Writer and poet Clive James, native title activist Bonita Mabo and former federal minister Alexander Downer are among the highest-profile recipients of this year's Australia Day honours.
The Australia Day honours list features 425 men and 146 women.
James, who has been named an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to literature, is in the UK and will not be able to return to Australia to receive his award due to poor health.
"As I sit here in the depths of the English winter - I'm in Cambridge and the snow is piled up outside the windows - I think of Australia longingly and enviously," he said.
"I'm warmed to the cockles of my heart by this marvellous award."
Mr James says he is proud of the way he and fellow expatriates helped introduce the Australian character to the rest of the world.
"Well, I think we carried the flag. I don't think we carried it highest, maybe, but we did carry it furthest and there was something about the Australian personality that appealed to the British and eventually to the Americans and I think it's because we speak English and we speak a vivid version of it," he said.
Ms Mabo, the widow of native title crusader Eddie Mabo, has also been named an Officer of the Order of Australia.
She has been recognised for her continuing land rights work and advocacy for Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander people.
Ms Mabo says she was shocked when she found out the news.
"I ended up having a little cry and I was saying, 'Why me?' I feel so honoured to be part of it."
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of South Sea Islanders in Australia as labourers.
Ms Mabo says putting their issues on the national agenda has been slow going.
"Today we're still struggling. We're not recognised as much as we should be and it's sad. And it's over 150 years this year for our people and yet we're still not getting much recognition," she said.
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ABC commentator Jim Maxwell becomes a Member of the Order of Australia in the general division for his service to sport and the community.
"I feel as though I'm accepting it for all those people that love the game of cricket because I'm the go-between - the cipher that delivers the game to them," he said.
"So it's a recognition for that, for being the delivery man," he said.
The man behind Sydney's successful bid for the 2000 Olympics has been made an Officer of the Order of Australia, 20 years after Sydney won the Games.
Rod McGeoch is already a Member of the Order of Australia, for his services to the profession of law.
But today he has been made an Officer of the Order for his part in Sydney's winning bid for the 2000 Olympic Games, as well as his contributions to a range of organisations and corporations.
He says it is a great honour.
"I look at it this way, that it's a very nice moment of noting a 20 year anniversary," he said.
Four men received the highest Australia Day accolade, the Companion of the Order of Australia:
Howard-era foreign minister and senior Liberal Party figure Alexander Downer.
Christian minister and director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture James Haire
Astrophysicist and 2011 Nobel Prize winner Brian Schmidt.
Tom Uren, a World War II prisoner of war who became Labor Party deputy leader as well as a peace activist and a campaigner for veterans.
Other honours recipients of note include:
Businessman Rod McGeoch, who led Australia's successful bid for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
ABC cricket commentator Jim Maxwell, honoured for his service to sport and to the community.
Cancer Australia chief executive Dr Helen Zorbas, for services to cancer patients and their families.
Victorian Indigenous health worker Jill Gallagher.
Former Australian netballer and national coach Norma Plummer.
Former Queensland police commissioner Bob Atkinson, who retired last year after 44 years in the force.
South Sydney Rabbitohs chairman Nick Pappas, for his work in rugby league, the arts and with the Greek-Australian community.
Psychiatrist and author Diego De Leo, for the creation of strategies for suicide prevention.
Rugby league footballer Mark Geyer, awarded for services to the game as well as to charity.
Australia Day honours by field
Australia Day honours by sex