Australian honours system
The Australian honours system consists of a number of orders, decorations, and medals through which the country's sovereign awards its citizens for actions or deeds that benefit the nation. Established in 1975 with the creation of the Order of Australia, the system's scope has grown since then and over time has replaced the Imperial/British honours system that previously applied to Australians. The system includes an array of awards, both civil and military, for gallantry, bravery, distinguished service, meritorious service, and long service. Various campaign and commemorative medals have also been struck.
The Australian states and the Commonwealth of Australia originally used the Imperial honours system, (also known as the British honours system). The creation in 1975 of the Australian Honours System saw Australian recommendations for the Imperial awards decline, with the last awards being gazetted in 1989. The Commonwealth of Australia ceased making recommendations for Imperial awards in 1983, with the last Queen's Birthday Australian Honours list submitted by Queensland and Tasmania in 1989. However, the Queen still confers upon Australians Imperial honours that emanate from her personally, rather than through the Australian government.1
Individual Australian states, as well the Commonwealth Government, were full participants in the Imperial honours system. Originally there was bipartisan support, but Australian Labor Party (ALP) governments, both national and state, ceased making recommendations for Imperial awards – in particular, appointments to the Order of the British Empire. In the Second World War, the Governor General, on the advice of wartime Labor governments, made recommendations for gallantry awards, including eleven for the Victoria Cross, but the only appointments to the Order of the British Empire were for officers and men engaged in operational areas.
In 1975, the ALP, (which had been out of power federally from 1949 until 1972), created the Australian Honours System. Recommendations were processed centrally, but State Governors still had the power on the advice of their governments to submit recommendations for Imperial awards. From 1975 until 1983, the Liberal Party was in power federally, and although it retained the Australian Honours System, it reintroduced recommendations for meritorious Imperial awards, but not for Imperial awards for gallantry, bravery or distinguished service. Recommendations for Imperial awards by the Federal Government ceased with the election of the Hawke Labor Government in 1983. In 1989, the last two states making Imperial recommendations were Queensland and Tasmania.2 The defeat of both governments at the polls that year marked the end of Australian recommendations for Imperial awards.
Following the UK New Year Honours List in 1990 which contained no Australian nominations for British honours, the Queen's Private Secretary, Sir William Heseltine, wrote to the Governor-General that ‘this seems a good moment to consider whether the time has not arrived for Australia, like Canada, to honour its citizens exclusively within its own system’. There followed more than two years of negotiations with State governments before the Prime Minister made the announcement on 5 October 1992 that Australia would make no further recommendations for British honours.3 The Australian Order of Wear states that ‘all imperial British awards made to Australian citizens after 5 October 1992 are foreign awards and should be worn accordingly’.4
The Australian Honours System has followed US rather than British practice in allowing for late awards years after an action that is being commended. More than one hundred late awards for the Second World War and Vietnam have been gazetted.5 Although 'The Report of the inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour' released in March 2013 did not recommend any belated Victoria Cross for Australia awards it did recommend a Unit Citation for Gallantry to HMAS Yarra for February and March 1942.6 Similarly, Australian Bravery Awards have been gazetted years after the action being commended, including a Commendation for Brave Conduct awarded in 1987 to Robert Anderson for his courage in rescuing a child from a burning car at Kalgoorlie eight years earlier in 1979.7
Any person or organisation can make nominations of Australian citizens for Australian honours. Non-Australians can be given honorary awards for "extraordinary service to Australia or humanity at large".8 Nomination forms for the Order of Australia are available through the Australian Honours Secretariat website, or upon application to the Honours Secretariat at Government House, Canberra or from any state Government House.
The Honours and the Awards in the Australian system are, and have been:
- those within the Australian System of Honours and Awards;
- those conferred by The Sovereign in exercise of the Royal Prerogative;
- those within the Order of St John;
- Imperial/British awards conferred before 6 October 1992; and
- foreign awards, the acceptance and wearing of which have been authorised by the Governor-General.
Note that awards of the British Empire/United Kingdom and are now foreign awards.9
The Order of Australia insignia were designed by Stuart Devlin in 1976. Devlin used the livery colours of the Australian Coat of Arms, gold and royal blue. He also translated an individual ball of wattle blossom into a simple convex golden disc with a rich texture of beads and radiating lines accentuating a ring of blue enamel representing the sea.
The disc is surmounted by an enamel Crown signifying the position of The Order of Australia as an Australian Royal Honour. The Sovereign is Head of the Order of Australia. The Governor-General is Principal Companion and Chancellor of the Order of Australia. The blue and gold theme is continued in the ribbon. Most of the insignia pieces are produced by the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra. The actual pieces for the two Divisions of the Order are identical: it is only the ribbon which differentiates an award between the General and the Military Divisions. In the Military Division the ribbon is distinguished by the addition of a narrow gold band on each edge.
When established there was the ability for the Crown to appoint Knights and Dames to the Order. This was removed on the advice of Prime Minister Bob Hawke in 1986 without prejudice to any person who had been admitted to the Order at that grade. Currently there are four grades within the Order in both Military and General Divisions. Persons cannot be admitted to the Order posthumously.
The Council for the Order of Australia makes recommendations to the Governor-General as to the appropriateness of a nominee to be admitted to the Order and at what grade. It is up to the Honours Secretariat to provide the council with as much fully verified information as is possible on each nominee so that appropriate consideration may be given to each case. This is a long process and up to eighteen months can elapse between the original submission and publication of a successful nomination.
