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Former army chief David Morrison has been named 2016 Australian of the Year, in a move that promises to put gender equality and diversity at the top of the national agenda.
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David Morrison named 2016 Australian of the Year
The former Australian army chief has been given the top honour for his gender equality, diversity and inclusion work. (Video courtesy ABC News 24)
The now-retired Lieutenant-General went "viral" with an electrifying message in 2013, ordering soldiers who could not commit to respecting women to "get out". The clip has been viewed on YouTube more that 1.6 million times and turned the Canberra resident into an unlikely feminist hero.
General Morrison's appointment comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calls on Australians to make a "cultural shift" and stop disrespecting women - declaring that gender inequality lies at the heart of violence against women. It also follows domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty's high profile term as 2015 Australian of the Year.
General Morrison, who retired from his 36-year military career in 2015, prioritised cultural change in the army during his four years as chief.
Since his video declaration, the number of women joining the army has grown by 2 per cent. General Morrison was also an early member of the Male Champions of Change program, signed up for the United Nation's HeforShe campaign and was an outspoken advocate against domestic violence.
The Australian of the Year is selected by the eight-member National Australia Day Council board, chaired by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.
The award would have come as a surprise to General Morrison, who as recently as Sunday was saying he did not expect to win, given the calibre of the other nominees, which included South Australian burns surgeon John Greenwood and NT youth worker Will MacGregor.
General Morrison delivered an impassioned acceptance speech, where he began by acknowledging that Australia Day was one of "emotional conflict" for Indigenous Australians.
He promptly went on to take issue with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's catchphrase du jour.
"It is an extraordinary time to be an Australian, but I need to give it qualified agreement," the Australian of the Year said.
"For reasons beyond education and professional qualifications or willingness to contribute or a desire to be a part of our society ... 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."
General Morrison, 59, is now the chair of the Diversity Council Australia.
He is the first military Australian of the Year since Sir Peter Cosgrove took out the title in 2001.
He deployed to Bougainville in 1994 and again to East Timor in 1999. On leaving the ADF, he said, "no one loves the army more than me".
His recent career - and focus on gender issues - is also intimately linked with two of the other Australian of the Year nominees.
General Morrison has spoken frequently of how then-Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick encouraged him to listen to the stories of women who had been abused by fellow soldiers. He said the shame he felt "morphed into an implacable resolve to do something about it".
Catherine McGregor, who is nominated as a leader in the transgender community, was General Morrison's speechwriter and principal writer of that famous clip.
On Monday, ahead of the announcement, Ms Batty encouraged her successor to be "bold and brave".
"I want to say, this is a huge opportunity for the cause you are representing," she said. "It was given to you for the potential you have to make Australia a better place."
General Morrison named three priority areas for the year.
The first is to continue the work done by Ms Batty and tackle domestic violence.
"The scourge of domestic violence which faces us as one of our great social issues won't be solved in a year," he said. "It is up to us in our lifetimes to do something about it."
General Morrison also nominated diversity, noting that the gender pay gap [which currently sits at about 18 per cent] needed to end.
Lastly, in a sign he will be an outspoken Australian of the Year, he singled out the republic.
"With great respect to those who don't share my views ... I will lend my voice to the republican movement in this country.
"It is time, I think, to at least revisit the question so we can stand both free and fully independent amongst the community of nations."
General Morrison is married to Gayle and has three adult sons. Away from the military and work, he has professed a love for audio books, cooking, golf and Joni Mitchell.