Appalling lack of King’s Birthday Honours for the arts

Where are the artists? ArtsHub takes a look at this year's King's List Honours to gauge how the arts were valued.
King's Honours Medals.

Today (10 June), 737 Australians were recognised for their services in the King’s Birthday 2024 Honour List. It was a significant drop in numbers from last year (1192) and was heavily weighted towards the medical/health sector.

Of the 737 honours awarded, 493 recipients were within the General Division – which is where the arts fall (the other 33% are military and public service recipients).

Digging deeper into this year’s crop, of those 493 recipients, a dismal 43 were awarded in the area of arts and culture (including architecture, libraries and community arts groups). That is just 9% of all award recipients.

And to make this “value prospect” even more woeful, only 17 of those 43 would identify as full-time practicing professionals or artists/makers. The remainder were honoured for their service as philanthropists and to community groups.

As a sector, we bemoan that the arts are overlooked. These figures are testament to this fact. However, these Honours are driven by peer nominations, so the flaw with this list lies largely with the sector itself.

Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)

This is Australia’s highest honour, and this year, two of the six people awarded the Companion of the Order (AC) were recognised for their contribution to the arts and cultural sector.

Sir Jonathan Mills AO (NSW)

Today, Mills has been celebrated for his ‘service to international cultural leadership and diplomacy, to the performing arts, to philanthropic ventures, and to tertiary education’.

He was Programme Director, Edinburgh International Culture Summit 2012-2022, an organisation which he founded and was Trustee of from 2014-2015.

Mills was additionally Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival, 2006-2014, and former Chief Executive Officer Aga Khan Music Initiative, where he steered the development of the Aga Khan Music Awards, and also Artistic Advisor, Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Aga Khan Music Initiative in Geneva from 2016-2019.

Mills was President, International Jury, Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe (EFFE) 2017-2021; Artistic Advisor, English National Opera, 2014-2015; Artistic Curator, Inaugural Lincoln Center Global Exchange, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, 2015; Member, UK-Russia Year of Culture Organising Committee, 2013-2014; International Artistic Advisor, Singapore Chinese Orchestra, 2010-2013 and Artistic Advisor, Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Romania, 2008-2014.

Back in Australia he has been Creative Advisor and Chair, ANZAC Centenary Arts and Culture Fund 2014-2017 and International Artistic Advisor, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne, 2011-2014. Mills has been Vice-Chancellor’s Creative Fellow at The University of Melbourne since 2022.

He has further been Ambassador, New Narrative for Europe Cultural Program, 2015-2018; Member, EU Cultural Advisory Committee, European Commission, Brussels, 2013-2015; Chair, Arts and Creative Economy Advisory Group, British Council, 2012-2015 and a Member, Programme Board, UK Now, 2011-2012.

Mills has also held posts of Trumbull Fellow and Visiting Professor of Music, Yale School of Music, Yale University since 2017; Cultural Fellow, King’s College, London, United Kingdom since 2015, and Visiting Professor at universities in Slovenia and Scotland.

Mills received a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres, Government of France, 2013, a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honour List, United Kingdom, 2013, and an Officer of the Order of Australia, 2011.

Ms Samantha Joy Mostyn AO (NSW)

While Mostyn was primarily recognised for her service in the social justice, gender equity and business sectors, she is also celebrated for her contribution to culture and the arts as a patron. Mostyn was Chair, Ausfilm (2019-2022), Chair, Carriageworks (2012-2019), a Board Member for the Australia Council for the Arts (2010-2016) and Sydney Theatre Company (2005-2014), and a Trustee of The Australian Museum (2002-2011). She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day Honours List, and was named among the 100 Women of Influence Awards by the Australian Financial Review in 2012.

Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)

Of the 15 appointments of Officers of the Order, there were none awarded to the field of culture and the arts.

Members of the Order of Australia (AM)

There were 131 appointments as Members of the Order. Among those, 11 (8%) were related to the arts.

