Another Aussie legend has rejected his Australia Day honour, joining a growing list of stars joining the protest against tennis star Margaret Court.
Peter Kingston, an artist most famous for his landscapes of Sydney Harbour, announced on Australia Day evening that he will return the Medal of Australia he was awarded in 2012.
Mr Kingston told The Australianhe was “compelled to return this medal because I object so strongly to the honour bestowed upon Margaret Court this year.”
“It makes me sick, the whole thing,” he said. “To inflict this on us, when everyone is having such a hard time, I can’t be a part of it anymore.”
Court, who has served as a Pentecostal minister since her retirement from tennis, was honoured this year with the highest level an Australian can receive — a Companion of the Order of Australia — but her nomination has been met with controversy.
The award recognises “eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree in service to Australia or humanity at large”.
She has long rejected the LGBTIQ+ community and campaigned against the rights for those community members, describing homosexuality as an “abominable practice”.
She originally received an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007 and today revealed: “No (I won’t give it back), because I loved representing my nation.
“This was for my tennis and I think it was a long time coming and I’m very honoured … We did nothing but play for our nation.”
Mr Kingston said he believed Court’s elevation stood in opposition to the purpose of the awards.
“In these fragile times where we are all up against a pandemic of anxiety I find Margaret Court’s elevation to the highest order contrary to the premise the awards are given, that is to make our community a better place,” Mr Kingston told The Age.
“I’m returning this award because I believe the elevation of Margaret Court is contrary to the integrity and meaning of the award and her effort in amplifying divisive opinions has not made our community a better place and contradicts the objectives of the award.
“I’m not intending to undermine the efforts and immensely good works of the other people who have been recognised and not denigrate those who have been recognised but to highlight the need of people who have been marginalised by Court’s hurtful, damaging and divisive attitudes to the LGBTIQ + community.
“I couldn’t think of a better use of the award than to stand up to religious bigotry.”
Australian TV veteran Kerry O’Brien backflipped on the honour on Monday night, after previously accepting an appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).
He said he changed his mind due to the “deeply insensitive and divisive decision” to award the tennis legend.
The former Four Corners presenter and political correspondent is widely regarded as one of the most important voices in journalism. He was honoured for distinguished service to broadcast media.
“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 LGBTIQ+ community,” he wrote.
He said he was also refusing the award “in support” of Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, a transgender woman and LGBTIQ advocate who received an Order of Australia medal in 2016 but has now written to the Governor-General to inform him she no longer wants it.
“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,” O’Brien said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews weighed in last Friday, saying that he does not believe Court is worthy of the award.
“I don’t believe she has views that accord with the vast majority of people across our nation that see people from the LGBTIQ community as equal and deserving of dignity, respect and safety,” he said.
“I don’t believe she shares those views and I don’t believe she should be honoured because of that.”
In total more than 800 Australians have been recognised this year, including 571 recipients of awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia, 28 recipients in the Military Division of the Order of Australia and 176 meritorious awards. You can see the full list here.