NICOLE Kidman’s is the name that leaps out among the eight recipients of the top Australia Day award, the Companion of the Order of Australia, or AC.
The group also includes Melbourne philanthropist Lady (Marigold) Southey, Melbourne-born, Rome-based Catholic theologian Father Gerald O’Collins, several eminent scientists and Sister Mary Elphick, who helped establish Sydney’s Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.
In all, 662 Australians from sports coaches to politicians to a co-founder of Melway are recognised in this year’s Australia Day honours list.
Kidman is cited “for service to the performing arts as an acclaimed motion picture performer”.
Background notes provided by Government House refer to her 2003 best actress Oscar for the film The Hours and to her star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.
The citation also lauds Kidman’s support for charity. She has been a UNICEF goodwill ambassador since 1994, supports a Romanian orphans’ foundation and chairs the advisory board of a Californian women’s reproductive cancer program.
In a statement, Kidman said she was “deeply moved that I have been chosen to receive this prestigious award” and that “it has always been a privilege to represent my country wherever and whenever I can”.
Lady Southey, named today as an AC, is the daughter of retail magnate Sidney Myer.
After a lifetime of volunteering, she still heads Philanthropy Australia, encouraging others to give, and works for the environment and social justice causes through the Myer Foundation.
What is less well known is that every few weeks for the past 30 years, Lady Southey has driven polio patients to do their shopping or on outings.
She said her Australia Day honour was “a huge surprise” and “very exciting”. “Of course, one doesn’t work in the community to seek awards. If somebody thinks I’m worthy of an award, I’m overwhelmed,” she said.
Another Melbourne philanthropist, businesswoman Janet Calvert-Jones, the sister of Rupert Murdoch, was named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for years of practical and financial support for children’s medical research, rural education and cultural and botanical collections.
Another AO recipient is Inga Clendinnen, a La Trobe University academic who has won many awards for her books on Australian indigenous history, the Holocaust and Mayan and Aztec cultures.
Victorian artist Robert Jacks, the late king of television Graham Kennedy, philanthropist businessman Jack Smorgon and RMIT architecture professor Leon van Schaik were also awarded AOs.
Monash University law professor George Hampel, QC, was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for introducing advocacy training of barristers and solicitors in Australia and overseas since 1972.
He founded the Australian Advocacy Institute in 1991, and is also president of the International Institute of Forensic Studies.
The AM recipients also include scientist and broadcaster Karl Kruszelnicki, Nursing Mothers Association founder Natalie Paton and former tennis star and coach Mervyn Rose.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon praised the six Victorian recipients of the Australian Police Medal, saying “their integrity and work ethic inspired excellence within the organisation and the community”.
Among them are acting Inspector Ron Ritchie who, as head of the traffic camera office, is named on every speeding fine issued in Victoria.
Ms Nixon said Inspector Ritchie’s responsibility for issuing all electronically generated infringement notices to motorists had gained him “much notoriety among the media and motorists”, but that the electronic speed enforcement program “has gone on to help reduce the state’s road trauma rate and is internationally recognised”.