ACT News

License article

Lieutenant-General David Morrison urges men to open their eyes to gender inequality

Outgoing army chief David Morrison couldn't unsee the ripple effect of gender inequality once he became aware of it.

In one of his last public addresses in the top job, Lieutenant-General Morrison said as a typical Australian male "with a good education and comfortable life", he wasn't aware it was a concern until he took on his current role.

"And yet, of course, as I have discovered, it's a man's world. Life's been created by men, for men. 

"In so many areas, corporate Australia, military, public service, the construct denies women the chance to reach their potential. And when women don't reach their potential, we don't reach our potential as our society."

Lieutenant-General Morrison spoke at the launch of workplace diversity consultant Avril Henry's book Leadership Revelations III: How We Achieve the Gender Tipping Point in Canberra on Wednesday. 

He wrote the foreword for the book, which tells 91 women's stories of unfair treatment because of their gender, and said it was a valuable resource for men.


"What men like me need is an insight into a world unseen.

"Once you get the sight you can't unsee it ever again, not if you're in a position of responsibility like I am."

Lieutenant-General Morrison's focus as military leader shifted after he spoke with women who experienced abuse within its ranks. 

A group of male soldiers disseminated a series of explicit images in 2013, and two men filmed a woman having sex at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2011. 

His fury at the mistreatment of women and desire for lasting cultural change culminated in a video message that  went viral online and warned defence personnel they must uphold decent values: 

"If that does not suit you, then get out," he said.

Ms Henry was enlisted by the defence force soon after to work with senior leaders on gender equality matters. 

She has also worked with the ACT Emergency Services Agency

She described the army chief as a feminist, "a man who gets what it's like for women", and said he would be remembered as a "military man of principle, integrity and courage".  

Lieutenant-General Morrison announced in February he would step down after 36 years of service. 

He acknowledged his push for gender equality and greater diversity would likely be his legacy.

"I'm accountable to government and to the Australian nation to deliver the most capable army I possibly can. 

"But the most capable army doesn't have the best tank, or the best training system or the best communications, what it has is the best people.

"You only get the best people if you have the best culture. 

"These points around gender and diversity and inclusivity, they're all important but largely in my view because they make the most capable entities."