• The list of Australians honoured this year includes several recognised for their contribution to Indigenous Australia. (AAP)Source: AAP
Artistic director for Bangarra Dance Theatre,Stephen Page, and respected Indigenous Elders, Ruth Abdullah and Patsy Cameron, were amongst the many lauded recipients of this year’s Queen’s birthday honours.
12 Jun 2017 - 11:15 AM  UPDATED 13 Jun 2017 - 8:29 AM

The list of almost 900 Australians honoured this year included a dozen recognised for their contribution to Indigenous Australia and 14 awarded for their contribution to multiculturalism and diversity.

Actor Deborah Mailman was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service to performing arts and as a role model for Indigenous performers.

Other honourees for service to Indigenous issues included Ian Anderson and Ian Ring for their service to Indigenous health, respected Tasmanian Aboriginal elder, Aunty Patricia “Patsy” Cameron, for her service to Indigenous education and custodianship, and Bangarra Dance Artistic Director Stephen Page.

All four were made Officers of the Order of Australia (AO) in the honour list.

Other honoured Members for service to Indigenous Australia included historian Ann McGrath, dentist Sandra Meihubers, Indigenous art dealer and local government veteran Claude Ullin, educator Merle Ricklefs and curator Judith Ryan.

Elder honoured for Aboriginal legal work  

Since Ruth Abdullah became part of the Stolen Generation aged just seven, her focus has been preventing further injustices by helping Aboriginal people know their legal rights.

Her dedication to this cause has on Monday led to her being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), for service to the Indigenous community of Western Australia.

Born in Derby to a Djaru/Gidja mother and Gurindji father, the 69-year-old told AAP she's now "part of the furniture" at Kimberley Community Legal Services, where she has been an Aboriginal liaison coordinator since 2000.

"It doesn't work at all. Aboriginal staff pave the way."

With a positive, sunny, happy go-lucky disposition, Ms Adbullah is a proud role model for younger generations.

"They see how hard I had to work. It's about respect and looking after yourself," she said.

The former Anglicare counsellor educates non-Indigenous staff on Aboriginal cultures and custom, saying her previous work at the Department of Child Protection was often with staff who judged families before visiting and listening to them.

"It doesn't work at all. Aboriginal staff pave the way."

Government services to Indigenous communities need to be more streamlined, she says, and the customs and rules of individual groups should be respected.

Ms Abdullah said her personal experience drove her to prevent any more children being taken away like she was, urging instead for "family looking after family" through mediation and counselling.

Taken from her parents in Alice Springs, she was separated from three sisters and sent to St Mary's Hostel with her brother, where they weren't allowed to approach their parents if they saw them.

She said it was "heartbreaking" and the school would cut their pocket money if they broke that rule.

She left St Mary's aged 17 and reconnected with her parents in WA, studying her culture to re-find her identity, which she now urges younger generations to hold onto.

'Mixed feelings' for Queen's Birthday gong, says Bangarra artistic director

Stephen Page says he has "mixed feelings" about receiving a Queen's Birthday honour for almost 28 years of Indigenous storytelling.

The Aboriginal artistic director for the Sydney-based Bangarra Dance Theatre has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to performing arts and contemporary dance, and for presenting Indigenous arts to the world.

"You do have mixed feelings and you do go, 'OK, do I be a black activist and deny this honour, or do I take this honour and put an optimistic light on it and really celebrate the great strength that the First Nations people have?'" the 52-year-old told AAP.

Page said while he respects the honour given by the Commonwealth, it must remember his 40,000-year-old culture also has strong traditions and strong values.

'Big Kev' of science inspired by Nyoongar

WA’s Chief Scientist Peter Klinken, nicknamed 'the Big Kev of science', said he was “gobsmacked” when he heard his work had been rewarded with the Companion of the Order of Australia.  

Singapore-born Prof Klinken, whose previous awards include recognition for his contribution to Indigenous people in WA, says his outlook is inspired by the Nyoongar people and their understanding of the world, particularly the responsible way they look after the land.

He discovered the gene that suppresses tumour growth in 1988, telling AAP he was "almost shaking with excitement" when he grew in a test tube a rare type of leukaemia which he then learnt how to treat, and is continuing his focus on cancer research.

As an ever-curious child who blew up his mum's Hills Hoist clothesline as an experiment, it was a textbook he won as a Year 10 biology prize that made him want to study biochemistry.

Prof Klinken works with the state government to act as a "cheerleader" for science, providing independent advice and ideas, and aims to lead the state's long-term plan for the field.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce also honoured by Queen

Qantas boss Alan Joyce, an Irish-born Australian businessman, who in 2015 announced he was joining the Australian Republican Movement, has been appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to the aviation and tourism industries, gender equity and support of Indigenous education.

After a record $2.8 billion loss in 2013/14, Qantas quickly recovered due to falling fuel costs and a major operational overhaul overseen by Mr Joyce, which involved slashing thousands of jobs and freezing wages.

Profit soared 85 per cent in 2015/16 to a record $1.03 billion, with Qantas paying its first dividend in seven years and achieving the best underlying pre-tax profit result in its 95-year history.

Multiculturalism and diversity also recognised

14 Australians were honoured for their services to multiculturalism and diversity, including SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid.

The Cairo-born Australian, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia, said he was “incredibly honoured” to have been among so many other outstanding Australians.

Other prominent multicultural leaders recognised included Lebanese community leader Dr Jamal Rifi, Italian community leader Giuseppe Migliorino and Jewish community leader Graham Slade.

With AAP, SBS News

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