Australian of the Year awards for diversity advocates - Women's Agenda

Australian of the Year awards for diversity advocates

Retired Army chief, Lieutenant-General David Morrison was named ACT’s 2016 Australian of the year yesterday.

Morrison, whose uncompromising rejection of sexism and abuse in the army became a YouTube sensation in 2013, has been a staunch advocate for diversity and equality and is the new chair of the Diversity Council Australia.

The speech was a clarion call for anyone in a leadership positon to take a strong stance against demeaning behaviour. The idea of “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept” defined the concept of taking responsibility for all forms of abuse, of never accepting something you know to be wrong and when we do walk past the unacceptable we are colluding in perpetuating it. The full speech is always worth watching, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, because it is the shining example of how men can be agents of change, but here are some of the standout quotes from the speech:

I have stated categorically, many times, that the Army has to be a, inclusive organisation, in which every soldier, man and woman, is able to reach their full potential and is encouraged to do so.

Those who think that it is ok to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues, have no place in this army.

Our service has been engaged in continuous operations since 1999, and in its longest war ever in Afghanistan. On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the BEST traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us, maintaining our capability now, and in to the future.

If that does not suit you….then get out!!

You may find another employer where your attitude and behaviour is acceptable, but I doubt it.

The same goes to those who think toughness is built on humiliating others.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, but especially those, who by their rank, have a leadership role

 If you’re not up to it, find something else to do with your life. There is no place for you amongst this band of brothers and sisters.

The ABC reported Morrison’s response to the award:

(My job) is making sure that everybody, irrespective of their gender or their race or the god they believe in, has the chance to reach their potential.

I’m glad that I’ve been able to do something about it.

This is a wonderful recognition. I’m deeply honoured that the ACT would consider that I was worth of such a recognition.

Morrison credited the understanding he has of gender inequality to many “extraordinary women” including his wife, and former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

(She) had the patience and the commitment to show me issues that I hadn’t seen as clearly as I needed to see.

And once I saw them I couldn’t un-see them… and I don’t want to un-see them.

In other Australian of the Year news, RAAF Group Captain Catherine McGregor was named Queensland’s 2016 Australian of the Year.

McGregor has been a transgender advocate since she went public with her transition in 2012 and has worked tirelessly to increase public awareness of the terrible exclusion faced by transgender people in Australia. The Brisbane Times reported her response to the award:

The Queensland I was born into could not have accepted me as the trans woman I am.

An awful lot has changed since then, and is still changing in an amazing way.

To win this award would be an incredible milestone and shows the change in attitude to transgenderism.

The defence forces might not be the place we would expect to find such strong and effective advocates for diversity issues, but these two have absolutely earned the recognition they’ve been given this week. Women’s Agenda is thrilled for both of them.

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