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The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

Emma Grey

Only the most powerful events tend to make it on to our “I remember where I was when…” list, don’t they?

So it says a lot that I remember where I was when I first watched the viral speech about the treatment of women in the Army, delivered with such visceral intensity by 2016 Australian of the Year, Lieutenant General David Morrison in 2013.

At that stage, I didn’t know (though suspected) that the speech was primarily authored by General Morrison’s fellow Australian of the Year nominee, Catherine McGregor, who is the world’s most senior transgender military officer (and godparent to our son).

I remember my husband (a friend to both of them) was overseas at the time and I sent him the link and said, “You have to watch this!” I think I posted “David Morrison for President!” on my Facebook wall too—several years before he lent his support to the Republican Movement in his acceptance speech at the Australia Day awards on Monday night.

But it was another speech of David Morrison’s that stands out for me, perhaps even more, as evidence that he so richly deserves to be honoured for his commitment to gender equality, diversity and inclusion. That was the speech he gave at Manuka Oval while launching Catherine’s book, An Indian Summer of Cricket not long after she went public about her gender transition.

There was something ‘other worldly’ about being there that day. It was unusual for me to be at the launch of a book about cricket, launched by the then Chief of Army—and for the speech to be largely about gender and friendship. The book had already been printed with Catherine’s former name on the cover, Malcolm, so this was very early on.

General Morrison told the story of Catherine’s confiding in him about her deep personal crisis and about his response to it. Suffice to say were any of us to encounter a crisis so deep, we would do well to have a friend like David Morrison by our side to help us through it.

I have at least six friends (that I am aware of—there may be more) who have endured violence at the hands of a previous partner or from a parent. I have friends who have suffered overt discrimination based on their gender or their sexual orientation.

I have two daughters and a son, for whom I not only wish a future of equal opportunity, but a future where they individually champion it. Like all the parents I know, I’m raising my children to be inclusive of others and respectful of diversity.

The leadership of this country has had more spills than a toddler with a cup of milk in recent years. Sometimes I wonder if our kids would recognise stable political leadership if they fell over it (my little boy has known more Prime Ministers than years). So to watch the Awards and see true leadership (in many fields) on such obvious display was a treat!

I feel inspired to know that we have someone in the leadership limelight this year who does more than pay lip service to diversity. Someone for whom the term ‘inclusion’ genuinely includes and embraces everyone—regardless of race, creed, sexuality or gender. Someone who won’t mince words. A person who believes, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

As a nation, if we truly lived by that mantra, imagine how much we could change together…

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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