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From ex-pollies to hairdressers, honours list reflects our nation's diversity

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Former prime minister Tony Abbott, ex-Australian men’s and women’s cricket captains and Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton are among those being honoured this Queen’s Birthday.

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Mr Abbott, who lost his seat at the 2019 federal election, is among a raft of ex-politicians and officials being recognised.

The one-time federal Liberal leader has been appointed a companion in the Order of Australia but insists the award doesn’t mark the end of his public service.

The honours recognise 933 Australians, with 710 receiving awards in the general division of the Order of Australia, 28 in the military division and 128 meritorious awards.

There are 290 women on the general awards list (41 per cent) with the youngest recipient aged 24 and 36 recipients aged over 90 when they were nominated.

Governor-General David Hurley said the list recognised outstanding Australians for their contributions both at home and globally.

“In this list we see all the positives that are in our community – we see the great ideas, we see the hard work, we see the love and compassion for fellow human beings – it’s a microcosm of Australia,” he said.

“Their efforts have been noted by their peers, they’ve been nominated and assessed independently as worthy of recognition.”

Abbott’s political mentor Bronwyn Bishop and 43-year parliamentary veteran Liberal Philip Ruddock have been appointed officers of the Order of Australia.

So too have former Liberal premiers Mike Baird and Denis Napthine.

Former cricket captains Lyn Larsen and Michael Clarke have also been appointed AOs.

Larsen said her surprise at being recognised was almost as large as the recent growth in women’s cricket.

At a time when indigenous rights are again at the forefront of debate, Langton is recognised for her three decades of fighting for Aboriginal rights.

“I want to hear a politician say there will be no more Aboriginal deaths in custody – there will be no more bashing of Aboriginal people in the cells,” she said.

Journalists Mike Carlton and Sean Dorney also receive honours, as do businessman Ryan Stokes, actress Robyn Nevin, music producer Mark Opitz and hairdressing pioneer Stefan Ackerie.

Ackerie migrated to Australia from Lebanon and established a national network of salons and has been appointed a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

He used the occasion to offer his friend and US President Donald Trump some advice, but not about his “do”.

Brisbane-based Ackerie described the president as someone who works hard and is “such a good person”.

“I just wish he would get a proofreader, someone, to help him. Sadly, he gets lost.”

Born in Lebanon, Ackerie’s family migrated to Adelaide when he was 15. He learnt to speak English at night school and his father encouraged him to learn to cut hair.

He’s spent more than half a century in the business, with more than 50 salons across the country and estimated that millions of people have had a hair cut at one of his outlets.

Years after the era of the big blow-dry for which Ackerie became a master, his community dedication remains strong.

He is a fundraiser and philanthropist for a range of not-for-profit organisations including Disability Sports Queensland, The Mother Theresa Foundation and the Royal Brisbane Hospital and the Children’s Hospital Foundation, Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust.

He said his honour is recognition for all people who have chosen to call Australia home.

“It’s for all new Australians, all the newcomers and the tradies.

“People think that you have to be a professor, be someone with a mega IQ to be awarded such an honour.

“Now, I feel any new Australian can achieve that and I feel honoured that I’m representing so many people – I’m representing all the Australians.”

Mango industry pioneer Ken Rayner is among 457 people receiving the Order of Australia Medal.

It means a lot to the octogenarian who has a framed portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in his dusty corrugated iron shed.

Hurley said there had been recent success in his drive to achieve parity between nominations for men and women and increase the diversity of nominees.

“That success has to be sustainable and that is one thing that I want to work on in my time,” he said.

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