Honours for Brett Sutton, Ian Hickie and Fiona Wood

15 minute read

Researchers, clinicians, administrators, policymakers and community advocates all got a look-in. But for Indigenous recipients, it’s complicated.

For high-profile winners such as Dr Brett Sutton, Professor Ian Hickie and Professor Fiona Wood – all recipients of an AO today – getting an honour on Australia Day is most likely a moment of pride and satisfaction. 

But for those who think of 26 January as Invasion Day, that “honour” can come with complications.  

Awarded an OAM for her service to Indigenous health and education, First Nations education and health consultant Stephanie Armstrong described the unwelcome burden placed on Indigenous award recipients given the significance of the day. 

“As an Aboriginal person, it’s always hard to decide on what to do, with it being Invasion Day and also in 2023 with what occurred with the referendum, you weigh up all those things,” Mrs Armstrong told Health Services Daily

“It’s an added pressure that shouldn’t [exist]. We should be able to rejoice in our celebrations of success of working and [enacting] change whether it’s in health or education for First Nations people. 

“We shouldn’t have another layer of burden put onto us. 

“I’d also recognise that we work hard as well, I think that’s sometimes lost, and we still [deserve to] celebrate what we do as well. 

“We persevered and we’re still here after 60,000 years of that continuous sharing and knowledge holding. 

“I’m still very proud of this opportunity, being nominated by someone of your community and all the work and then the letters of support that would’ve had to come. 

“I’m honoured that people would think of me like that, just for the work that I do.” 

According to Mrs Armstrong, racism “in all its forms” had remained the biggest obstacle to progress in her career spanning 40 years, particularly while working with Weenthunga Health Network to support young Indigenous women to enter the health workforce. 

“In recognition of last year with the [Voice to Parliament] referendum, there is still so much work to do. The work that needs to be covered in the [anti-racism] space has started to occur, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” she said. 

“Particularly early on but still even now, I’m the only Aboriginal person at the table, and often as an Aboriginal woman your voice is lessened. 

“When I worked with getting Aboriginal girls into health careers, the racism that they faced heading into university and being questioned about their identity, they have to struggle to be at university but they also then have these other obstacles that other students don’t always have. 

“The difficulty is finding just a pathway that isn’t always interrupted by barriers being put in place to Aboriginal students.” 

Going forward, Mrs Armstrong said she hoped to see greater inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people’s perspectives in the design of health policy and initiatives targeting Indigenous populations, as well as greater recognition of Indigenous understandings of health and ways of healing. 

“The wisdom and knowledge that we hold on country and well being is very different with our understanding of the spiritual space, and that needs to be acknowledged,” she said. 

“For people to work with us to look at holistic health, my hope is that we get a lot smaller funding and support locally to be able to do that sort of work, as well as our healing and cultural centres, to be able to do more of that on country. 

“Looking at other ways of working out [issues like] youth suicide and violence, we’ve got a lot of those solutions ourselves and how to go about it, but we get cut out of those conversations.” 

Ms Peta Jamieson, chair of Wide Bay Hospital and Health Board since 2016, also received an OAM for her service to community health and business. 

“I am very surprised and humbled to have been awarded such an honour,” Ms Jamieson told HSD. 

“The opportunity to be a Director then Chair of the Wide Bay Hospital & Health Board provided the perfect opportunity for me to use my core leadership skills, championing visionary teams, delivering results with high levels of inclusivity and integrity through alliances, partnerships, representation & advocacy. 

“The staff across the WBHHS are amazing and it is because of their drive and continued dedication that as Chair I am always seeking to do more. 

“I accept this honour as recognition of collaboration with hard working community members in the health, economic development, local government and environment fields that I have been lucky enough to champion over a lifetime.” 

Previously awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at Flinders University, Associate Professor Barbara Baird was appointed AM for her contribution to community health and tertiary education as an abortion research and activist. 

A founding member of the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition in 2015, Professor Baird said she was honoured to receive the award as it represented a wider destigmatising of abortion in Australian political and cultural life. 

“I’m really pleased that my work as an abortion activist, which builds on my academic research on abortion over many years, can be acknowledged in these awards because abortion can in some people’s eyes be “controversial”,” she said. 

“Working to improve access to abortion services is a really important issue, and there are ongoing challenges because a lot of a lot of people in positions of power are resistant to accepting the fact that abortion is an ordinary simple and necessary health care service. 

“This is part of de-stigmatising abortion, for these awards to be given to someone who’s politically active around the issue.” 

For Cheryl Dedman, awarded an OAM for service to community health, no professional obstacle has been more difficult to overcome than getting a diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder for her son, a process that led her to become chair of the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in 2018. 

“At the time, there were no diagnostic services at all,” Mrs Deadman told Health Services Daily.  

“One of the major [challenges] we faced early on is that still everyone wanted to treat it like autism. It made things a lot worse because even though there might be some overlap, they occur differently in the brain so they need to be treated differently.”  

