back to top

Former Army Chief David Morrison Named 2016 Australian Of The Year

Morrison took out the prestigious award for his efforts to promote gender equality in the Australian armed forces.

Posted on

Former Chief of Army David Morrison has been named the 2016 Australian of the Year

Australian of the Year Awards

Morrison, 59, resides in Canberra. A former lieutenant-general, he retired from the army in 2015 after 36 years of service, and is currently chair of the Diversity Council Australia.

In 2013, he delivered a powerful speech via video that addressed sexual harassment and gender equality in the armed forces.

View this video on YouTube

The speech, written by Morrison's fellow Australian of the Year finalist Cate McGregor, went viral, finding support and approval from Australians across the nation.

In the video, Morrison tells soldiers who do not respect or acknowledge the importance of female soldiers to "get out" of the army. He also appeals to all members of the armed forces to take responsibility for their workplace culture.

"If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it," he says. "The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept."

Since the historic speech, the number of women in the armed voices has increased by 2%. The speech also precipitated a cultural shift, where diversity is increasingly accepted.

Morrison also spoke at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in 2014, saying armed forces that exclude women "do nothing to distinguish the soldier from the brute".

The Young Australian of the Year award was taken out by Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, who started a mobile laundry service to wash and dry clothes for the homeless.

Australian of the Year Awards

Marchesi and Patchett's mobile laundry service, called Orange Sky, rapidly expanded after launching in 2014. The pair, both 21, now have five vans across Queensland, Victoria and NSW, serviced by almost 300 volunteers whodo over 350 loads of washing per week. In 2015, Orange Sky also travelled to North Queensland to wash clothes in the communities devastated by Cyclone Marcia.

Marchesi and Patchett say the most important facet of Orange Sky is conversation – connecting volunteers with homeless people to break down stigma and create lasting relationships. This is the first time two people have jointly won the Young Australian of the Year award.

NSW doctor Gordian Fulde won the Senior Australian of the Year category.

Australian of the Year Awards

Fulde, 67, has worked as the director of emergency at St Vincent's Hospital and Sydney Hospital for over three decades.

Passionate about countering the violence and heartbreak that often accompanies binge-drinking culture, Fulde works with schools and community organisations to share his emergency room experiences. He speaks often about the damaging effects of alcohol and the drug 'ice', two substances that deliver masses of Australians to emergency rooms on Friday and Saturday nights.

Fulde is also on the board of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation.

The Australian Local Hero Award, for people making an extraordinary contribution to their local community, went to Catherine Keenan.

Australian of the Year Awards

From NSW, Keenan formerly worked as a writer and editor before turning her focus to helping marginalised young people express themselves through words. As the co-founder of the Sydney Story Factory, she has worked tirelessly over the past five years to raise money and train volunteers to teach young people writing skills and nurture their creative talent.

While there is a focus on helping people from Indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds, the Sydney Story Factory welcomes all to its free classes.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.