- Knight / Dame of the Order of Australia (AK / AD)
- Appointments to this class of the Order were stopped on 3 March 1986. Twelve men were made AK and two women were made AD. The full list is at Order of Australia.
- Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)
- Appointments are made for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or to humanity at large. Excluding honorary appointments, no more than 25 Companions shall be appointed in any calendar year.
- Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)
- Appointments made for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or to humanity at large. Excluding honorary appointments, no more than 100 Officers shall be appointed in any calendar year.
- Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
- Appointment made for service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group. Excluding honorary appointments, no more than 225 Members shall be appointed in any calendar year.
- Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)
- Awarded for service worthy of particular recognition. There is no quota limit on awards of the Medal of the Order.
- Victoria Cross for Australia (VC)
- Star of Gallantry (SG)
- Medal for Gallantry (MG)
- Commendation for Gallantry
- Cross of Valour (CV)
- Star of Courage (SC)
- Bravery Medal (BM)
- Commendation for Brave Conduct
- Group Bravery Citation
- Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
- Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)
- Commendation for Distinguished Service
- Nursing Service Cross (NSC)
- Public Service Medal (PSM)
- Australian Police Medal (APM)
- Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM)
- Ambulance Service Medal (ASM)
- Emergency Services Medal (ESM)
- Australian Antarctic Medal (AAM)
- Australia Service Medal 1939–45
- Civilian Service Medal 1939–1945
- Australian Active Service Medal 1945–1975
- Australian Service Medal 1945–1975
- Australian Active Service Medal
- Australian General Service Medal Korea
- Australian Service Medal
- Vietnam Medal
- Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal
- International Force East Timor Medal (INTERFET)
- Rhodesia Medal
- Police Overseas Service Medal
- Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal
- Afghanistan Medal
- Iraq Medal
- Operational Service Medal for Border Protection
- 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal13
- Australian Sports Medal14
- Centenary Medal15
- Anniversary of National Service 1951–1972 Medal16
- Defence Force Service Medal
- Reserve Force Decoration (RFD)
- Reserve Force Medal
- Defence Long Service Medal
- National Medal
- Australian Cadet Forces Service Medal
The Sovereign confers honours upon Australians in exercise of the Royal Prerogative, (rather than through the government). These have included:
Imperial honours awarded to Australians since 5 October 1992 are no longer part of the Australian honours system, and are foreign awards.
Prior to 6 October 1992, such honours were part of the Australian system:
Specific foreign awards are not mentioned on the Order of Wear document – just the general comment that foreign awards appear after the awards mentioned.
A list of foreign honours commonly awarded to Australians appears at Australian Honours Order of Wearing#Foreign awards.
A list of foreign awards commonly awarded to Australians for campaign and peacekeeping service appears at Australian Campaign Medals#Foreign awards.
Permission for formal acceptance and wearing of foreign awards is given by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or the Minister responsible for Australian honours.20
Regarding UN medals, see also Australian Issue of UN Medals
- Australian Honours Order of Wearing
- Australian campaign medals
- List of post-nominal letters (Australia)
- Australian of the Year
- British honours system
- A list of surviving Australian knights and dames
- A list of all Australian knights and dames
- Australian Commendations
- Only a handful of peerages and baronetcies were created for Australians. Some were in recognition of public services rendered in Britain rather than Australia. Some of the hereditary peers and baronets whose titles derive from Britain rather than Australia reside in Australia, or have connections with Australia. Who's Who Australia 2008. Details are provided at Australian peers.
- London Gazette, 17 June 1989, pp. B29 & B30
- A matter of honour: the report of the review of Australian honours and awards, December 1995, pp. 21–22
- "The Order of Wearing Australian Honours and Awards". Special Gazette No. S192. Commonwealth of Australia. 28 September 2007.
- In the British system, no Victoria Cross has been awarded more than six years after the action commended. The longest period between action and award of the US Medal of Honor is 137 years when in January 2001, President Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to descendents of a Civil War soldier.
- Commendation for Brave Conduct, ANDERSON, Robert Graham, 30 January 1987, It's an Honour
- "Order of Australia". Medals Australia. Archived from the original on 1 December 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-01.
- "- all Imperial awards made to Australian citizens after 5 October 1992 are foreign awards and should be worn accordingly." Order of Wearing, updated 25 September 2007. page 1. (Generally, foreign awards are worn after Australian awards, and postnominals of foreign awards are not recognised.)
- National Police Service Medal, It's an Honour – Australian Government Website
National Police Service Medal fact sheet, It's an Honour – Australian Government Website
- Australian Defence Medal, It's an Honour – Australian Government Website
Australian Defence Medal fact sheet, It's an Honour – Australian Government Website
- National Emergency Medal regulations, The Australian Honours Secretariat – Governor General of Australia's site.dead link
- "It's an Honour – Honours – Awards – A-Z of Awards – 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal". Itsanhonour.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- "It's an Honour – Honours – Awards – A-Z of Awards – Australian Sports Medal". Itsanhonour.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- "It's an Honour – Honours – Awards – A-Z of Awards – Centenary Medal". Itsanhonour.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- "It's an Honour – Honours – Awards – A-Z of Awards – Anniversary of National Service 1951–1972 Medal". Itsanhonour.gov.au. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- "MSM Awards". Honours.homestead.com. 13 September 1988. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- The first award of the Victoria Cross for Australia was in 2009.
- Presentation of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal to Corporal Daniel Keighran VC, gg.gov.au
- Its an Honour Foreign Awards
- Bruce Knox (1998). "Honours". In Graeme Davison, John Hirst and Stuart MacIntyre (eds.). The Oxford Companion to Australian History. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-553597-9.