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Furness, AO, will ‘put on medals to dinner’

For artist and philanthropist Deborra-Lee Furness, the theme of family is stronger than ever this Australia Day.

She has spent years campaigning to change adoption laws, an issue that is close to her heart, and that has earned her a place on the Australia Day Honours List.

“It’s ironic for a system that completely wanted to shut (the adoption) service down,” laughs Furness from her apartment in New York City, when discussing her honour.

“We had no friends in parliament, no prime minister would listen to us for years … but that’s sometimes the way.

“I love that we’ve opened up all those doors.”

Furness has been elevated to an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia in recognition of her distinguished service to children as an adoption advocate, to not-for-profit organisations as an ambassador, and to the arts.

“Everything I learned from my mum,” Furness tells AAP. “That’s part of our thing. We’re of service.”

Furness’ mum, charity worker Fay Duncan, passed away months after being appointed an Order of Australia Medal in 2016.

Furness’ husband, actor Hugh Jackson, has also received Australia’s highest honour – Companion of the Order of Australia.

“It’s a trifecta for the family,” Furness laughs. “We’ll wear all our medals to dinner.”

Furness has often spoken about her and Jackman’s own struggles to adopt in Australia, which spurred on her charity work.

“I saw a huge injustice – not only for people who were trying to adopt, but more so – which has been my driving force – for the kids,” she says.

Another Aussie treasure to be appointed AO at this year’s ceremony is cook, businesswoman and philanthropist, Maggie Beer – although she’s not sure they got the right person.

“You sort of go between the honour the pride and the fact that you feel like an absolute fraud,” a humble Beer tells AAP.

“There are so many people doing wonderful things, and sometimes you worry that it should have gone to someone else.”

Beer is being recognised for her distinguished service to the tourism and hospitality industries as a cook, restaurateur and author, and to aged welfare, but says she is only doing what anyone with a public platform should.

“Social conscience is within all of us, and when we get a platform we have a responsibility to do something with it,” says Beer, 77, who has created a training module to improve the nutrition and food at aged care facilities across Australia.

“I have to say it’s the biggest job I’ve ever undertaken … there’s so much that can be done and will be done, but it’s going to take the rest of my life,” she says.

Aussie singer Delta Goodrem has a busy day ahead – first she’ll be appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to the not-for-profit sector, and to the performing arts; then she’ll be both hosting and headlining the Australia Day Live concert at the Sydney Opera House.

Goodrem is being recognised for her work with the Delta Goodrem Foundation which raises millions of dollars for blood cancer research.

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