It is supposed to be unifying, dignifying and above reproach. But the freshly minted 2016 Australian of the Year award is embroiled in bitterness, recrimination and division with a finalist from the beaten brigade, transgender military officer Catherine McGregor, shooting down the choice of David Morrison as “weak and conventional”.
A rift between RAAF reservist Group Captain McGregor and her former boss, retired Lieutenant General Morrison, the former chief of the army, was aired in a gay and lesbian journal, the Star Observer, as the nation went back to work after Australia Day celebrations.
“He’s on a steep learning curve when it comes to LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) and trans issues, he needs to learn a lot and rapidly,’’ Group Captain McGregor, a former political adviser, told the journal.
She said Mr Morrison “dead-named” her since her 2012 transition, meaning her commanding officer at the time she was his speech writer in the army had referred to her by her old name, Malcolm, and used “him, he and his” instead of female pronouns.
“It shows a lack of skill on trans issues, he didn’t do it intentionally … but that showed a clunkiness he needs to learn,” she added.
She said she felt “really sad that they (at the National Australia Day Council) did not have the courage to go with an LGBTI person. I thought it was time … it was a weak and conventional choice”.
In a reference to Queensland, where she has not lived for more than 40 years, the new Queenslander of the Year said she “got allocated that state” for the awards.
The Canberra resident’s lack of any recent connection to Queensland raises new questions about how the awards are administered.
Social media devotees immediately tweeted her Star Observer interview, provoking criticism of her for appearing to have sour grapes about the winner’s triumph.
The episode will invite further scrutiny of the probity of the judging process for the Australia Day awards as it defends itself against charges of being overtly politically correct, progressive and cause-driven, instead of merit-based.
From NK, Tasmania, via Facebook, thank you for your service Ned.
There are plenty of activists making a name for themselves in women's issues.
Only one man is responsible for the soldiers of the Australian Army.
The measure of a general's service is the regard he's held in by his soldiers. They need not love him, some may hate him, but to be effective, he must hold their respect and he must lead them. And they must know his primary concern is for them.
"Whilst in Baghdad, I was fortunate to spend some time with SECDET IX, the detachment charged with the responsibility of the security of the Australian Embassy Staff. It was made up of Military Policemen, Infantry from 3rd Battalion (Airborne), Royal Australian Regiment and the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, Queensland Mounted Infantry as well as support personnel from other corps such as Royal Australian Signals Corps, Royal Australian Intelligence Corps and Royal Australian Army Catering Corps."
"Commanding the detachment was 38 year old Major Kyle Tyrell. Major Tyrell grew up in Essendon in Victoria and spent over a decade in the Army serving in 1 RAR, 2 RAR, 3 RAR, 6 RAR, 2 Commando Company, 8/7 Battalion, Royal Victorian Rifles, the Combat Training Centre and Army Headquarters. During this time, he took five years off and returned to civilian life where he had a complete change of pace and completed a Masters of Business Administration. He worked as a management consultant and owned his own company building yachts. He spent time sailing around the world with his wife.
"After returning to the Army, he served in the Solomon Islands and then in Iraq in 2006 as SECDET Commander, a role for which he received a Commendation for Distinguished Service in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for outstanding leadership in action."
Do you really think the Islamist community will solve the "issues" by themselves?
If "that's OK", slip over to Syria and let them know will you?
The rest of us will continue with the military strategy you can't be trusted with.
Australian of the Year David Morrison says religious discrimination is "without a doubt" alive and well, pointing to the Islamic community as the subject of particularly unfair commentary and calling for Australians to understand the challenges they face.
I joined the Army in 1978 with Simone's husband Jeffrey, Simone's Anzac Day count must be edging towards having a 3 in front of it (Simone herself is timeless!). Happy Australia Day Simone, Jeff and the boys - thank you for your service.
To all Australians everywhere, let's keep Australia great. Happy Australia Day.
Former Army chief David Morrison said he was "almost at a loss for words" after he was named the 2016 Australian of the Year for his commitment to gender equality, diversity and inclusion.
Australia Day awards:
Australian of the Year: Lieutenant General David Morrison
Senior Australian of the Year: Professor Gordian Fulde
Young Australian of the Year: Nic Marchesi, Lucas Patchett
Australia's Local Hero: Dr Catherine Keenan
The Lieutenant General, who retired last year after 36 years in the Army, was presented the award by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Parliament House.
"For reasons beyond education, or professional qualifications, or willingness to contribute, or a desire to be a part of our society and our community, too many of our fellow Australians are denied the opportunity to reach their potential," General Morrison said.
"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, and we as a nation ... should be able to give them the chance to reach their potential.
"Because when they do, we all benefit, and that's what true diversity is about and why I am so passionate about it and so honoured to have been chosen as your Australian of the Year in 2016."
General Morrison said he would focus on three areas over the next year, including domestic violence, diversity and the gender pay gap and the republican movement.
"It is time, I think, to at least revisit the question so that we can stand both free and fully independent amongst the community of nations," he said.
Australian of the Year David Morrison's acceptance speech
"Evidence collected to date has identified a group within our ranks who have allegedly produced highly inappropriate material demeaning women, and distributed it across the internet and Defence's email networks," he said at the time in a public video published on YouTube.
"If this is true, then the actions of these members are in direct contravention of every value the Australian Army stands for.
"Those who think that it is okay to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army. If that does not suit you, then get out."
The number of women joining the Army has since grown by 2 per cent, and the culture is "more accepting of racial, ethnic and sexual diversity", the Australian of the Year committee said in a statement.
General Morrison has since spoken at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, sharing the stage with US Secretary of State John Kerry and actor and activist Angelina Jolie.
He argued militaries that exclude women "do nothing to distinguish the soldier from the brute".
General Morrison now chairs the Diversity Council Australia.
Firstly congratulations to the Australian of the Year General Morrison. The General has clearly hit a chord with a community and we should all recognise that.
For my part, I don't recognise my country.
We face an existential fight with this - a global movement that would enslave women.
But accord a higher priority to the battle of the sexes within our own Western civilisation where the rule of law applies equally to all.
O/T, I'm sorry Today is the announcement by PM Turnbull of the 2016 Australian of the Year. My selection is for this to go to Dr Ken Elliot and Jocelyn Elliot. These unassuming Aussies, now in their eighties, built and ran a 120 bed hospital in Djibo, Burkina Faso, Africa since 1972. They did so without major sponsorship of bureaucratic aid bodies. Over one week ago they were kidnapped by islamist rebels. Their fate is unknown. If there is a time to stand up as a country and use our every international bargaining chip, it is now, for the safety and welfare of the Elliots. Dr Elliot would not be chosen as Australian of the Year in this insipid, politically correct media-dominated society we live in. For a start he is an old while male. Next! Michael, I hope that you will follow the fate of the Elliots. While these unassuming and incredibly benevolent Australians are in threat of videoed beheading by jihadists in Burkina Faso or Mali, our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, is swanning it in front of the cameras with the rich and famous in New York with her boyfriend and Kevin Rudd. I pray for the safety of Ken and Jocelyn Elliot, neither of whom I know personally. Their's is a story of true Australian compassion and spirit in real action. No media spin in that story at all!