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More than 1,200 exceptional Australians were recognized in the annual Queen’s Birthday Honors List on Monday. Through three categories — Order of Australia, Meritorious, and Distinguished and Conspicuous — Australia celebrates those who have made significant contributions to the betterment of the commonwealth nation.

This year, female representation among the community-nominated recipients reached a record high at 40%.

"We would all welcome higher recognition of magnificent Australian women," Governor-General Peter Cosgrove stated. "These awards are our opportunity to say to fellow Australians, thank you, and without you and your tireless service, we wouldn't be the community or nation that we are.”

The Order of Australia category is the highest recognition possible. Let’s meet just some of Australia’s best and brightest.

Natasha Stott Despoja

Stott Despoja — the former leader of the Australian Democrat party and current Global Citizen Australia board member — will receive the Officer of the Order of Australia. The award is given “for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or humanity at large.”

The former senator, who still holds the title of the youngest woman ever to enter the Australian federal parliament, has, in recent years, focused her work specifically on advocating for women and girls.

Stott Despoja is the founding chair of Our Watch Australia, a foundation working to prevent violence against women and children. She is also a member of the World Bank Gender Advisory Council and sits on the United Nations High Level Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children, and Adolescents.

"I’m so grateful to see gender equality work recognized in this way,” Stott Despoja stated on Twitter. “I share this honor with the many women and men who work for a fairer, kinder world — especially those who work every day to keep women and children safe.”

Hugh Jackman

Actor, singer, and producer Hugh Jackman was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia: a title bestowed for achievements of the highest degree. The long-serving Global Citizen ambassador — and previous Global Citizen Festival host — was honored not only for his service to the performing arts but also for his work to end extreme poverty.

Jackman launch Laughing Man Coffee Company in 2011. The company gives coffee farmers from developing nations the opportunity to sell their goods to customers in the United States. The entirety of the company’s profits are then donated to Jackman’s Laughing Man Foundation, which supports educational and community engagement initiatives worldwide.

"I am an immensely proud Australian, and am so grateful for the opportunities I have received by being raised there,” Jackman stated. "The countless teachers, mentors, and institutions that have supported me along the way are immeasurable — and I will always be in my country's debt."

Rosie Batty

Former Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, was awarded for her renowned service to the community as a campaigner to end domestic and family violence.

The Victorian woman lost her 11-year-old son Luke after his father murdered him in 2014. Her advocacy — and the establishment of the Luke Batty Foundation — helped ignite a Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, which eventually saw the state government vow to introduce all 227 of the commission’s recommendations.

"Together we will give victims a voice and demand our leaders act,” Batty states on the Luke Batty Foundation homepage.

Ruth Bishop

While less in the public eye than the previous three, the accomplishments of Ruth Bishop are no less remarkable. Bishop has been awarded Companions to the Order of Australia for her service to child health and medical research.

The professor’s early work led to the discovery of rotavirus, and, subsequently, the development of the first ever vaccination against the contagious disease, which is one of the lead causes of deadly childhood diarrhea.

"My proudest achievement is to have led a group of talented people whose successful aim was the production of a vaccine against this life-threatening disease,” she told the Australian. “I am honored and grateful to receive this award.”

There are hundreds more Order of Australia winners that could be singled out for taking action on Global Citizen issues.

For campaigning on gender equality: Professor Maree Smith, business executive Diane Smith-Gander, and lawyer Peggy O’Neal. For fighting against environmental degradation: doctor Edward Parkes, attorney John Scanlon, and author Eric Anderson. Lastly, for working on equal rights for Indigenous Australians: archaeologist Josephine Flood, philanthropist Kay Van Norton Poche, and Indigenous elder Carolyn Brigg.

You can check out the full list of exceptional winners here.


Demand Equity

'Magnificent' Australians Celebrated in Queen’s Birthday Honors List

By Madeleine Keck