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Order of Australia
Companion of the order of australia.jpg
Insignia of a Companion of the Order of Australia
Awarded by the
Australian Coat of Arms.png
Queen of Australia
Eligibility All living Australians, except politicians and judges while holding office.
Awarded for Achievement and merit in service to Australia or humanity.
Status Currently constituted
Sovereign Elizabeth II
Chancellor Quentin Bryce
Grades (w/ post-nominals) Companion (AC)
Officer (AO)
Member (AM)
Medal (OAM)
Former grades Knight (AK)
Dame (AD)
Established 14 February 1975
First induction 21 April 1975

The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia on 14 February 1975 "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service". Before the establishment of the Order, Australian citizens received British honours.

The Order is divided into general and military divisions, with the following grades in descending order of seniority:

  • Knight or Dame (AK or AD; existed 1976-1986, but last awarded 1983)
  • Companion (AC)
  • Officer (AO)
  • Member (AM)
  • Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM; from 1976).



The Order was established on 14 February 1975 by Letters patent of Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, and countersigned by the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The original Order had only three grades: Companion (AC), Officer (AO) and Member (AM).

On 24 May 1976, the further categories of Knight (AK), Dame (AD), and Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) were established by the Queen on the advice of Whitlam's successor Malcolm Fraser.

Following his 1983 election, Prime Minister Bob Hawke abolished the Knight and Dame categories. On 3 March 1986 the Queen co-signed Letters Patent revoking the category of Knight or Dame. Existing Knights and Dames were not affected by the new patent.

The Queen of Australia is Sovereign Head of the Order[1] while the Governor-General is Principal Companion and Chancellor of the Order. The Governor-General's Official Secretary is Secretary of the Order.

The Order of Australia is modelled closely upon the Order of Canada. However, when compared with the Order of Canada, the Order of Australia has been awarded rather more liberally, especially in regard to honorary awards for foreigners. The Order of Canada has only been awarded to 18 non-Canadians to date, but considerably more than 18 non-Australians have received the Order of Australia.[citation needed]


The Order consists of four grades and a medal, in both general and military divisions. Knight/Damehood of the Order was made in the general division only.

While State Governors can present the Officer, Member and Medal of the Order of Australia to his or her state's residents, only the Governor-General can present the Companion level of the order. [2]

The different grades of the Order are awarded according to the recipients' levels of achievement:


General Division - 'Eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or to humanity at large'.
Military Division - ' Eminent service in duties of great responsibility'.
Excluding honorary appointments, no more than 25 Companions are appointed in any calendar year.


General Division - 'Distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or to humanity at large'.
Military Division - 'Distinguished service in responsible positions'.
The quota is set at 100 Officers appointed in any calendar year.


General Division - 'Service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group'.
Military Division - 'Exceptional service or performance of duty'.
The quota is set at 225 Members appointed in any calendar year.

Medal of the Order of Australia

General Division - 'Service worthy of particular recognition'.
Military Division - 'Meritorious service or performance of duty'.
There are no quota limits on awards of the Medal of the Order.

Any person may nominate any Australian citizen for an award. The nominations are reviewed by the Council for the Order of Australia[3], and then approved by the Governor-General. The Order is awarded twice annually: on Australia Day, and on the Queen's Birthday public holiday in June, when public announcements are made about new awards.

Awards made to people who are not Australian citizens are called honorary awards.

Appointments to the Order are not made posthumously; however, if a nominee dies after accepting an appointment but before the relevant announcement date, the appointment still stands and it is announced as having effect from the date of the nominee's death.


General Division ribbon
Military Division ribbon

The badge of the Order of Australia is a convex disc (gold for AKs, ADs and ACs, gilt for AOs, AMs and OAMs) representing the Golden Wattle flower. At the centre is a ring, representing the sea, with the word 'Australia' below two branches of golden wattle. The whole disc is topped by the Royal crown of St Edward. The AC badge is decorated with citrines, blue enamelled ring, and enamelled crown. The AO badge is similar, without the citrines. For the AM badge only the crown is enamelled, and the OAM badge is plain.

The star for knights and dames is a convex golden disc decorated with citrines, with a blue royally crowned inner disc bearing an image of the Coat of arms of Australia.

The ribbon of the Order is blue with a central stripe of golden wattle flower designs; that of the military division has additional golden edge stripes. Male ACs and AOs wear their badges on a necklet; male AMs and OAMs wear them on a ribbon on the left chest. Women usually wear their badges on a bow on the left shoulder, although they may wear the same insignia as males, if so desired.

