Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has named Former Chief of Army and equality advocate David Morrison AO the 2016 Australian of the Year.
The former Lieutenant-General Morrison was recognised for his work enforcing and promoting gender equality and diversity in the armed forces.
Morrison made headlines in 2013 when he posted a public video message in response to the rife sexual abuse in the army, telling officers who were demeaning women to ‘get out’ as the army would no longer tolerate it.
"They (female soldiers) are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future," he said.
"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," Morrison said in the video which has gained more than 1.5 million views.
Since leaving the army, Morrison has been appointed Chair of the Diversity Council Australia.
And the number of women joining the army has grown by two per cent since his video hit Youtube.
In his acceptance speech Morrison pledged to continue the work of Rosie Batty in campaigning against domestic violence.
"She has set a benchmark for us all, and the scourge of domestic violence, which faces us as one of our great social issues, won't be solved in a year. Maybe in 50 or 100 years but it is up to us in our lifetimes to do something about it and I look forward to contributing to her great work," said Morrison.
"The second area is diversity. And as the chair of the Diversity Council Australia, I know what we can do when we give everyone a fair go. But in a country that prides itself on its egalitarianism, I can't explain why there is a gender pay gap in this country between men and women across all professions of 17.8% and worse in many of the professions that we are all proud to be part of. That needs to end.
"And finally, and with great respect to those who don't share my views, and recognising our proud history of European settlement in this country and beyond, over 200 years and more, I will lend my voice to the republican movement in this country. 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.
"Thank you for placing so much trust in me. I look forward to being your Australian of the Year in 2016. God bless everybody."
Professor Gordian Fulde named Senior Australian Of The Year
Professor Gordian Fulde has been named Senior Australian Of The Year.
As Director of Emergency at St Vincent’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital for more than three decades, Professor Gordian Fulde is -- at 76-years-old -- the longest serving emergency department director in the country.
Professor Fulde also dedicates his time to educate young people about the dangers of binge drinking, and is a board member of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation.
Appearing on Kings Cross ER occasionally, Professor Fulde has been at the forefront battling alcohol and drug fuelled violence, and not only uses this experience to help those coming through the emergency doors, but to help train staff working in the emergency department.
Professor Fulde was heavily involved in campaigning for the lock out laws in Sydney's Kings Cross.
Accepting the award, Professor Fulde said:
"I'm overwhelmed. I'm still going to read this speech, because this is just - wow. I'm really blown away. Such an honour. Even to be nominated, I thank you. And really, as the young would say, OMG!
"And especially with all these fabulous finalists and so deserving, but serious part coming, it's really not about me. What it is about is us as a community. We do not want excess alcohol or drugs causing so much damage and devastation. We really do not need to be drunk and ugly or out of it to enjoy this fantastic country, Australia. In Australia, we really do look after our mates and each other.
"For over 40 years, I have seen and treated the carnage caused. It is preventable. It is unnecessary. The cost to the - of injury and despair to the individual, to the family, to the friends, to the community, even turning to Malcolm, the taxpayer is astronomical. It's all about saving well-being lirchs and souls. Some 25 nights ago, first time ever, New Year's Eve, Sydney, millions went out. They drank alcohol. They celebrated. But we had no death or no severe brain damage brought to Emergency. There were massive crowds. But society accepted, cooperated, not needing to be totally drunk, intock cased, aggressive, violent, to have a good time."
Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett named Young Australians of the Year
For the first time, two people have been jointly awarded Young Australian of the Year. And the historical award goes to Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, the co-founders a free mobile laundry for the homeless.
Creating Orange Sky Laundry in September 2014 with one van, two washing machines and two dryers, the 21-year-olds soon grew the business to six vans – each in a different city -- and more than 270 volunteers. They now wash over 350 loads of each week.
And to top it all off the pair are best friends.
Accepting the award, Patchett said:
"Nic and I are humbled and honoured to be the 2016 Young Australians of the Year, an award which reflects the tireless dedication of our 300-plus volunteers community and countless supporters from around Australia who we'd also like to send a massive thanks to. Every night, 105,000 Australians do not have a place to call home. They do not have a safe, quiet and particularly tonight, a dry place to sleep. They do not have a basic human right. Clean clothes and conversation. Orange Sky Laundry started as a simple idea from us two regular blokes from Brisbane. We wanted to wash and dry clothes for free. But after 70,000 kilos of washing, over 15,000 volunteering hours across six services in Australia, we realised it is so much more. We can restore respect, raise health standards, and be a catalyst for conversation."
"Last week, I was lucky enough to meet a new homeless friend, Grant. We washed and dried his clothes for free for the first time ever. As I passed Grant's laundry back to him, he told me something that I'll never forget. He said 'Nic, I haven't been able to have a conversation with anyone for over three days.' It's so crazy and humbling to think such a simple idea has had such a significant impact. This year, both Lucas and I are incredibly excited to continue expanding services to reach every one of those 105,000 Australians homeless tonight."
Dr Catherine Keenan named Australia’s Local Hero
Dr Catherine Keenan has been named Australia’s Local Hero for her work as co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory, which helps students from Indigenous and non-english speaking backgrounds express themselves through the written word.
Trading in her career in journalism to establish the charitable business, Keenan is now helping thousands of students build confidence with all classes running free of charge.
Since 2012, Keenan has grown the volunteer base to 1,200 people with one-on-one and small group classes helping primary and high school students.
Accepting the award, Keenan said "telling stories is a fundamental part of being human."
"It's how we understand the world around us and how we convince others to work with us to change it.. It is also - and anyone who sat with a child will tell you this - a profoundly and often wildly creative act. Telling stories is the way we take the complicated emotions and weird spiralings of imagination inside us and give them shape and form. It is how we show who we are to the world. We know the huge benefits of helping young people tell their stories. We know it because a growing body of research demonstrates the many and varied benefits that accrue for young people. They are more likely to go on to tertiary education, they watch less TV, they are more likely to volunteer in their community. I have seen it time and again. When kids are able to tell their stories, they stand just that little bit taller."
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered the opening address on the lawns of Parliament House. After a brief fumble and dropping his speech, Turnbull recovered and remarked "well, it's very important to be agile in the year of innovation."
"Australians, let us all rejoice, rejoice that tonight, we are honouring the Australian of the Year finalists. Selfless, committed to the service of others, in different ways improving and enriching the lives of our whole Australian family."