I wrote a piece on?Australia’s Honours system for?Australia Day last year and decided this year to make it an annual event. So here’s this year’s column, which had a couple of hundred words edited out of it to meet?the Conversation’s arbitrary limit of 900 words. (How can?you run a self-respecting corporate operation without arbitrary policies? Or KPIs on the monthly ‘performance’ of?your?contribution.)
In any event, here’s the article in the full glory of its 1,071 word and?6061 character glory.
We think of Gough Whitlam’s government as the most radical in our post-war history, dedicated to its leader’s “crash through or crash” style. (In the end, it crashed.) But Whitlam’s approach to Australian honours was bold only on the surface.?
Imperial Honours were scrapped. Today it’s rare for Australia’s worthies to run round town being called “Sir Bruce and Lady So and So” or “Dame Raylene” by every Tom, Dick and Harry in the street (or Sir Tom, Sir Dick and Sir Harry at the club). But when you look closer, it’s clear that Whitlam didn’t really refurbish imperial honours so much as rebrand them.?
Back then there was a hierarchy of awards and though there was some correlation between your achievement and the level of honour you received for it, where you already stood in the social hierarchy counted for much more.?
If you were out there selflessly contributing to your local community, you might eventually get an MBE (that’s a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). If you got luckier and had made more of a splash, you might get an OBE. That made you an “Officer” of the very same order of most excellent British things. Above that was the CBE which made you a “Commander” of exceedingly excellent entities.? Continue reading