AUSTRALIA DAY HONOURS 2021
Professor Eileen Baldry AO for distinguished service to tertiary education, to criminology and social welfare policy, and as an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. Eileen was heavily involved with MOW in the 80s and 90s and is on the cover of Lindsay, Elaine & Scarfe, Janet Preachers, prophets & heretics, 2012
Professor Ian Jacobs
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales wrote:
An award of note has been bestowed upon Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity Diversity & Inclusion and Professor of Criminology, who was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to tertiary education, to criminology and social welfare policy, and as an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion”.
This is wonderful recognition of the enormous contribution that Eileen has made through her tireless dedication to equity and justice. It also reflects Eileen’s achievements in academia, and her vast and valuable contributions to the University in her role as DVC Equity Diversity & Inclusion.
Her extensive teaching, research and voluntary efforts have centred on creating a better, more equitable, more inclusive society for all; her accomplishments well worthy of national honour.
After holding senior positions in UNSW’s Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (now Arts, Design & Architecture), serving as Interim Dean, Associate Dean Education and Deputy Dean, Eileen was the first female Deputy Vice-Chancellor appointed at UNSW.
Among the many acknowledgments of her achievements and leadership, Eileen is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and of the Royal Society of NSW; was awarded the NSW Justice Medal in 2009; and in 2016 was named one of the AFR/Westpac 100 most influential women in Australia.
I congratulate Eileen and all the UNSW academics, alumni, colleagues, former colleagues and community members who have been recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours.
Eileen’s Reflection on receiving an AO
It was an enormous honour to be awarded an AO on 26th January. It was also challenging because along with the rest of Australia I knew that Margaret Court was receiving an AC.
Being awarded an AO for a lifetime of working, with innumerable marvellous colleagues, family, friends and advocates, towards achieving a fairer and more just society including for sexuality and gender diverse people and First Nations persons and communities, did not sit well alongside Court’s publicly and evangelically declared polar opposite views and beliefs. What was important for me in accepting the award was the highlighting of the values of respect, fairness, equity and inclusion that all the polls tell me the majority of Australians hold. These stand in strong contrast to those statements against LGBTIQ+ persons.
I understand and have an insight to some degree into the ways in which fundamentalist evangelicals and Pentecostals, like Margaret Court, think and their opposition to gender diversity. I was a Sydney Anglican evangelical in my teens, twenties and some of my thirties, taking leading roles in my local church, being a star Bible study leader (although there had to be a man leading), in the Sydney University Evangelical Union (where I could only be secretary or lady leader, certainly not President as that was reserved for men) and even being a lay reader. During my teaching years in PNG and Nepal I spent much time with some evangelical Pentecostal missionaries, who were such wonderful warm people but whose literal and fundamentalist use of the Bible was, I came to understand, highly problematic.
What most attracted me to Christianity in the first place (I didn’t come from a traditional Christian family) was the passion I saw in the old but especially the new testaments for social justice, a fairer and kinder world and the work many people of faith I knew were doing towards that. In the end though, I could not reconcile the patriarchal nature of institutional churches, the hypocritical power plays or the literal interpretation and use of some passages of the Bible such as the ‘headship’ of males, whilst other passages, such as ‘there is no male nor female … all are equal’ were dismissed or brushed aside. Christian churches were man-made, literally, human constructs that in many cases embedded hierarchies and the opposite of the original Christian values of social justice, equality and love.
I experienced that in full force when I helped establish and was the inaugural secretary of the Movement for the Ordination of Women in the 1980s. Even then the majority of Australians supported women’s ordination and could not fathom what the fuss was about. So today, for example, the majority of Australians agree that people of all genders and sexualities are equal and have equal rights in every sector of society, support people to be free to express their sexual preference and support the rights of sexuality and gender diverse people to marry and have families.
Margaret Court has a right to her views and beliefs, as does every one of us, and to express them as long as that expression is within the law and does not incite hatred and violence. But it’s important to recognize that her views are based on out of context, cherry picked Bible verses, the interpretation of which are strongly disputed and are expressed in a country in which same sex marriage and being sexuality and/or gender diverse, are legal and in which diversity and inclusion are valued. For these reasons I felt she should not have been awarded the AC as it appears as if it honours and represents her discriminatory views on and public denigration of sexuality and gender diverse people.
For me, this AO promotes a respectful and equitable Australian society, where no one is discriminated against. This Honour can also give more of a public position from which to continue to do this work. For me, that is trying to change the unconscionable use of prisons where we lock up people with disability, First Nations children, young people and adults and extremely poor and disadvantaged persons. It is also continuing to work, as has been my lifelong pursuit, to achieve gender equity across all intersections and groupings in our still patriarchal society and, as a senior academic, to join with my colleagues to ensure my institution, and others in Australia, are equitable, inclusive, and accessible. Accepting the AO heightens my and my colleagues’ capacity to continue this work.
The Reverend Dr Colleen Anne O’Reilly AM for significant service to the Anglican Church of Australia, and to religious education.
Colleen is the College Chaplain at Trinity College Theological School, Melbourne. She is responsible for overseeing worship in the Chapel and providing support for all members of the College and wider community.