David Morrison named Australian of the Year 2016

By Harley Dennett

January 25, 2016

David Morrison
David Morrison

The soldier who stared down the barrel of a camera and told Australian Defence Force personnel that “the standard they walk past is the standard they accept” has been named Australian of the Year for 2016.

Lieutenant General David Morrison, former Chief of Army, now retired and chair of the Diversity Council of Australia, was awarded the title at a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday night.

Don’t be a bystander he told his fellow soldiers, and now spreads his message to all of Australia.

Speaking without notes, Morrison accepted the award saying too many Australians are denied the possibility of reaching their potential because of their gender, their religion, their racial heritage, their disability, or the sexual orientation.

He also added his support to the republican movement, saying it was time.

Morrison was in the running with other finalists from the public sector, including Elizabeth Broderick, the author of the review of treatment of Australian Defence Force women that attracted headlines nationwide, and Catherine McGregor, the Defence champion for transgender inclusion.

Together, all three of them had a hand in the famous video that left nobody in any doubt about the inclusion challenge faced by the Australian Army — nor Morrison’s resolve.

Morrison is the latest in a series of Army officers awarded the title, including Peter Cosgrove in 2001, Weary Dunlop  in 1976 and Alan Stretton in 1975.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the Australian of the Year awards recognise our mutual respect and our deep instinct in our Australian DNA that everyone is entitled to a fair go:

“And so on the eve of Australia Day, let us Australians all rejoice and thank you for what you have done to make us the most remarkable nation in the world. We are a remarkable nation. We are the most successful multicultural nation in the world and the foundation of that is selflessness, patriotism, commitment to others and above all mutual respect.”

The finalists for Australian of the Year 2016
The finalists for Australian of the Year 2016

Local Hero for 2016

Dr Catherine Keenan, youth educator (NSW)

A former journalist, arts writer and literary editor, Catherine Keenan turned her back on her career in 2012 to help nurture the talent and creativity of marginalised young Australians. As the co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, Catherine has helped thousands of primary and high school students express themselves through writing and storytelling.

Young Australian of the Year for 2016

Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, social entrepreneurs (Qld)

Best mates, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett built a free mobile laundry in their old van to help the homeless. Orange Sky Laundry began in September 2014 and since then, the world first idea has rapidly expanded to five vans in Brisbane, Melbourne, South East Victoria, Sydney and the Gold Coast. Run by over 270 volunteers, the custom fitted vans with two commercial washing machines and two dryers, service over 36 locations and wash over 350 loads each week.

Senior Australian of the Year for 2016

Professor Gordian Fulde, doctor (NSW)

From midnight to dawn, while most people are in bed, Professor Gordian Fulde is presiding over one of Australia’s busiest emergency departments. The Director of Emergency at St Vincent’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital for more than three decades, Gordian is the longest serving emergency department director in Australia.

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