Ms Suzanne Maree Ardagh (WA)
For significant service to business, to the arts, and to the community. Ardagh has been a Board Member of West Australian Ballet since 2022 and was appointed Deputy Chair last year. She is a Former Board Member, Perth Symphony Orchestra, was a Non-Executive Director, Perth Festival, from 2011-2016, a non-Executive Director at Musica Viva Australia from 2008-2010, and Director, IASKA, 2009-2013.

Dr Bronwyn Maree Bancroft (NSW)
Artist Bronwyn Bancroft has been awarded for her significant service to the arts, and to the Indigenous community and for her role with Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative since 1987, including Director, 2010-2015, Board Member, 2006-2011, and other supporting roles.

She was also recognised as a Board Member, Australian Society of Authors, since 2021; Arts Law Centre of Australia, 2016-2019; Council Member, National Gallery of Australia, 1992-1997; Chair of Indigenous Advisory Committee, and the Visual Arts and Crafts panel, NSW Ministry of the Arts, 1995-1996; National Indigenous Arts and Advocacy Association, 1993-1997; as a member of the Artists Advisory Board, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2005-2007 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Arts Committee, 2009-2010, and Copyright Agency Ltd, 2008-2015, among other appointments. Bancroft is the author, co-author and illustrator of 47 children’s books since 1992, and has exhibited widely. She received a Centenary Medal in 2003 and was honoured as an Australian Living Treasure, National Trust of Australia New South Wales Branch in 1999.

Mr Daniel Benjamin Besen (Vic)
Daniel Besen has been recognised for his service to the arts, and to philanthropy. He is the Current Chair of TarraWarra Museum of Art. He was Director, Heide Museum of Modern Art, 1993-1998; Committee Member, Jewish Museum of Australia; Founding Chair, Chunky Move Dance Company, 1997-2003; Co-Founder, Celluloid Soup Film Festival, 1998-2002; Director, Melbourne International Arts Festival, 2003-2005; Executive Producer, Dirt Girl World, 2008-2017; founder, Roger Kemp Art Prize, Victorian College of the Arts, since 2008; founder, Les Kossatz Art Prize, Monash University, since 2011 and founding Chair, Collingwood Yards, 2014-2022.

Besen was also Executive Producer of Red, a film by Del Kathryn Barton in 2018; is a Director of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, 2018-2022, and a supporter of Agency Projects, BalletLab, RISING Festival, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Melbourne Fringe.

Emeritus Professor Elivio Bonollo (ACT)
While primarily recognised for his service to tertiary education, it is his work in the field of industrial design research that places Bonollo on this list. He has been Professor Emeritus, Industrial Design, Faculty of Arts and Design, Built Environment and Design Discipline, University of Canberra since 2003 and was Director, Design Research and Development Group, 2000-2003. He was Dean, Faculty of Environment Design, 1997-1998; Foundation Co-Director, National Institute of Design, 1997 and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Industrial Design, 1999-2001.

International Appointments include Professor, Faculty of Applied Art and Design, Ubon Ratchathani University, Thailand, 1999-2011 and PhD examiner, Faculty of Art and Design, Universiti of Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. He has been Co-Director, National Institute of Design, 1997; Vice-President, Industrial Design Council of Australia, Victoria Chapter, 1982; Member, Federal Design Council, 1982 and is currently an Ambassador, Good Design.

Ms Robin Jean Campbell (Vic)
A Systems Analyst and Chair of The Maranday Group, (Maranday Investments Pty Ltd, Maranday Pty Ltd and Valentine Music Pty Ltd), since 2015. Campbell has been recognised for her significant service to arts administration. She was Deputy Chair, Australian Ballet School, 2017-2023; a Board Member, Australian Ballet School since 2014, and a member of the Residence Committee, Australian Ballet School, 2013-2014, as well as Emeritus Board Member and past Chair, Southern Chapter, Australian Ballet Foundation.

