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Australia Day honours 2023: Artists and COVID heroes recognised

Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are advised that this article contains names, images and moving images of deceased people

More than 1000 Australians, from famed musicians to COVID heroes, have been recognised in the Australia Day 2023 honours list, headlined by music legend Archie Roach.

Of the 1047 people named on the list by the Governor-General, 736 awards have been given in the General Division of the Order of Australia, with 48 per cent being women.

This is a slight increase from last year, where 47 per cent of recipients were women.

In 2023, 77 Australians are being recognised for their contributions to the country’s COVID-19 response.

Those individuals are also included in an ongoing and permanent COVID-19 honour roll.

Roach was honoured following his death in 2022. He was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2015, but has now been recognised with the Companion of the Order of Australia, or AC. 

PM pays tribute to Australia Day winners

Archie Roach’s legacy

Roach’s achievements transcend his music career.

He receives his AC for service to the performing arts as a songwriter and musician, to Indigenous rights and reconciliation, and supporting emerging First Nations artists.

Jill Shelton, a friend who helped Roach set up the Archie Roach Foundation, said the award was “bittersweet”.

“I wish he was here to accept it. He would have been extremely humbled because he was a humble man,” Ms Shelton told The New Daily.

“But he would have seen that as a real acknowledgement of his work as a proud Australian, a proud First Australian.”

She said that Roach worked on his legacy in life, but it lives on through his music and with his foundation.

“He was passionate about his work with the foundation because he felt it was his cultural responsibility to give back and to shepherd and mentor and be a guiding light for many other First Nations artists,” Ms Shelton said.

Roach loved his people and his country, Ms Shelton said, adding he was happiest when he was travelling Australia and all corners of the world to perform his music.

“It kept him alive,” she said.

Pictured is Archie Roach

Archie Roach was recognised for his service to music, Indigenous rights and reconciliation, and supporting emerging First Nations artists.

COVID heroes

Dr Norman Swan has been appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to broadcast media as a science and health commentator.

Working at the ABC since the 1980s, Dr Swan became a household name during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Appearing on ABC TV and radio, he was formerly a medical host on The Biggest Loser, and a columnist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Probably one of the most recognisable names from the COVID pandemic on the honour’s list is Lieutenant General John James Frewen.

Pictured is Lieutenant General John Frewen

Lieutenant General John Frewen is a recipient of the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Military Division.

He has been appointed to the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Military Division for his “distinguished service” as Commander Defence on the COVID-19 Task Force and the Co-ordinator General of Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout.

“Lieutenant General Frewen’s exceptional leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic has directly enhanced Australia’s national resilience,” a press release from the Governor-General’s office stated.

“His leadership to enable the prioritisation of Australian Defence Force and medical support within a dynamic pandemic environment has been instrumental to reduce the effects of COVID-19 within Australia.”

Western Australia’s 34th Governor, Christopher Dawson, was also on the COVID-19 honour roll.

He was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia. During his time at the West Australian Police Force, he was the State Emergency Co-ordinator from 2020 to 2022, while he was also the Commissioner.

There are also many members who were awarded meritorious awards for their service through COVID-19.

Other recognisable figures

Claudia Karvan received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for service to the film and television industry.

Karvan has won several awards throughout her career, which dates back to the 1980s. She has starred in Australian productions such as the 1993 film The Heartbreak Kid and Puberty Blues in 2012 and 2014.

She was also nominated for the AACTA Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama in 2022, for her role in Bump, which she co-created.

Pictured is Claudia Karvan

Claudia Karvan was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Australian actor David Wenham was appointed Member of the Order of Australia for service to performing arts.

Wenham is known for his roles in movies such as Elvis, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Lion, Moulin Rouge andThe Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Bruna Papandrea, a producer for television shows such as Big Little Lies and Anatomy Of A Scandal, is also an AM recipient this year.

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