Queen's Birthday honours: Meet the Australians recognised with awards

Almost 600 Australians have been recognised for their contribution to the community in this year's Queen's Birthday honours.

The 565 recipients come from all walks of life, from an Australian pop star, to the expert who helped Australia transition from using pounds and pence to dollars and cents.

Others include Indigenous leaders, governors, sporting heroes, artists, law enforcers and philanthropists.

Andrew Scipione (AO)

Commissioner Andrew Scipione sits in his uniform.   Commissioner Scipione has led the NSW police force for almost a decade. (ABC News: Philippa McDonald)

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, who has led the state's police force for almost a decade, has received a prestigious Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO).

He said he was honoured and humbled to be recognised for his distinguished service to law enforcement, his contribution to the professionalism of policing, as well as international investigations and counter-terrorism activities.

Commissioner Scipione told the ABC it was an acknowledgment for all his officers.

"This is not about me, this is about the men and the women that make this organisation what it is," he said.

"I'm just out the front, accepting it on behalf of the 21,000 people and the hundreds of thousands who have served in this organisation over those 150 odd years and for all of those who will serve into the future."

Commissioner Scipione said he was proud of the work his force undertook with German police to crack a major gun importation racket.

The investigation found parts of 200 Glock pistols were being imported into the country through an Australia Post franchise.

"They were reconstituted and found their way onto the streets, it was a major prosecution," he said.

Commissioner Scipione said counter-terrorism was a major focus for his force and his officers had also prevented terrorist attacks, but "the thing that most worries us is the age of the offender".

Nyunggai Warren Mundine (AO)

Warren Mundine   Mr Mundine has spent the past 35 years working to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. (Supplied: Warren Mundine)

Bundjalung man Warren Mundine has devoted most of his life to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.

His award as an Officer of the Order of Australia recognises more than 35 years of work to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Despite leaving school at the age of 16, Mr Mundine has been a leading figure, working to close the gap between Indigenous Australians and the wider population, for more than three decades.

He was part of John Howard's National Indigenous Council, and under Tony Abbott's leadership, he was named as the Chairman of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

His portfolio of roles within the Indigenous community seems to know no end.

Mr Mundine founded Nyunggai Black, is the chief executive officer of Andrew Forest's GenerationOne, is the chairman of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, a director of the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, the chairman of NAISDA College, and the list goes on.

"It makes you feel funny," he said, upon being named on the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

"You don't go into these things thinking for medals or accolades or anything like that. You just go into things to see that you can play a little bit of a role in there."

But Mr Mundine said there was still a lot of work to do.

"The future's looking good, but it's still a struggle. I hope I'll be around for another 35 years to complete this work. But I hope it doesn't take that long," he said.

Kate Ceberano (AM)

Kate Ceberano poses for a photo in Sydney.  Australian singer Kate Ceberano has sold more than 1 million albums in Australia. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Singer, songwriter and entertainer Kate Ceberano has been honoured for her contribution to the performing arts and her charitable work.

"I could cry," she told the ABC.

"I'm amazed that in the three plus decades I've been in music, that all the peripheral type activities that come with that seem to be acknowledged in this great honour, and I feel very moved by it."

Ceberano has raised money for causes including breast cancer and children's hospitals.

"My favourite assistance using music in the service of others is singing to premature babies in the premmie wards — my brother and I often do that," she said.

"The highlight is I've made enough of a career in order to be of use and be exploited in the best of all possible ways for the service of others."

The pop singer, who rose to fame in the 80s and has recorded 24 albums, told the ABC: "I'd like to feel there's a place for me well into my 70s and 80s".

Neil Davey (AO)

Dr Neil Davey sits at a table in him home.   Dr Neil Davey is credited for Australia's successful transition to decimal currency. (ABC News: Jana Black)

Dr Neil Davey was one of the experts who led Australia away from pounds and pence to dollars and cents.

He has been described as Australia's only expert in decimal currency at the time.

The Order of Australia honours

Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) is awarded for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or to humanity at large

Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) is awarded for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or to humanity at large

Member of the Order of Australia (AM) is awarded for service in a particular locality or field of activity or to a particular group

Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) is awarded for service worthy of a particular recognition

Commonwealth Decimal Currency Committee chairman, Sir Walter Scott, wrote to then-prime minister Harold Holt during the changeover to say Dr Davey was the reason the transition to decimal currency went so smoothly.

Dr Davey joined the Treasury Department as a returned soldier in his mid 20s.

He studied at the University of Melbourne and competed further studies in London. Then he returned to Australia and was named the secretary of the newly formed Decimal Currency Committee.

Dr Davey recalls the time with little fanfare. "It was just a job," he said.

"I ran around to my friends saying I'm to be secretary of some committee, what do secretaries do for heaven's sake? And they said you're just going to be the general dog's body, running around organising meetings and so on.

"I thought well I can probably do that."

Dr Davey has been recognised for distinguished service to public administration.

Hieu Van Le (AC)

Hieu Van Le at Government House in Adelaide.  Hieu Van Le plays a leading role in the multicultural community. (ABC News: Michael Coggan)

The Governor of South Australia, Hieu Van Le, has been awarded a Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia.

A former Vietnam refugee, Mr Le plays a leading role in the multicultural community, and has been recognised for his "eminent service to the people of South Australia, to the development of cultural and economic links with Australia's near neighbours, to the advancement of multicultural inclusion and as a supporter of the arts and education".

"I'm extremely honoured, but at the same time very humbled, this recognition is very special to me," he said.

Mr Le was the chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission prior to his appointment as Governor and considers the championing of an inclusive society as central to his current job.

"This is something that I commit myself to do as a main part of my role, to ensure that people realise, not much about me or about my story, but realise the egalitarian nature of this nation of Australia," he said.

