Daniel Andrews and Mark McGowan
Former Labor premiers Daniel Andrews and Mark McGowan are among the top King's Birthday Honours. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS
  • award and prize

Labor ex leaders take top honours for King’s Birthday

Rachael Ward June 9, 2024

Premiers known for hardline COVID-19 restrictions, sporting heroes-turned-charity founders and funnymen entertainers are honoured in the King’s Birthday 2024 Honours List.

Former Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and ex West Australian premier Mark McGowan are recognised for their service including to parliament and public health, among 737 award recipients.

Mr Andrews came to national prominence as he oversaw one of the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns in an effort to reduce transmission and save lives.

A divisive leader, Mr Andrews led Labor to victory three times and earnt his nod partly for championing Victoria’s ambitious infrastructure development agenda over his nine years in the top job.

Mr McGowan kept his state’s border shut for almost 700 days at the height of the pandemic, effectively stamping out transmission of the virus and averting prolonged lockdowns endured in other states.

He was also recognised for services to education and international trade, as the state’s valuable trade relationship with China grew under his leadership.

The former premiers left politics in 2023 and are among six people in 2024 to be appointed the highest honour, Companions (AC) to the Order of Australia.

Incoming governor-general Samantha Mostyn adds the prestigious honour to her list of accolades, recognised for eminent service to social justice, gender equity, sporting, cultural and business sectors, reconciliation and environmental sustainability.

Sam Mostyn
 As governor-general Sam Mostyn will circulate future King’s Birthday Honours Lists. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

The late Simon Crean, former federal Labor leader, cabinet minister and ACTU president, was recognised for his work in industrial relations, tertiary education and business.

Rounding out the AC appointments are epidemiologist and Daffodil Centre director Karen Canfell, as well as composer and festival director Jonathan Mills.

An even number of men and women received an Order of Australia in 2024, with recipients aged 29 to 98 years old.

Cricket icon and McGrath Foundation president Glenn McGrath was appointed an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to community health through breast cancer support and for his work as an international cricket coach.

Glenn McGrath
 Glenn McGrath is appointed an AO for his service to community health and cricket. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

Another sporting hero honoured for achievements both on and off the field was retired AFL Richmond star Bachar Houli, recognised with a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for his services to the Islamic community and multiculturalism through his youth foundation.

Future Fund chairman and former Labor cabinet minister Greg Combet adds an AO to his name, appointed for services to banking and superannuation industries.

The achievements of some recognisable media figures were also acknowledged in the honours.

Two decades on Australian airwaves and the small screen earnt funnyman Hamish Blake an OAM for services to the arts as an entertainer and to the community.

Comedian Jimmy Rees, also known as Jimmy Giggle from children’s show Giggle and Hoot, and sport broadcaster Sandy Roberts were also honoured for their work.

Governor-General David Hurley congratulated all recipients for the difference they have made.

“Some names are well known, but the vast majority are not – they are people who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a difference in our community,” Mr Hurley said.

The former defence force chief will step down as the King’s representative at the end of June and used his final awards to urge more people to nominate exceptional Australians.

“I have been steadfast that the Order must reflect the diversity of our community – I am pleased by the progress we have made over the last five years,” he said.

“For it to continue, and it must, we need people to take the time to nominate people that inspire them.”

Nominations for the King’s Birthday Honours are considered by the Council for the Order of Australia, which makes recommendations to the governor-general.