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Wild weather threatens to derail Australia Day ceremony

Wild weather threatened to derail the official Australian of the Year ceremony in Canberra, with heavy winds and rain almost swamping the live broadcast.

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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)

An outdoor awards ceremony, screened live on ABC News 24 on Monday night, was hit with a thunderstorm.

At 7.59pm, the Bureau of Meteorology also issued an urgent warning for large hailstones, heavy rainfall, damaging winds and flash flooding around Canberra and Queanbeyan.

Local Hero of the Year Catherine Keenan is shielded by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a windy Parliament House.
Local Hero of the Year Catherine Keenan is shielded by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a windy Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares

Presenters Jeremy Fernandez and Tom Tilley were forced to hold golf umbrellas over award recipients.

At one stage, Fernandez asked the crowd to give themselves a round of applause for braving the weather.

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After battling with the wind himself, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held an umbrella over Catherine Keenan as she was announced Australia's "Local Hero" for 2016.

The event's unfortunate setting was not lost on viewers.

A storm passes over Australian of the Year ceremony.
A storm passes over Australian of the Year ceremony. Photo: Andrew Meares
Catherine Keenan with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Ben Roberts-Smith.
Catherine Keenan with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Ben Roberts-Smith. Photo: Andrew Meares

The bureau warned Canberra residents to "stay indoors away from windows, and keep children and pets indoors as well".

The ACT State Emergency Service said it received 250 calls for help as a result of the hail storm.

Ex-army chief David Morrison was named Australian of the Year, in a move that promises to put gender equality and diversity at the top of the national agenda.

With rain falling on the uncovered stage, he began his acceptance speech by lamenting the fact he wrote his speaking notes in ink. 

Best friends Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, from Brisbane, were named Young Australians of the Year for their business, Orange Sky Laundry, that offers free mobile laundry to homeless people.

St Vincent's Hospital head of emergency, Gordian Fulde, was named Senior Australian of the Year for his medical service and his campaigning on drug and alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney.