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Australia Day Honours 2021: Lorrae Desmond, Val Lehman but Kerry O’Brien declines.

"It was a big surprise!" says former Country Practice star Lorrae Desmond.

Veteran stars, presenters and media execs have been recognised in the annual Australia Day Honours.

Former A Country Practice star Lorrae Desmond and former Prisoner star Val Lehman both become a Member of the Order of Australia along with Graham Ross from Better Homes & Gardens.

But veteran broadcaster Kerry O’Brien who was given an Officer of the Order of Australia declined after word that tennis champion Margaret Court was honoured.

“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 in a letter to Governor-General, David Hurley.

The Age reports he was declining his award “in support of Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, who is handing back the Order of Australia she received for her work with the LGBTQ+ community and HIV sufferers, in protest.

Also recognised are former segment presenter for The Morning Show, Glenn Wheeler and former SBS presenter Craig Foster.

Lorrae Desmond MBE OAM told TV Tonight,  “I don’t know what I did to deserve it. But I am very honoured. It was a big surprise!”

Desmond, now 91, boasts a vast showbiz career including The Lorrae Desmond Show, Homicide,  Number 96, Arcade, Home & Away, stage musicals and cabaret, entertaining troops in Vietnam from 1967-1971, plus the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and Somalia.

“I have many favourite memories: writing Lorrae Desmond Shows on sick bags while flying from London to Australia. Singing for an audience, it’s the best feeling. Entertaining our boys in Vietnam, seeing the smile return to their eyes.”

On A Country Practice she played Shirley Dean Gilroy from 1981 – 1992.

“The magic started with the good writers, and good storylines. There were a lot of women in the production team. The cast clicked, we had a great time together,” she recalls.

While she won a Gold Logie in 1962, Desmond insists the two awards can’t be compared.

“It’s an honour to have an award from your Government and it’s an achievement to get one from your peers,” she said.

Now residing in Queensland, she plans to celebrate her achievement today.

“I’m grateful to still be alive. I’ll be partying with friends and family on the Gold Coast. While they enjoy champagne I’ll be having Sambuca!”

Here are TV and related names.

Member AM in the General Division of the Order of Australia

Ms Lorrae Desmond MBE, former star of A Country Practice.
For significant service to the performing arts as an actor, entertainer and singer.

Ms Valerie Kathleen Lehman, former Prisoner star.
For significant service to the performing arts, and to wildlife conservation.

Mr Graham Alastair Ross, from Better Homes & Gardens.
For significant service to the broadcast media, particularly to horticulture, and to the community.

Craig Foster, former presenter of The World Game, SBS.
For significant service to multiculturalism, to human rights and refugee support organisations, and to football.

Mr Michael Bruce Hawkins a Director, Screen Australia, since 2016.
For significant service to the film and television industry, and to screen content.

The late Mrs Maureen Anne Kerridge ((formerly Plavsic), who was Chief Executive Officer, Managing Director and Executive Director of Seven from 2000-2003.
For significant service to the television industry, to the arts, and to charitable organisations.

Ms Winnie Martha Pelz, former Presenter for This Day Tonight in 1975.
For significant service to arts administration, and to the community.

Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia

Mr Kerry Michael O’Brien, former presenter Four Corners, 7:30 Report.
For distinguished service to the broadcast media, and to journalism, as a current affairs television presenter, interviewer and reporter.

Ms Samantha Joy Mostyn, Chair of Ausfilm, since 2019.
For distinguished service to business and sustainability, and to the community, through seminal contributions to a range of organisations, and to women.

Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division

Mr Glenn Anthony Wheeler, former presenter The Morning Show, Seven Network.
For service to the broadcast media, and to the community.

Mrs Shirley McLaren, cast member of Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds
For service to veterans and their families, and to the community.

Ms Vicki Maree Tiegs, former National Promotions and Publicity Director, WIN Corp. 1996-2002.
For service to the community of the Illawarra.

Ms Katie Lisa Woolf, former presenter, Network Ten, 2013-2014, and 2010-2012.
For service to the broadcast media in the Northern Territory.

20 Responses

  1. I’ve always had the highest respect for Kerry O’Brien and this only strengthens that. Ms. Court has (rightly) been recognised for her sporting achievements in the past, but her church has run a damaging ‘Pray the gay away’ program for years which has been proven to cause long lasting psychological damage to those put through it. Yet she still regards homosexuality and transgenderism as a disease or problem that can and should be cured. Just like Trump proffering accusations of a fraudulent election without evidence, Court still stands by her damaging beliefs and practices despite insurmountable evidence to the contrary. What she has done is indefensible and beyond mere “freedom of speech” posturing and I applaud both Mr. O’Brien and Dr. Soo’s protest.

      1. I respect the TVTonight policy on keeping comments on topic (and TV related) but a cursory Google search will unearth bountiful articles documenting her homophobic comments as well as some which refer to her churches’ conversion program in 2012. I believe 60 Minutes also did a story on the practise a few years ago which included reference to her endorsement which is where I first heard of it happening here in Australia.

  2. This honour for the great Lorrae Desmond is long overdue. The first woman to win the Gold Logie, a pioneering talent who produced and performed in her own show, entertained Aussie troops in war zones and an esteemed actress. And one more thing – a class act all the way. Congratulations Lorrae – we salute you and thank you for all you have done for this industry and country.

  3. The bitterness shown by Kerry O’Brien and his ilk comes as no surprise. In my opinion it is refreshing to see someone awarded who actually deserves it. Margaret Court, (possibly the greatest tennis player of all time, male or female) organises 5,000 meals a week to the needy regardless of their background or persuasion. I haven’t seen her out publicly protesting her views, only Mr.O’Brien’s colleagues seeking her out, asking her opinion and then attempting to incite a public reaction after receiving it.

    1. She’s also spreading hate. Australia Day is about uniting and celebrating our diversity, equality and acceptance of each other no matter who we are as an individual. She isn’t accepting there for she isn’t deserving.

      1. Has she broken any laws? Committed a crime? No? In that case, she has done nothing more than O’Brien himself – expressed her beliefs. No evidence that his view has any more validity than his.

    2. Agree. Kerry just disrespects the majority of the decent, hard working Australians who deserve to be recognised by refusing the honour. I doubt I agree with his political views but I respect his contribution to society. I abhor Court’s views on certain issues but I doubt those who try to tear her down have engaged in charitable endeavours to help their fellow man in the way she has. Funny that I never hear about Court’s contentious views until they’re publicised by those who seek to destroy her.

      1. Her backwards views were exposed during the marriage equality laws changing. Kerry stood up for what he believes in, just like a few thousand people will protest the date of our nations holiday. Everyone has the right to protest, everyone also has the right to live in a world without hate.

        She who I refuse to name does not deserve the honour she has been awarded. You can’t acknowledge someone’s good deeds and ignore their bad ones.

    3. Actually Margaret Court has publicly stated her views many times including writing newspaper articles and criticising Casey Dellacqua (former tennis pro and now commentator for 9) for the way she lives her life.

  4. What a shame they didn’t all reject it. I don’t even want to mention the name of that evil women who has tarnished these awards. Morrison needs to be booted out of office.

    But some very deserving people in this list.

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