The Queen’s Birthday Honours list gives us something to celebrate in the Australian arts.

Several of Australia’s arts luminaries received special honours over the long weekend as part of the Queen’s Birthday Celebrations.

This year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List bestowed the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on entertainer Rolf Harris (who performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace), choreographer Graeme Murphy, pianists Piers Lane and Gerard Willems, and festival director Brett Sheehy in recognition of their contribution to music and the arts in Australia and abroad.

Both pianists were praised for their efforts in “music education” and the “development of emerging musicians”. Lane, though based in London, brings dozens of international artists to Townsville each year for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music.

Brett Sheehy, artistic director of the Melbourne Festival and incoming director of the Melbourne Theatre Company, says his accolade “throws the spotlight on the benefits of arts festivals to any city or nation.”

He added he is proud that “our arts festivals have been the generator of more Australian cultural events touring internationally than any other platform, and they have seen the creation of new Australian works of art which simply could never have existed without the festivals’ visions and support”.

Veteran opera director Stuart Maunder, made a Member of the Order (AM), admitted he cried when he received the news on the phone. “It seems silly to make such a fuss over two extra letters next to your name, but I am extremely proud to have my work recognised in this way,” he said.
Maunder has championed the great music theatre works of the motherland, above all Gilbert and Sullivan. He cites Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady for Opera Australia and Pirates of Penzance for the original G&S company d’Oyly Carte as highlights in a long career.  

The Order of Australia has four levels –  the Companion of the Order (AC), Officer of the Order (AO), Member of the Order (AM) and Medal of the Order (OAM). It is awarded for outstanding contribution in any field, with 540 Australians receiving a title this year.