A gold lapel pin for daily wear is issued with each badge of the Order at the time of investiture; AC lapel pins feature a citrine central jewel, AO and AM lapel pins have a blue enamelled centre, and OAM lapel pins are plain.

The Order's insignia were designed by Stuart Devlin.

Officials of the Order

Knights and Dames

The category of Knight (AK) or Dame (AD) of the order was created by Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia on 24 May 1976 on advice from the Fraser Liberal-National government, and was abolished by her on 3 March 1986 on advice from the Hawke Labor government (the Australian Labor Party does not support the awarding of titles). Existing knights and dames were not affected by the removal of the category from the Letters Patent. During this period, twelve knights and two dames were created, of whom nine of the knights and both of the dames are now deceased.

This is a complete list of the knights and dames of the Order of Australia. It is shown in order of appointment; living knights are shown in bold:

Name Known for Date of appointment Date of death
Sir John Kerr AK GCMG GCVO Governor-General 1974-77 24 May 1976[4] 24 March 1991
Sir Robert Menzies KT AK CH QC Prime Minister 1939-41, 1949-66 7 June 1976 15 May 1978
Sir Colin Syme AK[5] Industrialist 6 June 1977 1986
Sir Zelman Cowen AK GCMG GCVO QC Governor-General 1977-82 8 December 1977[6] living (age 90)
Sir MacFarlane Burnet OM AK KBE Immunologist, Nobel laureate 26 January 1978 31 August 1985
Dame Alexandra Hasluck AD Historian 6 June 1978 18 June 1993
Dame Enid Lyons AD GBE Politician 26 January 1980 2 September 1981
HRH The Prince of Wales KG KT GCB AK many others Royalty, Heir apparent 14 March 1981 living (age 61)
Sir Roden Cutler VC AK KCMG KCVO CBE Soldier, Governor of New South Wales 1966-81 7 April 1981 22 February 2002
Sir Garfield Barwick AK GCMG Chief Justice of Australia 1964-81 8 June 1981 14 July 1997
Sir Charles Court AK KCMG OBE Premier of Western Australia 1974-82 14 June 1982 22 December 2007
Sir Ninian Stephen KG AK GCMG GCVO KBE QC High Court Judge, Governor-General 1982-89 29 July 1982[7] living (age 86)
Sir Roy Wright AK Physiologist 26 January 1983 28 February 1990
Sir Gordon Jackson AK Industrialist 13 June 1983 1 June 1991

The Order of Australia Association

On 26 January 1980 recipients of awards in the Order formed the Order of Australia Association. This organisation seeks to aid the members of the Order in their pursuits related to the development and maintenance of Australia's culture and traditions. The organisation also attempts to increase awareness of those honoured by the Order, since many of their number are not household names, despite their contributions. Branches of the Association can be found in all the states and territories of Australia.

Honorary awards

Awards in the Order of Australia are sometimes made to people who are not citizens of Australia, to honour extraordinary achievements. These achievements, or the people themselves, are not necessarily associated with Australia, although they often are. Notable honorary awards include:

Royal members of the Order

References in popular culture

The award is parodied in the play Amigos, where the central character is determined to be awarded the AC, and uses persuasion, bribery and blackmail in his (ultimately successful) attempts to get himself nominated for the award.[9]

During the 1996 season of the popular television programme Home and Away, the character Pippa Ross was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her years of service as a foster carer.

See also


Recipient categories


  1. ^ It's an Honour
  2. ^ Honours of the Crown p.11
  3. ^ It's an Honour: Council for the Order of Australia
  4. ^ Sir John Kerr was the Governor-General and, as Principal Knight of the Order, his knightood took effect immediately the category of Knight was established.
  5. ^ Colin Syme had previously been knighted as a Knight Bachelor, which carries no postnominal.
  6. ^ The date of Sir Zelman Cowen's appointment as Governor-General.
  7. ^ The date of Sir Ninian Stephen's appointment as Governor-General.
  8. ^ Lisa Millar, Order of Australia for General Petraeus, 4 November 2009,
  9. ^ Amigos Reviewer Helen Thomson, 29 June 2004, ArtsReviews -

External links

Simple English

The Order of Australia was created by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia on 14 February 1975. It was created to show the very best people of Australia. The award is given to notable Australian citizens who make big changes to Australia or internationally with their work. Sometimes the award is given to people who are not citizens of Australia.

The Order has many groups. The awarded person will join one of these groups:

  • Knight or Dame (AK or AD)
  • Companion (AC)
  • Officer (AO)
  • Member (AM)
  • Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)


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