"We need to keep reminding ourselves of how lucky we are to live in Australia, to live in this wonderful society."

Two years into a five-year appointment as Governor, Mr Le said he was thoroughly enjoying his role.

"I feel extremely privileged. It is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to our society," he said.

"In my role, as you can imagine, there have been opportunities for me to meet with so many people from all walks of life, in every corner of our state and listen to their stories.

"Seeing what they have been doing for our community, they are so inspiring and they deserve a very great acknowledgment. I feel very humbled by this and its very special for me."

He was recognised with an Order of Australia AO award in 2010.

Iain Murray (AM)

Iain Murray Professor Iain Murray helps vision-impaired people train in information and communication technology. (ABC News: Laura Birch)

WA professor Iain Murray, who helps blind and vision-impaired people gain employment in technology-based industries, has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Dr Murray helps to run a course called CAVI, which currently has 300 people enrolled around the world.

"What we do here is deliver courses to students internationally who are blind or vision impaired. The courses are mostly in information and communication technology," he said.

The program provides software that enlarges the print for students or allows them to perform commands through speech.

Dr Murray's students are located in America, England, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Australia.

The associate professor at Curtin University said technology was the key to overcome any accessibility issues that the blind or vision impaired face.

"Unemployment amongst people with vision impairment sits around 65 to 70 per cent, depending on what country you're in," Dr Murray said.

"If we can train, educate people and give them the skills to get jobs, they can do just as good a job as anyone else."

Graduates from the program go on to become web designers, networking designers or work in IT.

Dr Murray said his interest in helping the vision impaired stemmed from his family.

"My brother was blind, so I was interested in any assistant technology," he said.

He said he was honoured to be included in the list.

"It's wonderful to be recognised," he said.

Rhoda Roberts (AM)

Rhoda Roberts at the Sydney Opera House.   Rhoda Roberts is the head of indigenous programming at the Sydney Opera House. (ABC News: Philippa McDonald)

Rhoda Roberts has been honoured for her distinguished service to the performing arts, leadership, advocacy and promoting contemporary Indigenous culture.

As the head of Indigenous programming at the Sydney Opera House, Ms Robert has been at the helm of Australian and international arts festivals for more than two decades, including the Sydney Olympics.

She told the ABC her award was "totally unexpected and quite humbling".

Ms Roberts, who is a member of the Bundjalung nation from northern New South Wales, said Queen Elizabeth was important to her people.

"The Queen's birthday means so much more in more ways than it possibly means to other Australians, because they see her as the law woman," she said.

She said she arts provided a form of healing for her community.

"I work in the arts because I really believe it's a platform for change and most importantly it keeps our languages, our stories, our rituals, the passages of life alive," she said.

Ms Roberts said she had seen "extraordinary changes" in the decades she had been working in the arts.

"If you think back to the 70s, there was a huge growth of the visual arts, and particularly with the Papunya Tula movement, we saw international galleries wanting our works," he said.

"There's always been music of course, and we moved more towards the performing arts in the 1980s."

But she said the biggest challenge was obtaining arts funding.

"We are unique as a nation. We have Australia's oldest living race, but we are going to have to get creative and it's quite frightening when you think of how many companies have had to close and how much employment that is," Ms Roberts said.

John Bertrand (AO)

John Bertrand   John Bertrand helped prepare Australia's Olympic swimming team for Rio. (ABC News: Gloria Kalache)

John Bertrand has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his distinguished service to sports administration, in particular swimming and sailing, to child welfare, higher education and mentoring of young sports people.

Mr Bertrand rose to fame as the skipper of the Australia II yacht, which won the America's Cup in 1983.

"I was awarded an Order of Australia AM for winning the America's Cup quite a long time ago, but this is just fantastic to be acknowledged," he said.

He is also the head of Swimming Australia, and was given the tough task of trying to improve the team's performance in the lead-up to Rio, following their lacklustre display in London.

But he remains philosophical about the challenge.

"I thrive on pressure as it turns out, and we talk about peak performance, not medals," he said.

"A lot of people talk about medal counts. If our young people can achieve their peak performance at Rio, then results will follow."

Away from the sporting arena, Mr Bertrand is proud of his 14-year association with the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

"Our children are the future of our country. If you talk about the responsibility that we have, it's to our kids and we've helped over one and half million kids," he said.

"That whole philanthropic space there is really very important and an important part of my life and continues to be."

Elizabeth White (AM)

Elizabeth White  Elizabeth White has coached professional netball since 1982. (ABC News: Kristina Harazim)

Brisbane mother, grandmother and high school teacher Elizabeth White has been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her contribution to netball.

The Brisbane Cougars coach played professional netball from 1980 to 1982, but said her passion for the sport started at age 13.

"The minute I started playing netball, it had me," she said.

Mrs White was playing B-grade netball during her university years when former Queensland Netball Association president Deirdre Hyland recognised her talent for the sport.

"When I made the Australian team, the team manager happened to be Deirdre Hyland, so it was sort of nice to be in a team with the person who had first made you think that was possible," she said.

Her playing career was cut short by a knee injury in 1982, which she described as devastating at the time, but said it opened the door to coaching.

"I love it and I think I've been very, very lucky and very privileged to work with young athletes. Some want to play for Australia and some just want to enjoy the game," she said.

The more successful players included Vicki Wilson, Janet Bothwell, Janelle Peterson, Tracey Bruce and Amanda VanderWal.

"It's a privilege to work with anyone that chooses to come to you to be coached," she said.

Mrs White said she was surprised to be recognised.

"When I found out about it I was obviously honoured and to think that someone would nominate me for it," she said.

Her husband, former Olympic swimmer Graham White, received an OAM in 1984 for services to sport

Source: ABC News

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