Melbourne hasn't forgotten what Dan Andrews did.

It has been more than two-and-a-half years since the world's most locked down city lifted its restrictions. 

After six lockdowns and more than 260 days indoors, Melbournians were finally able to get their lives back in October 2021.

Of course, the sacrifice wasn't without reason. As the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked havoc across the world, then Premier Dan Andrews and his team decided on the strictest of approaches. 

It worked — they were able to keep their death rate from spiralling like in some other busy centres as they worked on vaccinating their citizens. But the mental and emotional toll the lockdowns had on the five million strong population, was taxing. 

So when Andrews received a Companion of the Order of Australia at the weekend for "eminent service to the people and parliament of Victoria, to public health, to policy and regulatory reform, and to infrastructure development," it was too soon and too much for some. 

Former WA Premier Mark McGowan received the same award, for "eminent service to the people and Parliament of Western Australia, to public health and education, and to international trade relations". 

Mark McGowan. Image: AAP.


Awarding the two premiers in Australia with the strictest and harshest of COVD rules — it was bound to be a controversial move for the 2024 King's Birthday Honours. 

While both were quick to express their thanks, Andrews calling his service as Victoria's leader the "greatest honour of my life" and McGowan thanking his state with "deep gratitude," the shock-jocks and TV hosts kicked off a chorus of naysayers.

The Project co-host Steve Price called Andrews' appointment "some kind of sick joke". 

2GB's Ben Fordham called both leaders "lockdown premiers" and said "the decision has gone down like a lead balloon". 

Former Liberal Victorian premier Jeff Kennett wants Andrew's honour to be rescinded. 

He told Sky News, "I didn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke."

Watch: The Project discuss the news.

Video via Twitter

But the Prime Minister was quick to jump to Andrew's and McGowan's defence calling them both "very successful to the people who matter to their respective states."

Because while you're seeing headlines right now lamenting the news, you'll notice it's a handful of media personalities creating the negative headlines. 

On the whole, both leaders were roundly revered. 

Victorians mostly understood Andrew's reasons for locking them down. In fact, he won a third-term in 2022 after the worst of the pandemic had passed. It was a result that stunned some who thought his controversial decisions would decimate him, but it proved just how much the mainstream media (and those shock jocks we mentioned) were missing what the masses were actually feeling. 

Andrews announced his resignation less than a year later after nearly nine years in office, because as a "true workaholic" he was ready to get back to some balance in his life. 

During WA's pandemic response, McGowan reached a record-breaking approval rating for an Australian premier, at 91 per cent. 

McGowan also quit in 2023, citing exhaustion as his reason. As a non-confrontational person he was sick of the debate that came with the job. 

They quit because of the toll the job had taken on their own lives, not because their people were pushing them out. 

Both leader's constituents largely understood the short-term pain was saving them from deadly and potentially catastrophic ramifications. After watching the horror unfold in places like China, Italy and the US, staying indoors seemed like the lesser of two evils. 


Instead of thousands of deaths, we lost hundreds. But they didn't always get it right.

The Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, said a lockdown on public housing towers in 2020 was not based on direct health advice and "violated Victorian human rights laws," for example.  

Glass said her findings were not a criticism of Victorian health officials, who worked tirelessly to support residents and respond to the public health emergency. 

There will always be mistakes, lessons and learnings in times of crisis. But facts don't lie, and the majority of Victorians and West Australians were seemingly grateful for the leadership in their time of need — if the approval ratings and election results are to be believed. 

Dan Andrews fronted a press conference every single morning for months updating his state on the latest. At the end of the formalities he was torn apart, daily, by journalists. 

Through all the criticism he stuck to his unpopular decision, and eventually he brought his state down from recording upwards of 700 new COVID cases in 24 hours to zero. 

Melbourne hasn't forgotten what Dan Andrews did. Yes it hurt, but he saved thousands upon thousands of lives. 

It's actually quite remarkable how quickly Andrews and McGowan have received their honours. As the Financial Review points out, it takes a minimum of two years for these types of awards to get through the application stages (which usually only starts once a politician has left office). 

The fact they're already being congratulated, speaks volumes. 

Feature image: AAP.