Outstanding citizens honoured in Queen’s Birthday awards

Brendan Rees

From academics to those working in healthcare, outstanding members of Melbourne’s inner city have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday 2021 Honours List for their significant contributions to the community.  

This year’s recipients represent what Governor-General David Hurley described as the “countless examples of selflessness, commitment, and dedication”. 

One of the top awards, those appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), went to Erika Feller, a former Assistant High Commissioner of the United Nations Refugee Agency, and Sky News host Peta Credlin who was chief of staff to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. 

When Ms Feller received the news of the award, she said it was a “great honour”.

But she added, “it was more satisfying to me because it showed that the award system can actually accommodate international work and particularly international work in the human rights and refugee area which is what I’ve been working on for a decade.”

Ms Feller was recognised for her “distinguished service to the international community, to the recognition and protection of human rights, and to refugee law”. 

She is currently working hard on promoting the creation of a centre at the University of Melbourne to assist people who have been categorised as “status people”, “who don’t have any proper nationality or they don’t have a country that accepts them as its nationals”, which she described as a “serious problem.” 

Ms Feller, also a lawyer and diplomat and currently the Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne School of Government at the University of Melbourne, said she would also “love to see Australia re-engage in a very positive way with multilateralism”. 

“I think Australia is a bit selective in its engagement with multilateralism, certainly in the trade area … but in the human rights and refugee area I think it needs to make up for lost ground,” she said.

Ms Credlin’s citation listed a “distinguished service to parliament and politics, to policy development, and to the executive function of government”.

Also awarded an AO was Professor Ken Smith, the Dean, and CEO of Australian and New Zealand School of Government, with the headquarters based in Carlton.

Professor Smith, who was recognised for his 40 years of “distinguished service to public administration, and to public sector leadership and education”, said it was an honour and privilege to receive the prestigious award.

“What we have done through our programs such as the Executive Master of Public Administration, Executive Fellows Program and other leadership programs, as well as our work we’ve done with specific jurisdictions and agencies is to ensure really positive impact and influence and lifted the quality of public services in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand,” Professor Smith said.

The honours list also saw Dr Elizabeth Rushen, the director of the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network, appointed a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia for her “significant service to community history and heritage preservation”. 

World-leading scientist Professor Ute Roessner, who heads the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne, was also awarded an AM. 

Professor Roessner said the news of the honour had come as a “total surprise”, to the point that she thought it may have been spam in her mail inbox, but added it was “very humbling”.

Professor Roessner, a plant scientist and a world leader in the field of metabolomics, came to Australia from Germany in 2003 with her husband after being “headhunted” for her talent.

“At the time I didn’t really know anything about Australia,” she said.


My husband at the time thought why not go out in the world and learn new cultures and explore new ways of working and living, so we did the big step and haven’t looked back.


Professor Roessner, who was recognised for her “significant service to tertiary education, particularly to the biosciences,” said her proudest achievement had been teaching students and watching them “stepping up into the working world and taking up roles and growing”. 

Others receiving AMs were Professor James Barber, the CEO of Polytechnic Institute of Australia for his service to tertiary education administration, and to youth, as well as Jaynie Anderson, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne for her “significant service to tertiary education, particularly to art history in Australia”. 

Among those receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) was Dr Igor Konstantinov for his service to medicine as a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Other recipients included Dr Susie Allanson for her service to community health as a psychologist; Jillian Prior, the founder and principal legal officer at the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women, for her service to law; and Richard Owen of East Melbourne, who retired from ExxonMobil in 2020 after 37 years of service, for his service to business.

Beverley Noon, a former president of the Parkville Auxiliary at the Royal Children’s Hospital also received an OAM for her devoted service to the community through charitable organisations. 

It was a family affair for Jennifer Leaper and her husband John Leaper of East Melbourne who was each awarded an OAM for their services to aged care.

Both are the founders of TLC Healthcare which is the first residential aged care provider of its size to complete the vaccination of their 1500 residents, and 2000 staff and contractors against COVID-19 in March. 

Ms Leaper told Inner City News the achievement had “given great solace and confidence to our residents, and to our staff”.

“We’ve had GPs on site which has made a huge difference to making sure that our residents get the best care as quickly as possible,” she said.

Upon receiving the news of the Queen’s Birthday honour, Ms Leaper said, “It did come as a surprise and we were very delighted and very humbled to each receive one.” •

Caption: East Melbourne residents Jennifer and John Leaper who were both awarded an OAM for their services to aged care.

Caption: Professor Ute Roessner OAM of the University of Melbourne was recognised for her contribition to bioscience.

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