Associate Professor Bruce Abernethy was appointed AM for his service to education in the field of health and behavioural sciences. 

Speaking to HSD, Professor Abernethy said aligning the university sector more closely with federal and state governments was key to addressing the root cause of problems plaguing the health sector, including chronic workforce shortages. 

“Clearly we’re dealing with finite resources at a time when health costs are escalating, but from the perspective that I’ve come from, getting education, research and health service provision on the same page is the biggest challenge, making sure that the big three of future workforce development of translational research and evidence informed practice are all sort of linked in a in a meaningful way,” he said.  

“We’ve got everyone talking about the looming health workforce shortages, and yet we’ve got fundamental constraints around the provision of clinical placements for education, for instance.  

“It’s a matter of getting a unified vision about how those things are going to work. So that the health sector and the education sector in particular, are working in unison rather than the competition.” 

Associate Professor Felix Behan was also appointed AM in recognition of his significant service to medicine, particularly in the field of reconstructive surgery. 

Professor Behan said it was his time working in Footscray Hospital’s plastic surgery unit that sparked his idea for the Keystone Perforator Island Flap, the main reconstructive procedure used as an alternative to microsurgical procedures and recognised around the world for its efficacy and safety. 

While acceptance of the procedure had been gradual among the medical establishment, Professor Behan said he hoped to raise awareness of its efficacy by incorporating video  explanations into his recent textbooks. 

“When you break the rules in surgery, others are incredulous, [asking] ‘How do you do that?’, ‘How do you get away with that?’ So all my new textbooks have a video application, the PowerPoint, showing how and why I do it,” he said. 

“I think acceptance of the idea is like Darwin’s feeling on evolution, rejected by the establishment initially until more and more said ‘yes, you might have something’.” 

The full list of health and medical recipients: 

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

Professor Sally Lewers Dunwoodie: For distinguished service to medical research as an embryologist and geneticist, particularly in the field of foetal, and neonatal heart disease. Professor Dunwoodie is deputy director of Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.  

Ms Lisa Anne Fitzpatrick: For distinguished service to the nursing and midwifery professions through leadership and advocacy roles. Ms Fitzpatrick is secretary and former president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation. She has been a registered nurse since 1983. 

The Honourable Larissa Tahireh Giddings: For distinguished service to the people and Parliament of Tasmania, and to the community. Ms Giddings is the current CEO of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Medical Association, former Tasmanian premier and minister for health, and a board member of Salveo Healthcare. 

Dr Graham Cameron Grant: For distinguished service to biomedical engineering as a pioneer of innovative equipment development, and to medicine. Dr Grant’s medical inventions include a low-cost respiration airway monitor (2002), a portable premature baby incubator (1966), and the Grant respiration assistor (1999). 

His Honour Professor the Honourable Hugh Crosby Heggie PSM: For distinguished service to medicine and medical research organisations, and as Administrator of the Northern Territory. Professor Heggie was the NT’s chief health officer from 2016 to 2023, and has been administrator since January 2023. 

Professor Ian Bernard Hickie AM: For distinguished service to psychiatric research and reforms as an advocate for improved mental health care and awareness. Professor Hickie is co-director of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. He was National Mental Health Commissioner from 2012-2018. 

Professor Julie-Anne Elizabeth Leask: For distinguished service to health and medical research, to policy advice, and to enhancing community understanding of immunisation. Professor Leask was chair of the WHO’s Working Group on Measuring Behavioural and Social Drivers of Vaccination from 2018-2022. 

The late Dr Peter John Maher: For distinguished service to gynaecological medicine, to medical research and education, and to professional societies. Dr Maher was former president of the International Society for Gynaecologic Endoscopy, the Australian Gynaecological Endoscopy Society, the Fertility Society of Australia. 

Conjoint Associate Professor Sally McCarthy: For distinguished service to emergency medicine, and to professional associations through leadership roles. Professor McCarthy is a former president of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and former chair of the DoHAC ECG review committee. 

Professor Sarah Anne Robertson: For distinguished service to medical research, particularly reproductive biology and immunology, and to professional societies. Professor Robertson is a council member of the International Society for Immunology of Reproduction, a research fellow at the University of Adelaide, and a member of the NHMRC’s embryology research licensing committee. 

Dr Brett Sutton: For distinguished service to the people of Victoria through public health administration and governance, and to medicine. Dr Sutton was Victoria’s chief health officer from 2019 to 2023, a former emergency and public health physician and a fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health. 

Emeritus Professor Deborah Gale Theodoros: For distinguished service to community health, to rehabilitation sciences, and to tertiary education. Professor Theodoros is a former president of Speech Pathology Australia, and current emeritus professor in the University of Queensland’s Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences. 

