Pioneering LGBTI activists Peter De Waal and the late Peter Bonsall-Boone are among the Australians to receive prestigious Order of Australia honours on the Queen’s Birthday today.
Australian Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove announced on Monday the names of the 891 Australians honoured in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours list.
Peter De Waal and his late partner Peter Michael Bonsall-Boone both received Member of the Order of Australia awards for their “significant service to the community as LGBTQI advocates and supporters, and through a range of volunteer roles.”
The couple, known to friends as Peter and Bon, were interviewed for ABC program Chequerboard in 1972 and broke ground at the time by sharing a brief kiss on national television.
In 1973, they established Phone-A-Friend – now the NSW Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service – and operated it from their home to offer support and counselling to other gay Australians. They also attended the first Sydney Mardi Gras protest march in June 1978.
The couple exchanged wedding bands last year on their 50th anniversary at a symbolic ceremony but Bon, who is battling cancer, sadly passed away last month before the couple could celebrate a legal marriage.
Anna Brown from The Equality Campaign said it was great to see Peter and Bon’s efforts over the decades acknowledged with their inclusion in the honours list.
“After all these years, it is a genuinely poignant moment that these two wonderful Australians who were dedicated to achieving equality for LGBTI people are being so proudly acknowledged,” Brown said.
“For more than 50 years Peter and Bon were at the forefront of the equality movement in Australia. It is great to see their life long efforts are being honoured and their struggle for acceptance and equality for all LGBTI Australians recognised in our history.
“Having worked closely with Peter and Bon on the expunging of criminal histories for LGBTI Australians, this honour could not be a more fitting tribute to two very special people.”
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce received a Companion of the Order of Australia award for his “eminent service to the aviation transport industry, to the development of the national and international tourism sectors, to gender equity, inclusion and diversity, and to the community, particularly as a supporter of Indigenous education.”
Two months ago, Immigration minister Peter Dutton attacked Joyce and Qantas for entering the marriage equality debate, with Mr Dutton saying at the time chief executives of public companies should “stick to their knitting”.
But Joyce responded: “Qantas (and its CEO) are often called on to speak publicly on issues like company tax, industrial relations and trade. And we do. Because these are important issues that ultimately shape what kind of society we live in (which is the point of economics, right?). We’re pleased to include marriage equality on the list.”
Joyce said he was “truly honoured” by the award, which he said also recognises the work of thousands of people at Qantas.
“Aviation can be such a force for good because it’s ultimately about connecting people, and that encourages a diversity of ideas that makes Australia the kind of place it is today,” he said.
“The notion of a ‘fair go’ has to be one of the most important Australian values, and it’s been a big driver behind my work promoting equality. We’re lucky to live in a very accepting, open society and we need to keep championing the need for everyone to share in the same opportunities.”
Other recipients of the Order of Australia honours included actresses Cate Blanchett and Deborah Mailman, SBS CEO Michael Ebeid, and economist Ross Garnaut.