PROGRAM COMPONENT 2 – ADMINISTRATION OF THE HONOURS AND AWARDS SYSTEM
Resources applied to this component are directed to:
conducting comprehensive and independent research of nominations for awards
providing high-level secretariat support to honours advisory bodies
interpreting and applying gazetted regulations for defence, meritorious, operational service and long service awards to ensure that applicants meet eligibility criteria
making cost-effective resource decisions for the timely acquisition of high quality insignia, warrants and honours publications
maintaining registers of all award recipients.
Table 1 contains the performance indicators for Program Component 2 identified in the Portfolio Budget Statements, and Table 5 compares the budget identified in those statements to the component’s actual cost during the year.
TABLE 5: FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE FOR COMPONENT 2 OF PROGRAM 1
Departmental appropriation - Cost of Component 2
Administered appropriation - Acquisition of Australian honours medals/insignia, warrants and investiture items
Expenses not requiring appropriation
HONOURS AND AWARDS OVERVIEW
Australia’s honours and awards system recognises the outstanding service and contributions of Australians. The system began in 1975 when the Order of Australia, Australian Bravery Decorations and National Medal were created. Since then, additional awards have been created including a range of meritorious, gallantry and distinguished awards, the National Police Service Medal, and the National Emergency Medal (NEM).
The Order of Australia includes a General Division for civilians and a Military Division for members of the Australian Defence Force. The Order of Australia is the highest form of recognition of the efforts and achievements of Australians. The Order of Australia celebrates extraordinary achievements and meritorious contributions in fields as diverse as community service, the arts, education, sport, multicultural affairs and philanthropy.
The Governor-General is Chancellor of the Order, and the Official Secretary to the Governor-General traditionally serves as the Secretary of the Order. An independent Council, the Council for the Order of Australia, considers nominations in the General Division and makes recommendations to the Governor-General. Appointments and awards in the Military Division are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister for Defence.
Australian Bravery Decorations are significant awards that recognise the courageous actions of those who have placed the safety and lives of others before their own. Bravery nominations are considered by the Australian Bravery Decorations Council, which makes recommendations to the Governor-General.
The NEM is awarded to persons who have rendered sustained or significant service in response to declared national emergencies within Australia. The Honours and Awards branch processes applications for ‘sustained service’ and makes recommendations directly to the Governor-General. Nominations for ‘significant service’ are considered by the National Emergency Medal Committee before submission to the Governor-General. In 2019–20, Tropical Cyclone Debbie and the North Queensland Floods were declared nationally significant emergencies for the purposes of the NEM. In principle approval for the 2019–20 bushfires was also provided.
Details of the current membership of the Council for the Order of Australia, the Australian Bravery Decorations Council and the National Emergency Medal Committee are provided at Appendix A.
The branch researches each nomination received, and consults with nominators and referees where appropriate to develop the documentation that is presented to the relevant honours advisory body for consideration. The councils, rather than the branch, are responsible for making recommendations as to whether an award should be made. In all matters relating to the Order of Australia, the Governor-General acts on recommendations made by the independent Council. Council members are appointed with the expectation that they will apply expertise and judgement to their decision making. Nominations are generally processed in order of receipt, although if a nominee is gravely ill or of an advanced age, processing may be expedited.
The Order of Australia and the Australian Bravery Decorations Councils’ recommendations are considered by the Governor-General and, if an award is approved, the branch notifies the recipient, gazettes the announcement of the award, and publishes the details on the Office’s website.
The branch is responsible for ensuring that all other awards are well documented and processed for approval in accordance with gazetted regulations.
The branch liaises closely with the Legal Policy Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and contributes to Australian Government strategies to increase awareness of the Australian honours system within the community.
The work of the three honours advisory bodies necessitates close liaison between the branch and the respective chairs, council and committee members. This communication provides a means for continuously evaluating and improving the branch’s performance.
Further information on the criteria, nomination processes and nomination forms for specific awards may be found in the Australian Honours and Awards section of the Office’s website at www.gg.gov.au or on the website maintained by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet at www.pmc.gov.au/government/its-honour.
