Huffington Post editor-at-large and TODAY host Lisa Wilkinson has been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to media and charitable work.
Wilkinson was awarded her AM as part of the annual Australia Day honours, for her significant service to the print and broadcast media as a journalist and presenter, and to a range of youth and women’s health groups, including the mentoring of young journalists.
That final factor is the one closest to her heart, she said. Wilkinson's storied career in Australian media was truly kickstarted at the tender age of just 21, when she famously took over the reins of Dolly magazine, then Cleo soon after.
Her career then moved into radio and television land, featuring on numerous shows across different TV channels before finding her home on Nine, co-hosting TODAY with Karl Stefanovic since 2007. Wilkinson has since become the go-to host for the network's big-ticket programs and news events, from Carols By Candlelight and federal election coverage to the Black Saturday bushfires, the Queensland floods and the royal wedding of William and Kate.
"It was a complete shock. I'm a journalist, I'm more used to interviewing other people who get these awards," Wilkinson laughed, telling of her surprise at receiving the honour.
"I feel really honoured to be sharing it with so many other people who are being honoured, most of whom go about their work quietly, without a public profile. They affect those around them on a daily basis in a very positive way, their communities, their workplaces, the charities they are involved in, but mostly they go unknown to the wider community."
Wilkinson is also ambassador for numerous charitable organisations, including Barnardos, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Melanoma Institute, Sydney Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.
Wilkinson spoke fondly of her own career -- "I have done a job I love every day of my working life, and I feel very fortunate there; to receive an honour for that, in many ways, doesn't feel quite right -- but saved her warmest words for her time spent nurturing, supporting and encouraging the next generation of journalists. Famously, she helped mentor the likes of Deborah Thomas and Mia Freedman in their early careers, and said she treasured her position to foster new media talent.
"That is very important to me. I was given amazing opportunities at a ridiculously young age. When you've known and experienced the joy of someone believing in you, supporting you and giving you opportunities at a time when you maybe don't believe in yourself, when you experience that and you know the joy and empowering nature of that, you ever-after want to pay that forward," she said.
"It's always been a great joy for me to look for young journalists who have that same glint in their eye that I had all those years ago. That's been a very important part of my career, to be able to empower other young journalists; then once you've taught them what you can, seeing them fly in their own direction."
Wilkinson credited her upbringing in Campbelltown, in Sydney's south-west, and her father -- a man charitable with his time in his own right -- for her approach to mentoring and nurturing the next generation of talent.
"I grew up in a household where giving back to the community and charity work was part of my DNA. My father was an incredibly involved community leader, president of the Lions Club then started up the youth arm of the Lions Club, the Leos club. He was the president of the local rugby club, and I grew up seeing him always giving back to the community and involved in charitable endeavours," she said.
"That's what you do when you're in a fortunate position; when you can help, that's just what you do. With my work in journalism and having a public profile, I could put that to particularly good use and bring attention to charities I feel very passionate about. If I dedicate the honour to anyone, it is to my dad for what he taught me."