A playwright, an academic and a Fairfield city councillor are among the many lesbian and gay community members set to receive the Centenary Medal.

A final project of the Centenary of Federation celebrations, the medal honours those who have made significant contributions to Australian society. The recipient list, released by the commonwealth government this week, includes a good smattering of gay men and lesbians.

Canterbury/Bankstown Social Group president Alex Day was cited for his contributions to gay and lesbian community development.

It’s an honour for me, but it’s an honour for the group as well, Day told Sydney Star Observer this week. The fact that gay and lesbian people are recognised as part of the Canterbury community is very important.

Day has been president of the Canterbury/Bankstown Social Group since day one -“ a little under four years ago. The group now includes 700 members and runs a busy calendar of social events.

Fairfield city councillor Thang Ngo, who joked that he was the only Vietnamese-speaking and out councillor on Fairfield Council, was nominated for his services to Sydney’s Vietnamese community.

A member of the Unity Party, Ngo has been a vocal opponent of gambling and poker machines, and also helped lobby for the parliamentary inquiry into policing in Cabramatta -“ an inquiry which he said had had a positive impact on the local community.

Ngo told the Star that he had been in two minds as to whether I would accept the award but ultimately decided it was important for the communities he represented.

Luncheon Club convenor Carole Ann King is also set to receive the Centenary Medal -“ thanks to a nomination by MP Clover Moore.

I’m certainly honoured, because it recognises our clients and volunteers; it recognises what they do, King told the Star yesterday.

King has convened the Luncheon Club for almost 10 years and the Larder for nearly six -“ but warned that the job had got more difficult over time.

This award raises the awareness of poverty, she said. In this day and age, how do you market poverty? It’s not a pretty picture.

The executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Don Baxter, was also honoured -“ primarily for his role in helping to establish the AIDS Council of New South Wales. Baxter is currently overseas and was unable to comment on the award.

The recipient list for New South Wales includes many other gay men and lesbians, including academic Garry Wotherspoon and Australian Medical Association president Dr Kerryn Phelps. Others were honoured for their services to the Centenary of Federation celebrations. This list includes playwright Alana Valentine, public servant Bev Lange, designer Brian Thomson and opera singer Deborah Cheetham.
Valentine told the Star that although people are often cynical about such awards, it was great to celebrate the civic contributions of artists to Australian life.

Lesbians and gay men also featured strongly in the list of those honoured for their work in the arts: a list that includes Robyn Archer, Carl Vine, Helmut Bakaitis and David Malouf, among many others.

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