NOMINATIONS, AWARDS AND INVESTITURES
In 2019–20, 2,991 nominations were received for the Order of Australia. This was similar to the previous financial year. The Council met twice during the year to consider the nominations and other matters. Of the 2,180 nominations considered, 1,548 resulted in recommendations to the Governor-General and, subsequently, appointments or awards. Ninety per cent of Order of Australia nominations were processed and presented to Council meetings within 18 months of receipt in the branch.
On the recommendation of the Minister for Defence, the Governor-General approved 54 appointments and awards in the Military Division of the Order of Australia.
In 2019–20, the branch researched 289 nominations for bravery awards for the Australian Bravery Decorations Council, which met twice during the year. Of these, 160 (55 per cent) resulted in awards which were approved by the Governor-General. Ninety-eight per cent of researched nominations were presented to the Australian Bravery Decorations Council within six months of being researched.
The Governor-General approved 1,324 awards to recognise excellence in specified occupations, including police, emergency services, and defence personnel. All of these awards were processed and gazetted within six months of receipt. In addition, 2,383 National Police Service Medals were approved and dispatched to the relevant organisations.
Additionally, in 2019–20, 90 National Emergency Medals (75 for sustained service and 15 for significant service) were approved. The total number of nominations considered for the award was 149. 670 nominations were received and forwarded to Defence Directorate of Honours and Awards to initiate processing. The National Emergency Medal Committee considered a number of recent nationally-significant emergencies for the purposes of the medal. The Governor-General subsequently approved the declaration of Tropical Cyclone Debbie 2017 and the North Queensland Floods 2019, and provided in-principle approval for the 2019–20 Bushfire Season.
The Governor-General approved 8,572 National Medals/Clasps, which recognise 15 years or more of diligent and efficient service in uniformed occupations involving elements of personal risk in order to protect the community. These awards are administered by the branch and approved by the Governor-General, but they are conferred internally by the relevant organisations. All of the long service and occupation-based awards were processed within two months of receipt.
Nine non-Australian citizens were recognised by honorary awards in the Order of Australia during 2019–20, seven in the General Division and two in the Military Division.
Tables showing the number of nominations considered and awards conferred for the Order of Australia and the Australian Bravery Decorations in 2019–20, and the total number of nominations and awards since 1975, are at Appendices B and C respectively. Appendix D shows the number of other award types made during the year for outstanding achievement in specific fields of activity, and the total since 1975.
The Honours and Awards branch assisted State Governors, the Northern Territory Administrator and heads of Australian diplomatic missions overseas to conduct investitures for recipients not invested by the Governor-General in 2019–20. The branch contacted the relevant offices, provided media and guidance notes, and organised and dispatched the insignia.
APPROVAL FOR AUSTRALIANS TO WEAR FOREIGN AWARDS
The process for the acceptance and wearing of foreign awards by Australian citizens does not require the Governor-General’s approval if the award is listed on the approved Schedule on the Governor-General’s website. In 2019–20 a small number of Australian citizens were approved by the Governor-General to accept and wear foreign awards that were not listed on the Schedule.
The Governor-General has flagged his intention to ensure the Order of Australia is, and is perceived to be by the Australian public, the highest form of recognition of the efforts and achievements of Australians and reflects, in administration and outcome, the diversity of Australia. The Office is committed to improving the diversity of nominations (and therefore recipients) in the honours and awards system. Key initiatives include supporting the Governor-General to engage with peak bodies in various fields of endeavour on diversity issues. As part of this work, the Office has initiated discussions and will continue to work with organisations and other stakeholders to ensure the diversity of Australia is represented in the awards system.
The Australia Day and The Queen’s Birthday honours lists in 2020 continued to see improved representation of women recipients in the Order of Australia.
The Office participated in the National Archives of Australia Check-up 2019 and received a maturity score of 4.31 (1.06 above the Australian Government average of 3.25). This reflects our commitment to records management and to improving and refining our processes in line with the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.
The Office also implemented reforms to make processes more user friendly. In December 2019, functionality was introduced that allows for the automatic online submission of information directly from referees and potential recipients. These enhancements have had a significant impact on the accuracy of data held and have provided the community with an easier and more efficient method of communicating with the branch. The Office will continue to explore other initiatives to enhance automation, better reporting, and the production of smarter documents for honours councils to assist their consideration of a greater volume of nominations.