Whilst still Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General David Morrison, recorded a video in June 2013 in response to media reports of “unacceptable behaviour” by a small number of male officers towards women in the Australian Army.
Addressing every member of the Australian Army, Lieutenant-General Morrison said: “On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability, now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out!”
The video, posted on the official Australian Army YouTube channel, went viral around the world and started a cultural shift in the Australian Defence Forces that continues to this day.
In 2014, David Morrison was invited to speak at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, where he argued that militaries that exclude women “do nothing to distinguish the soldier from the brute”.
Upon his retirement from the Australian Army in 2015, David Morrison took up the position of Chair of the Diversity Council of Australia, where he continues to advocate for gender equality, cultural diversity and human rights.
David Morrison accepted his Australian of the Year Award from the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, at a ceremony this evening on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra.
In one of the most inspiring and memorable acceptance speeches in the history of the Australian of the Year Awards, David Morrison said: “For reasons beyond education, or professional qualifications, or willingness to contribute, or desire to be a part of our society and our community, too many of our fellow Australians are denied the opportunity to reach their potential. It happens because of their gender. Because of the God they believe in. Because of their racial heritage. Because they’re not able bodied. Because of their sexual orientation. And we as a nation, looking forward to the future, realising the extraordinary contribution that we can all make, should be able to give them the chance to reach their potential because when they do, we all benefit.”
“That’s what true diversity is about and why I am so passionate about it and so honoured to be chosen as your Australian of the Year in 2016.”
David Morrison also paid tribute to last year’s winner of the award, saying he would like to “continue the work done by the most remarkable woman, Rosie Batty.”
“She has set a bench mark for us all and the scourge of domestic violence, which faces us as one of our great social issues, won’t be solved in a year – maybe in fifty or a hundred years – but it is up to us in our lifetime, to do something about it – and I look forward to contributing to her great work.”
Demonstrating his continued commitment to gender equality in the workplace, David Morrison said: “I can’t explain why there’s a gender pay gap in this country between men and women across all professions of 17.8%, and worse in many of the professions that we are all proud to be part of – that needs to end.”
He also said he would be lending his voice to the republican movement. “It is time, I think, to at least revisit the question, so that we can stand both free and fully independent amongst the community of nations.”
Also announced at the 2016 Australian of the Year Awards ceremony in Canberra this evening, were the winners of the Senior Australian of the Year, the Young Australian of the Year, and Australia’s Local Hero.
The 2016 Senior Australian of the Year is Professor Gordian Fulde. In his role as Director of the Emergency Department at St Vincents Hospital in Sydney, Professor Fulde has spoken often about the scourge of illegal drugs like ‘ice’ and alcohol-fuelled violence.
Social entrepreneurs, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchet, were joint winners of the 2016 Young Australian of the Year Award. At just 20 years of age, Nic and Lucas founded the Orange Sky Laundry project, a free mobile laundry service for the homeless.
Youth Educator, Dr Catherine Keenan, was named Australia’s Local Hero for 2016 for her work as co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit organisation helping primary and high school students to express themselves through writing and story telling.
For more information about the Australian of the Year Awards visit the website www.australianoftheyear.org.au