David Morrison lists violence, equal pay and republic as Australian of the Year priorities
26 January, 2016, 03:27
When the equality advocate was Chief of Army, his very public 2013 video message ordering misbehaving troops to "get out" if they couldn't accept women as equals went viral and started a cultural shift that has changed the armed forces forever.
"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", he said.
"Because when they do, we all benefit, and that's what true diversity is about and why I am so passionate about it and so honoured to have been chosen as your Australian of the Year in 2016".
Canberra provided plenty of rain throughout the ceremony, which even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could not escape. Morrison follows Rosie Batty, who campaigned against domestic violence throughout previous year and is credited with a major role in putting the issue squarely on the national agenda.
The Lieutenant General, who retired last year after 36 years with the Army, said the Islamic community in particular was facing significant challenges in Australia.
The Australian of the Year is selected by the eight-member National Australia Day Council board, chaired by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.
Senior Australian of the Year: Professor Gordian Fulde, the director of emergency at St Vincent's Hospital and Sydney Hospital, is a highly respected doctor who has been instrumental in drawing attention to problems stemming from abuse of methamphetamines and alcohol.
General Morrison named three priority areas for the year.
Accepting the award Professor Fulde said he was "blown away". "And if momentum doesn't grow, and Australia doesn't want to have this conversation, then so be it". Her award is for nurturing the talents of marginalised young people, especially indigenous youth and those from non-English speaking backgrounds, helping them to express themselves though writing and story telling.
As it happened, two other Australian of the Year finalists worked with Morrison in his efforts to instil more tolerance in the military.
Friends Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, of Brisbane, were jointly awarded the honour for their work with the Orange Sky Laundry - a mobile washing service for homeless people.
This year in the general division, about 2.3 times as many awards went to men compared to women, at 421 medals for men and 183 for women.
Lucas admitted they had washed 70,000 kilos of clothes and have had over 15,000 volunteering hours across six services in Australia.
"As the world tries to overcome religious and ethnic hatred, we are a harmonious, multicultural society", Mr Turnbull said.
We rejoice that they, too, are shining examples of our best selves.
Dr Catherine Keenan, co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, and Australia's Local Hero 2016.
"She has set a benchmark 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 50 or 100 years but it is up to us in our lifetimes to do something about it and I look forward to contributing to her great work", he said.