Mixed reaction in Illawarra to dames, knights

He holds the city's most impressive title, but even Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has reservations about bringing knights and dames back to Australia.

"Instead of using old British words, I would have liked us to invent some of our own," Cr Bradbery said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's decision to introduce knights and dames into the Order of Australia honour system has been met with incredulity and confusion.

The Australian honours system, established in 1975, had consisted of four categories: the Medal, Member, Officer and Companion of the Order of Australia. Titles of knight and dame will be added to the top of the hierarchy, with many - including Cr Bradbery, himself an OAM - puzzled at this harking back to a more British-reliant Australia.

Garth Doyle, NSW regional co-ordinator for the Order of Australia Association, said he was baffled by the unexpected addition.

Mr Doyle, from Russell Vale, holds an OAM and said the changes were unnecessary.

"There's other things I would like the government to talk about. It has come out of the blue," he said.

"There's no need for it at all. It will have a short lifespan - the next government will wipe it out."

Other local honours recipients were more welcoming of changes. Gwynneville artist Tania Hayes, awarded an OAM in 2011, said the changes did not devalue existing order members.

"People don't do it for the award - to be recognised at all is a privilege," she said.

"People who already have one won't worry too much. I'm still very grateful for my award."

Michael Bassingthwaite, awarded an OAM in 2013, was unworried about the changes.

"I think we should remember there are systems that recognise outstanding people in the first place," he said.

"I'm just a bit surprised it has all resurfaced at this point in time."

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