Who was awarded 2020 Australia Day honours?

Wesley Enoch, Rachel Griffiths and Tim Minchin are among those honoured on Australia Day for their contributions to the arts.

The arts heard several gongs sound on Australia Day with many of those honoured using the opportunity to reflect on the purpose of the day and the importance of storytelling in the national identity.

Sydney Festival Director Wesley Enoch was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his long career in theatre. A Noonuccal Nuugi man, Enoch was previously Artistic Director at Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts, Artistic Director at Ilbijerri Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-operative, and Artistic Director at Queensland Theatre Company before taking on his current role at Sydney Festival.

Enoch said, ‘The soul of our nation is reliant on artists stepping up to tell the stories that reflect and challenge us to be better human beings. The storytelling of our nation has often overlooked Indigenous narratives and there are many who have gone before me and will come after me who will assist all Australians to connect to the 60,000 plus history of this continent. The recent bushfires have reminded us all that Indigenous Australia has knowledge and stories of living in this country that can help us all to live more harmoniously in this Land.’

Rachel Griffiths, also awarded an AM, also reflected on recent events when she told the ABC, ‘I’m not saving lives and, compared to the incredible bravery and courage of Australians around the country … our volunteer firefighters and other community organisations, it’s easy to dismiss what we do as artists as non-critical.’

Best known as an actor, Griffiths made her directorial debut last year with Ride Like a Girl. She was keen to assert the value of the arts. ‘But look, I think in tough times, the arts bring joy, so I think back to the highlights of my career that people pull out for me which, is you know, dancing to Abba – if that’s five minutes of joy, I think it can mean a lot,’ Griffiths said.

From his origins as a solo cabaret performer to his recent forays in TV and composing musicals such as Matilda, Tim Minchin earned an AM this year.

He used the honour as a chance to emphasise the importance of the arts, telling the ABC, ‘There is no functioning democracy that’s ever existed on the planet that hasn’t had strong art’. And while Minchin said that giving out awards was ‘a nice thing’ he addressed the change the date discussion when he added, ‘But I look forward to a time when they’re given out on a different day, which I’m absolutely sure will happen.’


Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer. Image by Mark Gambino.

Arts Centre Melbourne CEO Claire Spencer was also awarded an AM, with her recent establishment of the Arts Wellbeing Collective and the triennial Asia TOPA festival listed among her significant achievements.

‘Many share this award,’ Spencer said. ‘Primarily the extraordinary team at Arts Centre Melbourne and my family. As do the people and organisations that have collaborated to realise the productions on our stages, mental health and wellbeing within the industry and opportunity afforded so thousands of Victorian children experience live performance – examples of initiatives that have been created during my time at Arts Centre Melbourne.’

Along with Spencer, several heads of cultural organisations were recognised including Australian Centre of the Moving Image Director Katrina Sedgewick; National Museum of Australia Director Mat Trinca; State Library of Victoria CEO Kate Torney (also acknowledging her career in broadcast media); Tracey Whiting, Chair of the Art Gallery of South Australia; and Vicki McDonald, Queensland State Librarian and CEO of the State Library of Queensland.

Transgender Neighbours actor Georgie Stone was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM). Stone became the youngest person to receive hormone blockers at age 10 and remains a popular advocate for the transgender community. An older trans spokesperson from the previous generation was also honoured, with entertainer Carlotta (Carol Spencer) receiving a Member of the Order of Australia for ‘significant service to the performing arts and to the LGBTIQ community’. In 1971 Carlotta’s gender reassignment surgery was one of the first reported in the media; Carlotta is best known for Les Girls.

A posthumous honour was awarded to Enrico Taglietti, the architect who passed away in 2019 and who was responsible for several buildings in Canberra, including the Italian Embassy, which he was sent to Australia to design.

Former CEO of the Australian Booksellers Association and Victorian Writers Centre (now Writers Victoria), Joel Becker, was also honoured for his contributions to literature. Writer and actor Kate Mulvany has followed up on her multiple wins at this year’s AWGIES, with an AM. Popular children’s entertainer Peter Combe was given an OAM alongside Wiggles Manager Paul Field.

