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‘I’m blessed:’ Seven’s Ryan Stokes on dad Kerry, lifting lockdown and his AO

Mr Stokes said he had no idea his name had been put forward and was shocked when contacted.

“I am humbled to accept this Order of Australia. I have a great family and team with me and I am proud to share this honour with them,” he said in an interview with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Mr Stokes paid tribute to his father, saying: “I’ve always felt very, very blessed to have that opportunity and a father who encourages me in different areas and supports (me) in different areas. I’m very lucky.”

I think it’s critically important for business leaders to be involved in community, in areas that are their passion.

Ryan Stokes, CEO of Seven Group Holdings

Mr Stokes is chairman of the National Gallery of Australia and a member of the prime ministerial advisory council on veterans’ mental health. “I think it’s critically important for business leaders to be involved in community, in areas that are their passion and areas where you can make a contribution. I think beyond that it helps make you a better leader.”

In 2006 Mr Stokes became the inaugural chairman of youth mental health group Headspace at a time when there was little understanding of the issue and its effect on people’s lives. “Mental health was still an area that needed a lot of work to enhance the profile and remove that notional stigma that was there,” he said.

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“If we can tackle this issue early, then it will help people avoid having mental health issues as they grow up and move into adulthood.”

Mr Stokes is the chief executive of the sprawling conglomerate Seven Group, chaired by Kerry Stokes. The ASX-listed $5.7 billion group owns Seven West Media, Coates Hire, WesTrac and the Caterpillar machinery equipment business.

Last week it made its first foray into buildings products with a 10 per cent stake in Boral. Mr Stokes said he supported stimulus spending on infrastructure and construction to help the ailing economy. “Infrastructure building and construction areas are the right areas that are going to be providing jobs, providing productive outcomes.”

The federal government last week announced a $688 million HomeBuilder program which includes grants of $25,000 to encourage construction and home-buying.

Asked about the impact of the economic slowdown on Seven’s businesses, Mr Stokes said media advertising had been hit hard during the slowdown. “That’s probably the most dramatic response, but I think we’re starting to see that correct and come back. And certainly May was probably the low point, June is feeling better,” he said.

Seven West Media’s television revenue fell by almost a fifth in the March quarter, as the industry was hit by the coronavirus downturn.

Mr Stokes was honoured along with other leading industry figures including director of Macquarie Group and Grant Thornton Diane Grady, who has been a pioneer for women in business. She became the first woman outside of the US to be elected to the McKinsey partnership.

Ms Grady urged business leaders to speak up on social issues. “I think nowadays we have a huge responsibility to help the community not only prosper, but be a more civil society and a society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and to utilise their potential.”

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Mr Willox, the head of the Australian Industry Group, whose family migrated to Australia when he was young, said: “I’ve always had it instilled into me, that my family moved across the world and you have to do your best to contribute.”

Ms Hutchinson is one of just three people awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in this year’s honours, the top award, alongside former prime minister Tony Abbott and leading businesswoman and philanthropist Naomi Milgrom, group CEO of clothing retailers Sussan, Sportsgirl and Suzanne Grae.

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