13 June 2023

Sometimes the 'little people' are the giants among us

| Ross Solly
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Mainul Haque, with the New Zealand High Commissioner Dame Annette King, was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the multicultural community of Canberra. Photo: Region.

I have no idea exactly what you have to do to be recognised on the King’s birthday honours list, but I am pretty confident there is nothing I have done in the past 12 months, or probably in my entire life, that would justify even being considered for a gong.

It’s hard when I look through the list, as I do every year, of the very fine folk recognised in the annual royal honours list and in our Australia Day honours, not to feel in awe of these upstanding, selfless and generous citizens.

Where would we be as a community without such pillars of our society? People who make so many personal sacrifices to ensure others can have a better life. Often these are people who are barely themselves in a position to give to those less fortunate.

But still, they do it. They never ask to be recognised. Many prefer to stay out of the limelight, just going about their daily lives giving and helping people who need a hand up. When you compare the morals and generosity of these people with the scumbags constantly devising ways to rip people off or denigrate them publicly, you get a better understanding of what matters in life.

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Being Australians, of course, we like to recognise the achievements of sportspeople who have made us feel proud. And generally, that’s not a bad thing, and I would not for one minute suggest they should not be lauded for thrashing England in cricket, beating New Zealand in rugby, or winning a US Open tennis title.

Truth be told, they are doing what they love, usually getting paid handsomely for it (especially the men, not so much the women, but that’s a story for another day).

It’s a bit like the captains of industry and the politicians who are recognised in these types of awards. Yes, they do good things (mostly). We may swear at them (a lot), ridicule them, and question their moral compass, but most are in the game for the right reasons. I’m sure most aren’t in it to be recognised in King’s or Australia Day honours lists, but I haven’t heard of many, if any, handing them back.

(I’m not advocating they should hand them back. All power to them, I hope they use the honour as an opportunity to do more, or some, good things for the community.)

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For me, the people I look for on the list are the neighbourhood good Samaritans, the shopping-mall donations collectors, the sporting club and community group volunteers, those wonderful folk who walk the corridors of hospitals spreading joy to sick kids.

People can argue all they like about why we have King’s Birthday honours. For me, I don’t care. I think it’s great that we have another opportunity to pay tribute to the good people who still remind us that, in these times of self-centred, narcissistic behaviour, there are people who just want to make things better.

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I mostly agree with you Ross. Where I disagree is with awards for people like pollies and captains of industry. In the words of Paul Keating (paraphrased) – you don’t give people awardfs for doing the job you are paying them to do.

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