Others honoured include Emma Webb, Director of Vitalstatistix, who received an OAM; Anni Davey, Artistic Director of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus who received an OAM for service to circus performance and physical theatre, and her twin, actor Maude Davey, who received an OAM for service to the performing arts, and ILBIJERRI Artistic Director Rachael Maza who was made a member of the Order of Australia (AM).

One of the more controversial appointments was that of Bettina Arndt, sex therapist, columnist and author, who was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia for campaigning for ‘gender equity through advocacy for men’. The move was condemned by anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty who told Yahoo! News, ‘I cannot help but be appalled that someone who minimised violence towards women who is part of the inevitable pushback and backlash that we all experience as we pioneer a way forward, would be awarded.’

Other artists and arts workers honoured include:

Larissa BEHRENDT, NSW
For distinguished service to Indigenous education and research, to the law, and to the visual and performing arts.

Enrico TAGLIETTI, ACT
For distinguished service to architecture, particularly in the Australian Capital Territory, to education, and to professional organisations.

Keith Lionel URBAN, USA
For distinguished service to the performing arts as a singer and songwriter, and to charitable organisations.

Hugo Wallace WEAVING, NSW
For distinguished service to the performing arts as an actor, and as a mentor of young writers, directors and film makers.

Deborah Anne CONWAY, VIC
For significant service to the performing arts as a singer, songwriter and producer.

Jane Selby COVERNTON, SA
For significant service to the literary arts as a publisher of children’s books.

Catherine (Emily) COX, QLD
For significant service to the performing arts through choral music.

Henry Gibson DAN, QLD
For significant service to music, and to the Indigenous community.

Harriet EDQUIST, VIC
For significant service to architectural history and design, and to higher education.

Wesley James ENOCH, QLD
For significant service to the performing arts as an Indigenous director and playwright.

Andrew Charles FARRISS, NSW
For significant service to the performing arts as a musician, composer and producer.

Mary FEATHERSTON, VIC
For significant service to the arts, particularly to interior and industrial design.

Paul James FIELD, NSW
For significant service to the arts, particularly to children’s entertainment, and as a supporter of charitable endeavours.

Rachel Ann GRIFFITHS, NSW
For significant service to the performing arts as an actor.

Gael JENNINGS, VIC
For significant service to science, and to the broadcast media.

Douglas LAWRENCE, VIC
For significant service to the performing arts, particularly to chamber choirs.

Helen Louise LEAKE, SA
For significant service to film, and to professional organisations.

Dorothy Hazel LIPMANN, VIC
For significant service to the elderly, and to the visual arts.

Susan Mary LOGIE-SMITH, VIC
For significant service to the decorative and fine arts.

Robert David MACPHERSON, QLD
For significant service to the visual arts.

Robin (Bobbi) MAHLAB, NSW
For significant service to women, to publishing, and to philanthropy.

Rachael Zoa MAZA, VIC
For significant service to the performing arts as an artistic director.

Kathryn Anne MCCLYMONT, NSW
For significant service to the print media, and to investigative journalism.

Vicki Gayle MCDONALD, QLD
For significant service to librarianship, and to professional associations.

Paul Joseph MERCURIO, VIC
For significant service to the performing arts, particularly to dance.

Timothy David MINCHIN, NSW
For significant service to the performing arts, and to the community.

Heather Lee MITCHELL, NSW
For significant service to the performing arts, and to the community.           

Caroline O’CONNOR, QLD
For significant service to the performing arts, particularly to musical theatre.

Peter John OVERTON, NSW
For significant service to the broadcast media, and to the community.

Peter Andreas PEDERSEN, ACT
For significant service to military history as an author and researcher.

Sharman Ellen PRETTY, NSW
For significant service to music education, and to the performing arts.

Carol (Carlotta) SPENCER, QLD
For significant service to the performing arts, and to the LGBTIQ community.

Claire Elena SPENCER, VIC
For significant service to arts administration, and to the community.

Mathew Ansel TRINCA, ACT
For significant service to the museums and galleries sector.

Michael Robert TYACK, NSW
For significant service to the performing arts as a musical director.

Tracey WHITING, SA
For significant service to the museums and galleries sector.

