Gay and lesbian Australians have been honoured in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Out former Democrats senator Brian Greig was honoured for his services to the community as a social justice advocate for the gay and lesbian community with an Order of Australia Medal.
The former head of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Dr Kerryn Phelps, was named a Member of the Order of Australia for service to medicine through leadership roles with the AMA, to education and community health, and as a general practitioner.
Greig became involved in GLBTI rights activism during the 1990s and helped establish the Australian Council for Lesbian and Gay Rights — a forerunner of national GLBTI rights lobby group the Australian Coalition for Equality.
In his maiden speech after being elected to the Senate in 1998, Greig called for equality for same-sex attracted Australians. Greig also introduced a bill which would have outlawed discrimination against GLBTIs under federal law before leaving Parliament in 2005.
He told the Star Observer the award was a great honour which had caused him to reflect on 22 years as a campaigner for GLBTI rights.
“When I started campaigning on WA law reform in 1989, gay men were threatened with 14 years in prison,” he said. “Now my home state has equal ages of consent, anti-discrimination laws, partnership recognition, access to adoption and the Family Court and there’s a national discussion happening around equal marriage.
“Our laws have changed and so have community attitudes, which is more important. It’s been my privilege to be a spokesperson and advocate both in and out of Parliament to push for change.”
Phelps is a same-sex marriage campaigner. She married her partner, Jackie Stricker, in New York in 1998 and was previously awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001 for service to Australian society and medicine.
Phelps told the Star Observer she was honoured to have been nominated by her colleagues in the medical field, and the award had come as a surprise.
“The sort of work I do sometimes puts me on a collision course with the status quo, which is quite deliberate, so when you’re being an agent of change you’re not really expecting a pat on the back,” she said.