Esteemed Australian Journalist Kerry O’Brien has refused to accept the Australian Day Honour he was due to receive today in response to what he has called a “deeply insensitive and divisive decision” to award the country’s top honour, the Companion of the Order of Australia to disgraced former tennis player Margaret Court.

Court has come under fire many times for her stance on same sex marriage and for her views of the LGBTQI community, and these days works as a Pentecostal Church Minister. In recent years Court has described homosexuality as “an abominable sexual practice” and in 2017 wrote an open letter saying she would boycott Qantas over its support of same-sex marriage.

In a letter addressed to the office of the Governor-General, David Hurley, O’Brien said he “believed 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 LGBTQI community.”

Court is this year being promoted from an Officer of the Order of Australia of which she received in 2007, to a Companion, but the decision has drawn the ire of many individuals, including Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews who went on the attack saying“I do not support that. I do not believe that she has views that accord with the vast majority of people across our nation, that see people particularly from the LGBT community as equal and deserving as dignity, respect and safety.” 

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 O’Brien is now the second person to hand back their Order of Australia in response to the news of Court receiving the country’s highest honour, with Canberra-based Doctor Clara Tung Meng Soo also confirming she would hand back her Order of Australia Medal (OAM) awarded to her in 2016 in protest of Court’s latest honour. In a letter to Governor-General David Hurley, Dr Soo said the move by the Council for the Order of Australia to elevate Court’s honour sent “a message that they condone” her views.

“[This award] is condoning if not supporting the very negative and hurtful statements she has made about the LGBTIQ community over the past few years. If we are awarding the highest honour in the land to someone, it needs to be for more than just achievements in their field,” Dr Soo wrote.

O’Brien added that in declining his award he was “supporting Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, who is handing back the Order of Australia she received for her work with the LGBTQ+ community and HIV sufferers, in protest. To me Dr Took Meng Soo epitomises the true spirit of the Order of Australia. Her actions speak volumes as to why the Court award is so wrong.

“Please pass on my regrets to the Governor-General. I am conscious that there are many well-meaning people involved in the Order of Australia process, but there has to be something fundamentally wrong with a system that can produce such a deeply insensitive and divisive decision.”

A seven-time Walkley Award winner, O’Brien was to be awarded for distinguished service to the broadcast media and to journalism as a current affairs presenter, interviewer and reporter.

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