation goes both ways. Social media continues to run hot.

Perhaps the journalist, in leaking the news, has done us a favour.

The announcement was always going to set off a crap storm. Just as the honouring of controversial “feminist” Bettina Arndt set off a storm last year.

Perhaps now the ruckus is a few days old, we can give some attention to the four typed pages of names and biographies of the OAM conferees.

The hose-holders, the weed-pullers, the bottom-wipers, the hand-holders: The regular people whose only reward at small-time committee meetings are the plate of sandwiches and a cup of tea at the end of the evening.

According to the Governor-General’s website, it takes up to two years to process nominations for an OAM. And they tend to occur toward the end of a lifetime of service. Hence, some of these good people pass on before their big day.

It may be another two years, then, before we see the names of people who gave their time to helping out during the bushfires and the COVID-19 crisis.

It would be great to think that their personal moment of recognition won’t occur in the shadow of yet another controversy.

Get real. While some go out of their way to prove a noxious point, others keep quietly busy to help run the joint.