Heathcote McMichael WRIGHT, VIC
For significant service to the law, and to the performing arts.

John Zerunge YOUNG, VIC
For significant service to the visual arts, and as a role model.

Phillip Nicholas ANTIPPA, VIC
For service to thoracic surgery, and to music.

Joel BECKER, VIC
For service to literary organisations.

Richard Palmer BENNETT, TAS
For service to photography.

Wayne Morris BOWDEN, VIC
For service to music, particularly through brass bands.

Kenneth James CALLANDER, NSW
For service to horse racing as a journalist and presenter.

Peter COMBE, SA
For service to the performing arts, particularly music for children.

Christopher Richard COX, NSW
For service to the performing arts, and to the community.

Anna Louise DAVEY, NSW
For service to circus performance and physical theatre.

Maude Alice DAVEY, VIC
For service to the performing arts, particularly as an artistic director.

Valerie Josephine DAWSON, QLD
For service to the performing arts as a singer and songwriter.

Maxwell Gordon DINGLE, NSW
For service to the visual arts through curatorial roles.

Judith FERBER, QLD
For service to the performing arts.

Carly FINDLAY, VIC
For service to people with a disability.

Reynold William GILSON, VIC
For service to music through brass bands.

Kerry Isabelle GREENWOOD, VIC
For service to literature as a writer.

Mary Elizabeth KENNEALLY, VIC
For service to the performing arts.

Kay Frances LANE, NSW
For service to music, and to education.

Rhonda Margaret LANGFORD, NSW
For service to music, and to education.

Thomas William LANGSTON, TAS
For service to music, and to the community.

John LO PICCOLO, VIC
For service to the performing arts.

Sandy JEFFS, VIC
For service to mental health organisations.

Russell John MAGEE, VIC
For service to the museums and galleries sector.

Barbara Janine MULLAN, SA
For service to the creative arts.

Kate MULVANY, NSW
For service to the performing arts.

Jodee Paula MUNDY, VIC
For service to the performing arts.

Elizabeth NIELD, ACT
For service to the performing and visual arts.

Deborah Mary NILAND, NSW
For service to children’s literature.

Maxwell Arthur PAGE, WA
For service to the performing arts in Western Australia.

Joanna Helen RANDELL, WA
For service to the community through music.

Karen Jeanne REDMAN, SA
For service to music through concert bands.

Patricia Noeline SABINE, TAS
For service to the museums and galleries sector.

Wendy Anne SACLIER, ACT
For service to the creative arts, and to women.

Katrina Anne-Marie SEDGWICK, VIC
For service to performing, screen, and visual arts administration.

Catherine Mary SIMMONDS, VIC
For service to the performing arts.

Paul Michael STEWART, VIC
For service to the community, and to the performing arts.

John Stewart STODDART, NSW
For service to the performing arts as a designer.

John Charles THORNTON, WA
For service to the performing arts, and to the community.

Robert Charles TITTERTON, NSW
For service to music through orchestras and ensembles.

Georgie Robertson STONE, VIC
For service to the trans and gender diverse community.

Kate TORNEY, VIC
For service to the broadcast media, and to the cultural sector.

Mark TREDINNICK, NSW
For service to literature, and to education.

Jane TURNER, VIC
For service to the performing arts as a writer, actor and comedian.

David VAN NUNEN, NSW
For service to the visual arts.

Emma WEBB, SA
For service to the performing arts, particularly in Port Adelaide.

Edwin James WILSON, NSW
For service to the visual arts, and to the community.

Clare Alice WRIGHT, VIC
For service to literature, and to historical research.

Irena Antonina ZDANOWICZ, VIC
For service to the visual arts as a curator.

Michael John ZEKULICH, WA
For service to print journalism, and as an author.

A full list of honours is available on the Governor General’s website.

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George Dunford is Director of Content at ArtsHub and Screenhub. He has written for Meanjin, The Big Issue, Lonely Planet, The Good Food Guide and others. He has worked in digital leadership roles in the cultural sector for more than 10 years including at the National Library of Australia, National Museum of Australia and the Wheeler Centre. You can follow him on Twitter: @Hack_packer

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