Kerry O’Brien, former host of ABC’s Four Corners and The 7.30 Report, has rejected an Order of Australia award.
O’Brien refused his Australia Day award in protest as former tennis great Margaret Court was elevated to a Companion of the Order of Australia. Court has been criticised for her controversial statements on the LGBTQ+ community and same-sex marriage.
In a letter sent to the Governor General on Sunday, O’Brien said, “The decision to award Australia’s highest honour to Margaret Court may serve to erode the hard-fought gains made over decades in reducing the impact of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community”.
Initially O’Brien accepted the award, but later reversed his decision. In the same letter, he wrote that, “the decision to present her with this award was deeply insensitive and must undermine community respect for awards that were created to celebrate a true spirit of community, not divide it.”
A number of people were included in Australia Day Honours list for their contributions to media, including Genevieve Jacobs, Graham Ross, Brady Haran, Simon Moore, Glenn Wheeler, Katie Woolf, Michael Hawkins, Susan Cato and Neil Rogers. Maureen Kerridge was posthumously awarded as the first woman to become head of a television network.
O’Brien rejected the honour in support of Canberra GP Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo. Dr Soo was one of the first Australian GPs to undergo gender transition surgery. She was awarded an Order of Australia in 2016 for her work with members of the LGBTQ+ community and HIV+ people. On Saturday, Dr Soo wrote to the Governor General to return her medal.
Dr Soo wrote that, “no one disputes [Margaret Court’s] achievements in tennis. However, I am sure that given the controversy surrounding Mrs Margaret Court, the Council for the Order of Australia will be well aware of the derogatory and very hurtful remarks she has made about the LGBTIQ+ community”.
Margaret Court was initially made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007. She was elevated to Companion of the Order of Australia in 2021, the highest honour that can be awarded. Her contributions to tennis include 24 Grand Slam singles titles, 19 Grand Slam doubles titles and 21 Grand Slam mixed doubles passwords. She holds the most Grand Slam titles of any player in history, and was the first Australian woman to win a singles title at Wimbledon.
After retiring from tennis, Court became the minister of a Pentecostal church in Perth. She has been criticised for homophobic and transphobic comments in the past. In 2017, Court wrote an open letter to Qantas threatening to boycott the brand over their support of same-sex marriage. That year, she also told Vision Christian Radio that tennis is “full of lesbians” and said that “homosexuality is a lust for the flesh, so is adultery, fornication.”