Campbell is a Life Member, National Gallery of Victoria since 2019 and Theatre Production since 2016, and is a currently a Benefactor of the National Gallery of Victoria Foundation, and a Member, Foundation Council, State Library of Victoria, 2014-2020.

Campbell has served as Chair of the Robin Campbell Family Foundation Pty Ltd, since 2016 and Trustee, The Parncutt Family Foundation, 2001-2017. She was also the Producer and Olivier Award nominee of Songs for Nobodies on the London West End, and the Australian national tour of Divas.

Mr John Andrew Collins (Qld)
For significant service to the arts through music as Director and Co-Founder, The Triffid, a music venue and beer garden; Manager, Fortitude Music Hall; and Director, musician, and songwriter for ARIA Award winning group Powderfinger, and earlier with The Predators.

Collins is a Board Member, Brisbane Economic Development Agency and Music Industry College, and is a Committee Member, Q Music – Queensland Music Network Incorporated. He was Co-Founder of the Play Fair campaign 2021 and was a Presenter and Performer at online event One Night Lonely, a Support Act and Beyond Blue fundraiser, 2020. He has been a benefactor of other fundraisers including I’m on Your Side and Sunset Farewell Tour, a Yalari fundraiser, as well as a performer at Reconciliation Australia promotion, Concert for the Cure, Sydney Opera House, 2007 and WaveAid Concert, Sydney, 2005. Collins received a Centenary Medal in 2001.

Dr Laurie Margaret Cowled (Qld)
Founder of the Cowled Foundation (2007), Laurie Cowled has contributed to the arts as a philanthropist. She is Principal Patron, National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), with Scholarships including the Laurie Cowled Scholarship for Indigenous female students, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), 2007 (in perpetuity since 2010); Laurie Cowled PhD Bursary for Indigenous female students, UTS, 2017; Ruth Cowled Memorial Scholarship, NIDA and Ruth Cowled Design Fund, NIDA.

She is also the Founder and Benefactor, Cowled Gift, Queensland University of Technology since 2009, as well as other scholarships for women. Similarly, she supports scholarships enabling women’s education at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Cowled is a Diamond Patron and supporter of The Australian Ballet since 2005, and a supporter of the Australian Ballet School.

She also supports Queensland Ballet, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney Theatre Company, Room to Read’s Education Resilience Fund, and the Laurie Cowled International Scholarship for Costume, NIDA, which she has supported since 2005.

Mr Ian Rodney Grace (NSW)
Grace has been awarded for his significant service to radio and to the music industry. He has been Chief Executive Officer, and formerly President, of Virgin Radio International since 2001. He was Program Director for Virgin Radio UK, 1997-1998; Chief Executive Officer, Triple M Sydney and Melbourne, 1993, and prior to that General Manager and Inaugural Group Program Director. He was also Chief Executive Officer, 2CH/2GB, 1993-1997, Program Director, WHJY, New York, 1985-1986, and Program Director 2SM Sydney, 1982-1985.

Mr Stephen Anthony Large (Tas)
Stephen Large was recognised for his service to ‘historical site preservation’, in particular for his role as Chief Executive Officer, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (2000-2020).

Mr Leonard Stanley Vary (Vic)
Hailing from a legal background, Leonard Vary was recognised for his significant service to the philanthropic sector as a supporter of the arts. He has been Chief Executive Officer of The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund since 2011. Other roles include Board Member, Creative Partnerships Australia Ltd, 2019-2023; Board Member, Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, 2019-2022; Board Member, Malthouse Theatre (2009-2017) as well as former Chair; Vice-President of Melbourne International Festival of the Arts 2001-2007; Former Judge, Ballarat International Foto Biennale,and Former Member, Creative Industries Strategy Expert Reference Group, as well as many other contributions outside the arts, especially in the area of LGBTIQA+ equality.

