Barnardos Australia Ambassadors Lisa Wilkinson and Tina Arena were appointed as members of the Order of Australia (AM) as part of the annual Australia Day honours.

Lisa Wilkinson

Lisa Wilkinson was awarded her AM 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."

Tina Arena

Tina Arena was awarded her AM in recognition of her significant service to the music industry as a singer, songwriter, and recording artist, and as a supporter of charitable groups.

Having released her eleventh album last year, Eleven, Arena chose to return to her home country after almost 20 years living in Europe, mostly in Paris.

"I'm thrilled, this recognition is really lovely. I first started travelling and working abroad 30 years ago, and I've always been asked about Australia in interviews in foreign countries, and I'm such an advocate. We live in an amazing country, Australia is rich with opportunities and as cliche as it sounds anything is possible," Arena said.

The singer, who was born to Italian parents in Australia, is one of the country's highest selling artists, with more than eight million album sales. She rocketed to fame at age eight on the TV show Young Talent Time, on which she performed for almost seven years before forging a solo career, releasing her first album in 1977.

In 1994, Arena released the album Don't Ask which became a global hit thanks to her massive hit single Chains.

Since then Arena has opened the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, performed the national anthem in Paris when Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, has become a multiple ARIA award winner and was recently inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

In 2009, Arena became the first Australian to be honoured with a French Knighthood of the Order of National Merit, presented by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Who would have thought an Australian-born girl from immigrant working-class parents would end up here, I'm very fortunate to call Australia my home and so proud to be playing a small role in promoting our country to the world," Arena said.

The singer has used her fame to help several causes and is a patron to two charities in Australia: child protection organisation Barnardos and Soldier On which supports rehabilitation for ex-services men and women.

In 2014, Arena donated the proceeds of her single The Things We Do For Love to the Breast Cancer Foundation and has performed at several benefit concerts, including Live 8 in Paris and for Queensland Flood Relief in 2013.

The singer is now reflecting on nearly 40 years in the music industry and relates all of her achievements back to her Australian beginnings.

"If it wasn't for Australia, I would never have been able to have been catapulted internationally and to have done the things that I've been able to do. It was because of Australia that I've done that," she told AAP last year.