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Brandon How

Australian scientists lead Queen’s Birthday Honours

Australian scientists have led this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, making up over half of those awarded Companion of the Australian Order.

Of the nine people made Companions of the Australian Order, five were recognised for their contributions to science. These scientists are Queensland Governor Dr Jeanette Young, astrophysicist Emeritus Professor Anne Green, Antarctic ecologist Dr Patricia Margaret Selkirk, Secretary of the federal Department of Health Dr Brendan Murphy, and Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro.

Professor Monro told she was enthused by Australian science being given a spotlight through this year’s honours.

“This year’s Queen’s Birthday honours has recognised a significant number of eminent scientists and technologists across each of the different categories of honours. At the highest level – the AC – more than half of the ACs awarded are to scientists and researchers,” Professor Monro said.

“This is a wonderful outcome, because it presents to the broader public a real diversity of achievements and career stories that can inspire the next generation to study science if they want to make a difference.”

Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro

She also highlighted that despite the awards being granted to individuals, their success is also a testament to strength of the everyone involved in the Australian research ecosystem.

“It’s amazing to be recognised alongside so many wonderful Australians from such varied fields. And while it’s an individual award, I feel that at every stage of my journey science has been a team game, and I’d like to thank those I’ve been able to work with along the way, including my fabulous Defence Science and Technology Group colleagues who tirelessly work to solve Defence’s biggest challenges with science,” Professor Monro said.

In a statement, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk thanked Dr Young for her 16 years of service to the state as Chief Health Officer, especially through the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr Young became Governor of Queensland in November 2021, after serving as State Health Incident Controller in January 2020 to support the response to Covid-19.

This year, 92 honour recipients were also recognised on a Covid-19 Honour roll, which included Dr Young and Dr Murphy.

Prior to becoming Secretary of the federal Department of Health, Dr Murphy spent almost four years as the Australia’s Chief Medical officer and almost 12 years as chief executive of Austin Health. He was also formerly the president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology, the study of kidney health, and sat on several boards including the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the University of Melbourne.

Emeritus Professor Green was the first female PhD student at the University of Sydney, and eventually the first head of physics in 2007. She was also the director of the Molonglo Observatory for over a decade as well as president of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

Dr Selkirk was one of the first Australian women to undertake extended research in Antarctica and Macquarie Island. Between 1979 and 2004, she embarked on 11 expeditions to Macquarie Island, studying its plants and environment. She was also the first in the world to predict the impact of climate change on the sub-Antarctic ecosystem of the island back in 1992.

Also honoured on Monday was Warrant Officer Sean McClure who received a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Military Division for his work in developing Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems capability in the Air Force as well as development on the Sky Guardian drones project which was shelved by the Coalition government’s budget earlier this year.

The new Labor government has promised to “fix” several of the problems facing Australian science, with Industry and Science minister Ed Husic using his first official address to thank stakeholders at a science event.

The new minister said science and research would be critical to Australia’s pandemic recovery and beyond.

“What you do and the work science does to improve the quality of life [is] very important. But now we need to think ahead not just in terms of the pandemic, but beyond where we reshape the nation,” Mr Husic said.

“Because we don’t want to go back, we’ve said, we don’t want to just go back to the way we were before this pandemic hit us. Let’s do something better. This is the big challenge.”

Professor Monro told that Defence Science and Technology has focused on “providing the deep dives a new government requires to underpin its decision making” over the last few weeks.

“At this stage our research priorities have not changed significantly, and I look forward to working with the new federal government to ensure we are well positioned to harness Australian innovation, science and technology to defend Australia and its interests,” Professor Monro said.

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