Actress and performer Lorrae Desmond has been awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day Honours List. Her honour is in recognition of “significant service to the performing arts as an actor, entertainer and singer”.
Desmond, who was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1970, has worked in the United Kingdom and Australia, and in the 1960s entertained Australian troops in Vietnam, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and Somalia.
Her ABC variety show, The Lorrae Desmond Show, earned her a TV Week Gold Logie in 1962. She was the first female, and the first ABC personality, to be awarded a Gold Logie.
Later credits included In Melbourne Tonight, Jimmy, Jack Benny In Australia, The Graham Kennedy Show, Number 96, Arcade and then a decade as Shirley Gilroy in the Seven Network series A Country Practice.
Other familiar TV names included in this year’s honours list include:
OFFICER (AO) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
Greg Chappell MBE — “For distinguished service to cricket as a leading player, captain, coach and administrator at the elite level, and to a range of charitable foundations.” Chappell is a former cricket commentator for the Nine Network and in the 1980s was a documentary presenter on TVQ0, Brisbane.
MEMBER (AM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
Craig Foster — “For significant service to multiculturalism, to human rights and refugee support organisations, and to football.” Foster is a football commentator and analyst for SBS.
The late Maureen Anne Kerridge — “For significant service to the television industry, to the arts, and to charitable organisations.” Formerly Maureen Plavsic, she was the first woman to become head of a television network in Australia, as Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director and Executive Director, of the Seven Network from 2000 to 2003. She passed away late last year.
Valerie (Val) Lehman — “For significant service to the performing arts, and to wildlife conservation.” Lehman came to fame as ‘top dog’ inmate Bea Smith (pictured) in Prisoner. She won three TV Week Logies for the role of Smith. Other TV credits included A Fortunate Life, Tandarra, Power Without Glory, The Flying Doctors, Blue Heelers, Something In The Air, Neighbours and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.
Graham Ross — “For significant service to the broadcast media, particularly to horticulture, and to the community.” Ross was an ABC presenter in the 1970s and ’80s, and since 1995 is a presenter on Seven’s Better Homes And Gardens.
MEDAL (OAM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA IN THE GENERAL DIVISION
Vicki Tiegs — “For service to the community of the Illawarra”. Tiegs is a former publicity manager and executive at WIN Television in Wollongong and Rockhampton.
Glenn Wheeler — “For service to the broadcast media, and to the community.” Wheeler is a former segment presenter on Seven’s The Morning Show.
Katie Woolf — “For service to the broadcast media in the Northern Territory.” Woolf is a former segment presenter from Ten Darwin.
Former ABC journalist Kerry O’Brien (pictured) was initially to be awarded an AO in this year’s honours. He has since written to the Governor-General to reject the honour in protest at the elevated recognition of tennis champion Margaret Court, a winner of 24 Grand Slam tournaments.
Court, who retired from tennis in the 1970s, was honoured for her sporting achievements in 2007. She is to be elevated this year to the higher ranking of Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), again in recognition of her tennis career. Court has been a controversial public figure in more recent times for divisive and discriminating comments aimed at the LGBTQ+ communities.
O’Brien said that Court’s higher honour, while a recognition of her sporting achievements, “may serve to erode the hard-fought gains made over decades in reducing the impact of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Court’s honour was also criticised by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, and a former Order of Australia recipient, Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo from Canberra, has handed back her 2016 award in protest.
A total of 844 Australians have been recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours.