Sportswomen gain Aust Day honours

Shane Gould says she wants to have a conversation about swimming on Australia Day, or at least sometime soon.

Olympic swimming champion Shane Gould is one of several sportswomen honoured on Australia Day.

Olympic swimming champion Shane Gould is one of several sportswomen honoured on Australia Day.

After 30 years of charitable work teaching the importance of swimming, the triple Olympic gold medallist has spent the past three in some deep thought about its role in Australia.

"Sport is entertainment - it's distracting and exciting," Gould tells AAP.

"And swimming is generally a kid's sport so it's all sweet and nice. It's wonderful what athletes do and the activity of swimming is very pleasurable for most people."

But she wants to challenge the widely-accepted theory that Australia is a nation of swimmers, simply because the country is surrounded by water.

"That's a furphy, environmental determinism. The water's out to get us, so we better learn how to use it," says Gould, who is six weeks away from completing a PhD in swimming.

As a 16-year-old she shot to fame at the Munich Games in 1972, where she became the first swimmer to win five medals in a single Olympics, winning gold in the 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley, along with a silver and bronze.

A year later, after overwhelming media interest in her, she retired.

Gould, who's been appointed a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia, is one of seven of Australia's greatest sportswomen included on the Australia Day honours list, including the late Betty Cuthbert and tennis legend Evonne Goolagong-Cawley.

Cuthbert, Australia's greatest Olympic athlete, has been posthumously appointed a Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia to go with her AO and MBE.

The original "Golden Girl", who won three gold medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and another in Tokyo eight years later, has been recognised for services to athletics and as a fundraiser and advocate for research into multiple sclerosis which claimed her life last year, aged 79.

Cricketer Belinda Clark, golf champion Karrie Webb, former Hockeyroos captain Rechelle Hawkes and swimmer Susie O'Neill have also been acknowledged.

Goolagong-Cawley will be presented her award by governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove prior to the Australian Open women's final on Saturday.

"After I was fortunate enough to achieve my dreams on the court, I have done my best to in turn, help young people achieve theirs, whatever they may be," she said in a statement.

"To be considered for any award, let alone this one, is a humbling experience, for all I have done in my life is to try hard at the things that I loved doing."

Gould also weighed into the controversy surrounding the date of the celebration of Australia Day.

She's guided by indigenous elder and good friend Patsy Cameron.

"She continues to call it Invasion Day, and she doesn't celebrate Australia Day but she respects other people wanting to celebrate Australia," Gould said.

"We need to recognise that there were some terrible things and genocide occurred. White Australians were self-privileged and cruel to the original inhabitants and that's acknowledged.

"I think as we continue to celebrate the start of a White Australia nation, we need to continue to acknowledge the genocide that was committed by our forebears."

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