Professor Joseph Albert Trapani: For distinguished service to medical research, particularly immunology and the development of immune-based cancer therapies, and to the community. Professor Trapani is director of the Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy at Peter Mac and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. 

Winthrop Professor Fiona Melanie Wood AM: For distinguished service to plastic and reconstructive surgery, to medical research, and as clinician scientist and mentor. Professor Wood is director of the Burns Service of WA, a consultant plastic surgeon at Fiona Stanley Hospital and Perth’s Children’s Hospital, and director of the UWA Burn Injury Research Unit. 

Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division 

Professor Arthur Bruce Abernethy: For significant service to education in the field of health and behavioural science. 

Mr Francis Roger Acquah: For significant service to mental health care, and to the community. 

Professor Kirsten Anne Auret: For significant service to palliative care medicine, and to tertiary education. 

Dr Richard John Bailey: For significant service to medicine in the field of anesthetics, and to professional societies. 

Associate Professor Felix Cornelius Behan: For significant service to medicine, particularly reconstructive surgery. 

Emeritus Professor Leigh Alexander Burgoyne: For significant service to science, particularly through the development of DNA technologies. 

Mr Stephen William Callister: For significant service to community, particularly men’s health. 

Mr Adrian Samuel Carson: For significant service to Indigenous health through research and development programs. 

Ms Emily Carter: For significant service to the Indigenous community through social and economic advocacy and initiatives. 

Mr Douglas Scott Chapman: For significant service to the community of Victoria through a range of governance roles. 

Dr Hayley Emma Christian: For significant service to children’s health through policy development and research. 

Clinical Associate Professor Matthew Chu: For significant service to emergency medicine, and to professional associations. 

Conjoint Professor Jacqueline Close: For significant service to medical research, and to medicine as an orthogeriatrician. 

Dr Robert Robin Cooke: For significant service to pathology, and to professional organisations. 

Ms Brigid Anne Coombe: For significant service to community health, particularly through advocacy to improve abortion care access. 

Ms Jennifer Ann Cullen: For significant service to people with disability, and to the community through a range of roles. 

Ms Anastasia Darras: For significant service to community health, particularly to ill children and their families. 

Conjoint Professor Tracy Elizabeth Dudding-Byth: For significant service to medical research, particularly genetics, and to the community. 

Mr Peter Ian Duras: For significant service to sports physiotherapy, and to the community. 

Associate Professor Ngaire Joy Elwood: For significant service to medicine, particularly through stem cell research. 

Professor Steven Faux: For significant service to rehabilitation medicine, and to medical research. 

Dr Robin Beryl Fitzsimons: For significant service to tertiary education, to neurology, and to medical research. 

Dr Vicki Jane Flenady: For significant service to medical research, particularly in the field of perinatal mortality. 

Dr Jane Graeme Fox: For significant service to medicine, particularly as a breast surgeon, researcher and educator. 

Professor Gail Garvey: For significant service to Indigenous health, and cancer research. 

Emeritus Professor Carolyn Louise Geczy: For significant service to immunology and vascular biology as a researcher and academic. 

Professor Julian Colin Gold: For significant service to medicine as a clinical epidemiologist and researcher, and to community health. 

Dr Jennifer Ann Gowan: For significant service to medicine as a pharmacist, to professional societies, and to community health. 

Associate Professor Graham John Gumley: For significant service to medicine in the field of orthopaedics. 

Dr Roger Owen Gurr: For significant service to mental health research and initiatives, and to the community. 

Clinical Professor Paul Robert Harnett: For significant service to oncology as a clinician and researcher. 

Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division 

Ms Belinda Maree Adams: For service to community health. 

Ms Julie Rose Adams: For service to pharmaceutical oncology. 

Mrs Stephanie Joy Armstrong: For service to Indigenous health and education. 

Dr Starlette Anne Beaumont (Isaacs): For service to medicine, and to community health. 

Ms Clover Dawn Bradley: For service to the community through a range of organisations. 

Dr Ian Bruce Cameron RFD: For service to medicine, and to community music. 

Ms Janette Leanne Child: For service to community health. 

Associate Professor Allen-John Edward Collins: For service to medicine through a range of roles. 

Professor Barbora de Courten: For service to medical research, and to healthcare. 

Mrs Cheryl Maree Dedman: For service to community health. 

Ms Anne Rochelle Doherty: For service to medical administration, and to the community. 

Mr Terrence William Donovan: For service to the community, particularly Indigenous health. 

Dr Vivienne Elton: For service to psychiatry, and to the community. 

Dr Glendon Betts Farrow: For service to military medicine and patient safety. 

Ms Christine Lempick Fitzherbert: For service to the community through a range of organisations. 

Dr Peter Charles Frederiksen: For service to dermatology. 

Professor Michelle Giles: For service to medicine. 

Dr David Angus Goldsmith: For service to dentistry, and to the community. 

Professor Paul David Harpur: For service to people with disability. 

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