'Deeply insensitive': Journalist rejects Order of Australia in Margaret Court protest

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
Kerry O'Brien has declined his Order of Australia honour in protest over Margaret Court's promotion in the ranks. Pictures: AAP/Getty Images
Kerry O'Brien has declined his Order of Australia honour in protest over Margaret Court's promotion in the ranks. Pictures: AAP/Getty Images

Journalism great Kerry O’Brien has rejected his Australia Day award in protest over the decision to promote tennis great Margaret Court to a Companion of the Order of Australia.

O’Brien wrote, in a letter to Governor General David Hurley, that he was declining his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in support of Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, who also turned down the honour due to Court’s outspoken stance on LGBTI issues.

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“Margaret Court was a great tennis player who thrilled most Australians in her tennis years including me, but her hurtful and divisive criticisms relating to the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ+ community are clearly repugnant to many Australians,” O'Brien wrote.

“I believe the decision to present her with this award was deeply insensitive and must undermine community respect for awards that were created to celebrate a true spirit of community, not divide it.”

Court's appointment to the Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia triggered outrage because of her steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights.

There have been increasing calls for Tennis Australia to rename the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne over her views, with former tennis stars Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe memorably staging a protest on the issue during the 2019 Australian Open.

The 78-year-old’s record of 24 grand slam singles titles remains unequalled by any man or woman.

Margaret Court honour proves divisive

Following the news of Court’s promotion, Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo has decided to relinquish her Order of Australia Medal.

Dr Soo is a transgender woman and LGBTIQ advocate who received the medal in 2016.

However, the doctor says she does not want to have any association whatsoever with Court - whose controversial views on the LGBTI community and same-sex marriage have caused outrage in the past.

“I therefore have both professional experience as well as lived experience of the communities that Mrs Margaret Court makes these derogatory and hurtful remarks about,” she wrote.

“Given the message that the Council for the Order of Australia is sending by giving this promotion to Mrs Margaret Court, I would like to return my OAM.

“I do not want to be seen as supporting the values that the Council for the Order of Australia seem to be supporting with this promotion of Mrs Margaret Court.”

LGBTIQ spokesperson for lobby group Just Equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh says the decision to award Court the medal should be overturned.

“We urge the Council of the Order of Australia to reconsider its decision,” Mr Hinton-Teoh said.

“Margaret Court’s primary contribution to Australian society since being awarded an AO for her historic tennis achievements has been to marginalise and malign LGBTIQ Australians. Either the council was not aware of the damage and division she has actively contributed to, or they are and they are supporting it.”

With AAP

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