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February 25, 2021

Kerry O’Brien reverses decision to accept AO

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Kerry O’Brien

‘With regret, I have decided to reverse my decision to accept my appointment as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia’.

So began the words of a strong message sent by local journalist Kerry O’Brien in an email to Paul Singer, the Governor-General’s secretary, last Saturday.

Mr O’Brien had previously accepted the award, but the news that tennis legend Margaret Court would receive an Order of Australia, an announcement that shocked many Australians, was enough to make him change his mind.

Eroding hard-fought gains of the LGBTQ+ community

‘I believe 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 LGBTQ+ community — discrimination that has caused immense pain to untold people and destroyed lives.

‘I am declining my award in support of Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, who is handing back the Order of Australia she received [in 2016] 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.’

Court’s hurtful and divisive criticisms

Mr O’Brien said he believes that although Margaret Court was a great tennis player who thrilled most Australians (including himself) in her tennis years, ‘her hurtful and divisive criticisms relating to the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ+ community are clearly repugnant to many Australians.

‘I believe the decision to present her with this award was deeply insensitive and must undermine community respect for awards that were created to celebrate a true spirit of community, not divide it.’

Mr O’Brien said he had already given several media outlets interviews regarding his award, under embargo, but he would be informing those outlets that his comments were now out of date.

The last line of the email to Paul Singer said: ‘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.’

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  1. A decision that will likely hold Kerry O’Brien in far greater honour as he of course, deserves anyway.

    Congratulations from this nation; not just that panel.

  2. My heartfelt thanks and immense respect to Kerry O’Brien for his decision to decline the 2021 Oz Day / Invasion Day award of AO. His reference to Margaret Court and his expression of solidarity with Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo are to be commended.

    As a gay man (and father of a queer son, uncle of queer nephews) I found Court’s homophobic ignorance and opposition to equal marriage utterly repulsive. Any good that she claims to do is nullified by her continued oppression of queer people.

    And perhaps the less said about Malcolm Turnbull’s acceptance of his award the better. The man is / was a politician, and pollies too often manage to sleep on both sides of the bed “just in case”.

    Go, Kerry, Mr Integrity!

  3. So proud of Kerry (O’Brien) local hero & progressive journo, for handing back his AO. Margaret Court may have been a great tennis player , BUT she is not worthy of such an important community award. Thank you Kerry for speaking up & supporting Dr Meng Soo, hopefully you won’t be the last ? The pain & hurt (often death) that has needlessly occurred within the LGBTIQ community , MUST not be ignored . Australians should not mindlessly focus on her sporting achievements. Words are powerful & as a religious advocate surely acceptance /mercy & love should over ride discrimination & prejudice? Should it not ?

  4. Many thanks for making that decision, Kerry. Margaret Court has gone by far too far. What is it with these
    brow-beating God followers that [other than power] it’s an absolute ‘must’ for them to cast-the-first stone.
    There’s nothing in old or new Testaments that support her LGBTQ+ ‘deliverance’.

  5. What a pity Kerry does not believe in freedom of speech.
    What a pity he is unable to accept someone can express a different view.
    Where is your tolerance and acceptance of diversity Kerry?

    • Hate speech is always a tricky one isn’t it? But the question of whether it should be rewarded with an Order of Australia is not. Giving Margaret Court that award has made the whole thing a shameful farce. Good on Kerry for speaking up.

    • Nothing to do with freedom of speech. No one is suggesting that Margaret Court should be prosecuted. But speech has its consequences- if you say things that are divisive and hateful to members of the community, then that community shouldn’t honour you

    • G’day Vincent, it isn’t about our tolerance of her free speech. The issue is that a retro-thinking government system allocated her a (second) OA, this one after she voice and confirmed her own intolerance. It’s not about her, it’s about the slap in the face ‘served’ on the general public (who mostly object to her what she said and says). OA has now been dropped to junk status. Big thanks, Kerry for making your statement on behalf of majority Australian thinking. PS that ratio was tested in the same-sex marriage survey in 2017.

  6. His standing as a man of principle gains a far higher and broader Australian respect than as a recipient of this devalued award.

  7. I am extremely disappointed that Kerry O’Brien should decline the Australia Day Award which I know is well deserved. To denigrate Margaret Court because of her religious beliefs is exceptionally wrong. Margaret’s award was in recognition of her years of service to women & children who are disadvantaged. Not for tennis, for which she was previously recognised. Margaret’s religious beliefs are hers a lane as mine are & we have the right to express them, just the same as our thoughts on other things like climate change, renewables etc. People these days set themselves up as judges without any knowledge of others’ motives & choices. Don’t presume to judge others – leave that to your God who knows our inmost thoughts & choices.

    • Apparently the award is for tennis – again. Though I think it’s for being horrible to people who aren’t heterosexual. Fancy saying that it’s sad that a (specific) little baby has two mums and no dad. Just rude and nasty and horrible. Nothing Christian about it. She might say she ‘loves everyone’ but she needs to find a better way of showing it.

      “Former Australian tennis great Margaret Court and her controversial views are once again back in the spotlight, over a decision to award her with the country’s top honour.

      Court, who is already an Officer of the Order of Australia, is set to be made a Companion in the General Division of the AO – the highest award level.

      The appointment to recognise her “eminent service to tennis” was due to be revealed on Monday but was leaked on social media on Friday. It has already attracted criticism over her widely-opposed views on homosexuality, gay marriage and transgender people. “

  8. Kerry’s a good man! I was hoping the Court may’ve done the honourable things, in declining to accept the unwarranted upgrade, but her teachings don’t go that far. Never mind. What goes around, comes around.

  9. Big respect to ‘Uncle Kerry’, that honorary title granted by Rhoda Roberts this morning on NITV this morning during The Sunrise Ceremony at Coolangatta Beach..

  10. Hell – now the ‘people of OZ have voted on who is the greatest female tennis player of all time’.
    Answer? Margaret Court. What did I do – I went & checked the numbers of where & when – it’s
    easy enough to find. Margaret Court; Women’s Singles 24 / Grand Slams 19 / Slam Doubles 21
    Total = 64.

    Serena Williams; Women’s Singles 73 / Doubles 23 / Mixed Doubles Grand Slam / 4. Total = 98.
    Serena supports all LGBTQ people / all race & colour & the aged. Kerry was correct in returning
    the AO. Who & what voted for Court… church followers I guess.


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