2016 Australian of the Year
DAVID Morrison shot to fame when a video of him ordering Army troops to accept women as equals or “get out” went viral.
Now, the former Lieutenant-General has a new platform to spread his equality message — as Australian of the Year. Gen. Morrison retired as chief of army in May 2015 and took up his role as chair of the Diversity Council Australia, which advises businesses on diversity in the workplace. He sees the way forward for us to as a society to reach our potential through being inclusive of colour, gender and faith.
“We need to be careful about the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves because that largely defines our culture,” he said. “If those stories are exclusive rather than inclusive, if they deny people opportunity on the basis of gender or the colour of their skin, then we as a society can’t reach our potential.”
General Morrison is a noted public speaker and often addresses distinguished organisations such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Lowy Institute and the Sydney Institute. David has also spoken to many leading corporate groups and boards.
Effective leadership requires many and varied talents and General Morrison has all the tools.
General Morrison concluded his appointment as Australia’s Chief of Army in May 2015. During a 36 year career as a soldier, he saw operational service in Bougainville and East Timor and as an Australian Army Officer led troops from platoon level all the way up to three star General - Chief of Army. This is an appointment he held for the last four years of his service. His loyalty to his profession and outstanding performance was recognised by being made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2010.
In his tenure at the top of Australia’s Army, David has faced many leadership challenges but he is probably best known for his strong public stance on gender equality and leading cultural change in large organisations. His three-minute address, via video, to his workforce in the wake of a particular instance of poor behaviour by a group of officers and senior soldiers, was posted on YouTube and has had over 1.5 million views. He has spoken about diversity and culture to the United Nations International Women’s Day Conference in New York, and was a closing speaker, with Angelina Jolie, William Hague and John Kerry at the Global Summit to Prevent Sexual Violence in Military Conflict in London in 2014.
But cultural change and gender equality are just two strings to the General’s leadership experience. He has led a dynamic, energetic workforce of over 30,000 men and women. He has had to address business resilience issues and handled the immediacy of decision-making required during periods of crisis management. He has commanded and controlled a force that suffers from the tyranny of distance and separation, and he has successfully juggled the interests of a multitude of stakeholders, many with vastly different ideologies. Vision, too, is a strong leadership tool and General Morrison has led change to meet the institutional and operational needs of his organisation many years into the future. Good leadership drives change to stay at the top of any business.
General Morrison has the knowledge and experience to ask questions of individuals, SME’s and large multinational companies…are we the best we can be? He also has many of the answers!
Now, The Australian of the Year title gives Gen. Morrison the platform to try to change the rules, with the former Army chief hoping to use his year to promote workplace diversity and equality.