Mr Alexander James Ward (SA)
With a prestigious career in the legal profession, Alexander Ward has been recognised for his passion and support for the arts. He is a Past Board Member, Adelaide Fringe Festival, a Host, Radio 5AA Breakfast, 2012-2015, and Past Writer and Performer of comedy scripts, Triple J, SAFM. He is also a Past Television Writer for Full Frontal and The Glynn Nicholas Show, and a performer.

Read: Richard Watts receives Medal of the Order of Australia

Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

The largest category in the Honours each year is the Medal of the Order of Australia. This year, 341 people were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia – 30 of those from the arts sector and its patrons, i.e. less than 10%.

Awarded for their professional practice:

Mr Hamish Donald Blake (NSW)
Writer, Comedian, and Gold Logie winning Actor, perhaps best known for his roles in Hamish and Andy’s ‘Perfect’ Holiday and Presenter, Lego Masters Australia.

Ms Robyn Mary Davidson (Vic)
For service to literature as both an author of multiple publications (most recently Unfinished Woman, 2023) and the celebrated book Tracks (1980), which was subsequently made into a film. She is a travel filmmaker and contributor.

Ms Tania Frazer (QLD)
For service to music as a oboe soloist, chamber musician and educator. Frazer is Oboe Lecturer, University of Queensland, and Principal Oboe, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Israel Opera. She was previously presented with the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Award in London.

Wadawurrung Elder Mrs Marlene Gilson (state/territory not recorded)
For her contribution as a visual artist.

Ms Meryl Lesley Hare (state/territory not recorded)
For her contribution to interior design as Principal and Design Director, Hare + Klein, Design Institute of Australia Fellow and Hall of Fame Inductee, and President and Member, Society of Interior Designers.

The late Mr Kevin James Jackson (NSW)
For service to the performing arts as a teacher. Jackson was a performing arts teacher at the National Institute of Dramatic Art and Acting Tutor and Director, Master of Fine Arts Program, American Conservatory Theatre (ACT), San Francisco, 1989-2002. Also Co-Founder, The HubStudio, Redfern, and a Theatre Critic.

Ms Lee Lewis (Qld)
For service to the performing arts as a theatre director in her roles as Artistic Director, Queensland Theatre, since 2019; Griffin Theatre Company, 2012-2019, as Richard Wherrett Fellow, Sydney Theatre Company, and a Helpmann Award winner.

Dr Mark Kevin O’Connor (ACT)
For service to literature as a environmental poet, author of 12 books on poetry, and educator.

Mr James Rees (state/territory not recorded)
For contributing to the arts as an entertainer with TV roles including Television Tiny OZ (ABC), Giggle and Hoot (ABC), Dancing with the Stars and Playschool, among others.

Ms Noelle Eve Shader (Vic)
For service to ballet as first a Dancer then Ballet Mistress with The Australian Ballet and also West Australian Ballet, and Dancer with New York City Ballet. Shader was also Dance Lecturer, West Australian Academy of the Performing Arts and Victorian College of the Arts, and NT Dance Company. Recipient of the Centenary Medal, 2003.

Mrs Kathy Sharon Shand (state/territory not listed)
For services to Sydney Writers’ Festival as Chair and Board Member, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Jewish Museum.

Ms Caroline Sharpen (Tas)
For leadership roles with Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Australian National Academy of Music, Gondwana Choirs, Tasmanian Youth Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and Musica Viva Australia; and as a continuing Board Member, Symphony Services International, and Director, Creative Partnerships Australia.

Ms Lynette Walker (Guest) (NSW)
For service to country music as a performer and Independent Recording Artist, and Executive Committee Member, Capital Country Music Association, 10 years. Inductee, Hands of Fame, Australian Country Music Hall of Fame, 1990.

Mr Richard Leigh Watts (Vic)
For service to the art including Chair of La Mama Theatre and Melbourne Fringe, as a Broadcaster at Three Triple R Broadcasters Limited, and former President, Green Room Awards Association and Judge, Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Drama. Watts is also National Performing Arts Editor, ArtsHub, since 2009 and was made a Living Legend, Melbourne Fringe, in 2017, among other honous.

And for their philanthropic and/or community arts contribution:

Mrs Kay Elanor Bryan (Qld)
For her philanthropic contributions to the arts, and as a supporter of Opera Australia’s Capital Fund, Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Griffith University’s Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the National Gallery of Australia Foundation.

Mr Anthony James Coen (Tas)
For their contribution to pipe band music.

Mr Alan Kimber Field (SA)
For services to music, including the South Australia Country Choral Association, as a conductor and South Coast Choral and Arts Society, among others.

Dr John Edward Gault (Vic)
For his support of Bendigo Symphony Orchestra and Bendigo Art Gallery as a benefactor.

Mr Barry Stewart Harley (NSW)
For services to country music, including Festival Director, Tamworth Country Music Festival, Secretary, Country Music Association of Australia, and support of the Golden Guitar Awards, Tamworth Songwriters’ Association Inc, Publisher, Country Music Capital News, and more.

Ms Shauna Hicks (Qld)
For her contribution to the Bribie Family History Association, Queensland Family History Society and roles with the Australian Society of Archivists, as well as an Archivist with State Library of Queensland and National Archives of Australia.

Ms Elisabeth Mary Jackson (Vic)
For services to history preservation organisations, including Board roles with Royal Historical Society of Victoria, Brunswick Community History Group, and work with Public Libraries Victoria Network, among other regional libraries. She was Mayor of Brunswick City Council from 1990-1991

Mrs Rosemary Liston Johnston (SA)
As Director/Writer of amateur theatre productions, and supporter/benefactor, various arts organisations, including Adelaide Festival Centre Trust and the State Theatre Company of South Australia, Guildhouse, Fleurieu Art Prize. She was Director of Adelaide Central Gallery, 1997-2000.

Mr Raymond Hunter Kidd and Mrs Diana Margaret Kidd (NSW)
As patrons to the arts, including Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Australia Foundation.

Ms Karen Elizabeth Noonan (Vic)
For service to community music, including Dandenong Ranges Music Council and Sing Australia (SA).

Ms Catherine Maree Nugent (NSW)
For service to country music, including General Manager, Country Music Association of Australia, and support of the Golden Guitar Awards, Australian College of Country Music and Tamworth Star Maker.

The late Mr Gavin Hamilton Patterson (Qld)
For service to architecture and community theatre, Col Gardiner Light Opera Company.

Mrs Suzanne Roberts (Qld)
For service to music and education as a piano teacher, including roles with Gold Coast City Choir, Music Theatre, and head of Performing Arts Somerset College, Mudgeeraba.

Dr Noel Clyde Robinson (Qld)
For service to architecture in particular with Brisbane City Council and as Chair of Urban Design Advisory Panel, Sunshine Coast Council, Honorary Doctorate, Queensland University of Technology, 2021 and Centenary Medal 2003.

Ms Cassandra Margaret Eilish Wilkinson (NSW)
For broadcast media, including Co-Founder and President, Free Broadcasting Incorporated, former Senior Vice President, Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, and Commentator, Sky News Agenda, The Bolt Report and The Drum. He was also an author and columnist for The Australian newspaper, 2011-2014.

Read: Arts sector luminaries in Australia Day Honours 2024

Understanding how the Honours List works

The Honours are divided into four sections: the General Division of the Order of Australia, the Military Division of the Order of Australia, Meritorious awards (distinguished service by public servants), and Distinguished and Conspicuous awards (to Military in a non-warlike operation). 

Anyone can nominate someone for recognition through the Order of Australia (General Division) at any time.

So if you want the arts to be more visible in these lists, don’t leave it to someone else – you can make a difference by nominating an outstanding person you know today.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina