Kerry O’Brien rejects Australia Day honour to protest Margaret Court

kerry o'brien australia day honour margaret court
Photos: ABC News/Q&A

Veteran journalist Kerry O’Brien has rejected an Australia Day award to protest the controversial decision to give Margaret Court Australia’s highest honour.

On Tuesday, the tennis champ turned Perth pastor is receiving a Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia for her service to tennis.

But after Court’s top Australia Day gong leaked on Friday it sparked uproar due to the 78-year-old’s homophobic views.

Kerry O’Brien was to be receive an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on Tuesday. The award, Australia’s second highest honour, recognised O’Brien’s years of service to journalism.

But O’Brien explained in a letter to the Governor-General’s office he had “decided to reverse my decision to accept” the award in protest.

He warned there is something “fundamentally wrong” with the honours system given the “deeply insensitive” decision to appoint Court.

“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,” he wrote.

That discrimination, he said, “has caused immense pain to untold people and destroyed lives”.

Kerry O’Brien slams Margaret Court’s ‘clearly repugnant’ views

Kerry O’Brien said he was declining the award to also show solidarity for Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo.

The Canberra doctor announced on Saturday she was returning her own Order of Australia to protest Margaret Court’s new honour.

Dr Soo, who is transgender, received the title for her work with the LGBTIQ community and also people with HIV.

O’Brien said, “To me, Dr Tuck Meng Soo epitomises the true spirit of the Order of Australia.

“Her actions speak volumes as to why the Court award is so wrong.”

O’Brien went on, “Margaret Court was a great tennis player who thrilled most Australians in her tennis years, including me.

“But her hurtful and divisive criticisms relating to the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ+ community are clearly repugnant to many Australians.”

O’Brien said the decision to present her with the award was “deeply insensitive”. He also believes it “undermines community respect” for the awards.

The Australia Day honours are meant to “celebrate a true spirit of community, not divide it,” he added.

The Order of Australia has four levels, of which Court’s new “Companion” gong is highest.

The Council of the Order of Australia announced on Monday night Margaret Court’s AC is “for eminent service to tennis as an internationally acclaimed player and record-holding grand slam champion.” The award also recognises her as “a mentor of young sportspersons”.

However in recent years, her views on the LGBTIQ community have completely overshadowed her sporting achievements.

Court has frequently preached against homosexuality, transgender people, same-sex marriage and same-sex parents.

She previously received an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) title in 2007.

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