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The Order of Australia

File:Order of Australia.png
Insignia of a Knight/Dame of the Order of Australia
The Order was established on 14 February 1975 by letters patent of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, and countersigned by the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The original Order had three grades: Companion (AC), Officer (AO), and Member (AM), and two divisions: Civil Division and Military Division.

On 24 May 1976, the grade of Knight (AK) and Dame (AD), and the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), were established by The Queen on the advice of Whitlam's successor, Malcolm Fraser, and the Civil Division was renamed the General Division. The grade of Dame/Knight was only awarded in the General Division.

Following the 1983 election, Prime Minister Bob Hawke advised the abolition of the Knight / Dame grade. On 3 March 1986, The Queen co-signed letters patent revoking the grade of Knight and Dame; existing Knights and Dames were not affected by this change. Prime Minister Tony Abbott advised The Queen to reinstate the grade of Dame and Knight on 19 March 2014. The Queen co-signed letters patent to bring this into effect. The change was publicly announced on 25 March, and gazetted on 17 April 2014.

The Queen of Australia is Sovereign Head of the Order, while the Governor-General is Principal Companion/Dame/Knight (as relevant at the time) and Chancellor of the Order. The Governor-General's Official Secretary is Secretary of the Order.

The original three-level structure of the Order of Australia was modelled closely upon the Order of Canada, though the Order of Australia has been awarded rather more liberally, especially in regard to honorary awards to foreigners.

Classes of Award

The order is divided into a general and a military division. The five classes of appointment to the Order are, in descending order of seniority:

Knight and Dame of the Order of Australia (AK and AD General Division only quota of 4 per annum);

Companion of the Order of Australia (AC quota of 30 per annum);

Officer of the Order of Australia (AO quota of 125 per annum);

Member of the Order of Australia (AM quota of 300 per annum);

Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM no quota).

Honorary awards in all grades may be made to deserving non-citizens these awards are made additional to the quotas.


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 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 AK/AD badge is similar to that of the AC badge, but with the difference that it contains at the centre an enamelled disc bearing an image of the Coat of arms of Australia

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. AKs,[1] 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; AK/AD[1] and 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.

Award Criteria

The Order consists of four grades and the medal, in both general and military divisions. Awards of Knighthood and Damehood of the Order are made in the general division only.

While State Governors can present the Officer, Member and Medal of the Order of Australia to their respective state's residents, only the Queen of Australia or Governor-General can present the Knight/Dame and Companion grades of the Order.

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

Main article: List of Knights and Dames of the Order of AustraliaGeneral Division 'Extraordinary and pre-eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or to humanity at large'.
Military Division Not awarded in the military division.
There is a quota of four per year excluding honorary appointments.

The grade of Knight (AK) and Dame (AD) of the Order was created by Letters Patent issued by the Queen of Australia on 24 May 1976, on advice from the Fraser Liberal-National government. It was discontinued by her on 3 March 1986 on advice from the Hawke Labor government. Existing knights and dames were not affected by the removal of the grade from the Letters Patent.
During this period, twelve knights and two dames were created, of whom ten of the knights and both of the dames are now deceased.

Following his appointment as prime minister in 2013, Tony Abbott announced the Queen had accepted his advice to again amend the Letters Patent to re-establish the grade of Dame and Knight. This came into effect on 25 March 2014, at which time he announced that Governor-General Quentin Bryce had immediately become a Dame in her capacity as Chancellor of the Order, and that the Governor-General-designate, General Peter Cosgrove, would become Chancellor and Principal Knight on his taking up the appointment of Governor-General on 28 March. Up to four knight/damehoods may be awarded each year. Knights and Dames will be appointed by the Queen of Australia on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia after consultation with the Chair of the Order of Australia Council.The Australian Labor Party continues to oppose knighthoods, and leader of the opposition Bill Shorten stated in March 2014 that the party will again discontinue the position if it wins the next Australian federal election.[25] In the Queen's Birthday honours list for Australia for 2014, New South Wales Governor Marie Bashir was named as a Dame of the Order of Australia. In the Australia Day honours list for 2015, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Sir Angus Houston, former Chief of the Australia Defence Force, were made Knights of the Order of Australia.

'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, and then approved by the Governor-General. The Order is awarded on Australia Day and on the Queen's Birthday public holiday in June, when public announcements are made about new awards, on the occasion of a special announcement by the Governor-General, (usually honorary awards), and on the appointment of new Governors-General.

People who are not Australian citizens may be awarded honorary membership of the Order at all grades

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 stands and it is announced as having effect from no later than the date of the nominee's death.

Awardees may subsequently resign from the Order, and also may have their award cancelled by the Governor-General.
Appointment Process

A nomination for an Order of Australia award starts with an Australian citizen filling in a confidential form and submitting it to the Honours Secretariat at Government House in Canberra. This form is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

The nomination forms are given to the Council for the Order of Australia, Who attends meetings of the council and reasoning as to why a nomination either did or did not result in an appointment is confidential. The council makes recommendations to the governor-general, who presents the order's insignia to new appointees, The council may also advise the governor-general to remove an individual from the order.

Announcements of all awards, cancellations and resignations appear in the Commonwealth Gazette. People awarded honours have the option of not having the information appear on the It's an Honour website.

Officials of the Order

  • Sovereign Head of the Order: Queen of Australia (Elizabeth II)
  • Chancellor and Principal Knight: Governor-General of Australia (General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, MC)
  • Secretary: Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia (Mark Fraser LVO, OAM)

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. On 11 July 2010, the Australian Honours website listed appointments for 34 Honorary Companions, 67 Honorary Officers, 86 Honorary Members of the Order of Australia and the award of 88 Honorary Medals of the Order of Australia.